Ron DeSantis was being exactly what a governor should be in an emergency during Tuesday morning’s press conference about the approaching Hurricane Ian. He was the personification of calm and clarity as he stepped up to the podium at the State Emergency Operations Center.
Noting that the “Category 3 hurricane” was “anticipated to land in Cuba very soon,” DeSantis allowed that the scientists tracking the storm could not predict its exact course. But that did not prompt him to call the science itself into question. He spoke of the storm’s “cone of uncertainty” much as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of “flattening the curve” at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As recorded by the Florida Division of Emergency Management and reported by The Orlando Sentinel, 464 Floridians have been killed by “tropical storm-related activity,” or hurricanes, since 1991.
That’s 81,156 fewer than have been killed in the state by COVID since the start of 2020. More than 6,000 in Florida died from the virus over the summer, as DeSantis continued to denounce commonsense precautions such as masking indoors as “COVID theater.”
At the press conference, the same governor who has opposed COVID vaccine and mask mandates as threats to freedom voiced support for those counties that had issued emergency evacuation orders. He did not suggest that concerned local officials were infringing on anybody’s liberties by instructing them to take sensible precautions in the face of a serious threat to life.
“Our recommendation is to heed those evacuation orders,” he advised.
DeSantis then offered a maxim that applies equally to a hurricane approaching land as it does to a cytokine storm in the immune system.
“Mother nature is a very fearsome adversary,” he noted.
When his constituents faced nature’s fearsomeness in the form of a virus, DeSantis dismissed mask wearing as “virtue signaling.” He appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo—an anti-mask vaccine skeptic—as Florida’s surgeon general.
At the same time, DeSantis denounced Dr. Anthony Fauci as “a fraud.” His campaign sold T-shirts saying “Don’t Fauci My Florida.”
In the face of a hurricane, the counties that had issued a partial evacuation mandate included Hillsborough. This was where the governor mocked high-school students for engaging in “COVID theater” when they exercised their personal choice to wear a mask at an indoor DeSantis press event in March.
“You do not want to put yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily,” he now said. “We want everyone to be safe.”
To DeSantis’ right during the press conference stood Jared Perdue, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT). That is the entity through which $12 million was run to finance DeSantis’ latest immigration theater. That included using bogus promises of jobs and housing to hustle migrants into boarding two charter flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Similar trickery was reportedly used to recruit a third group of migrants for a flight from Texas to Delaware that was canceled at the last minute, as reported by the Miami Herald.
But those debased antics are apparently on hold thanks to the storm. Perdue was instead focused on keeping Florida highway traffic moving ahead of the hurricane and helping provide “continued access for first responders and life-safety missions.”
On DeSantis’ right was Major General James Eifert of the Florida National Guard. DeSantis deployed a number of the state’s guard members along with Florida law enforcement officers to the southern border in Texas last year in an earlier bit of immigration theater. He spared himself some embarrassment by withdrawing them before having to deploy 5,000 for the current hurricane emergency in Florida. Another 2,000 guard members are being sent to Florida from Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.
DeSantis noted that the major threat to the state was not wind but a storm surge. He said an expected record surge could have a particular impact in Tampa Bay even if the city was no longer in the hurricane’s bullseye.
“This is going to be a very significant storm surge for a low-lying area,” he said.
He sounded like a Dr. Fauci of weather—ready to adapt to a changing threat in accordance with scientific data—as he reported that the “solutions” or trajectory predictions had been shifting.
“Yesterday evening, there were a lot of solutions bringing [the hurricane] right into Tampa Bay,” DeSantis said. “Now you have a lot of solutions bringing the landfall into the Sarasota area. There’s still uncertainty with where that exact landfall will be, but just understand the impacts are gonna be far, far broader than just where the eye of the store happens to make landfall.”
He stated that however it goes, he and his team will have an ultimate objective.
“Protect people’s lives,” DeSantis said.
If only he’d had the same goal when it came to COVID.