Florida Governor Criticizes Health Experts' Messaging As Virus Surges

While experts advise against large gatherings, DeSantis invites 160 legislators to holiday reception and says he would never tell people not to gather with family for the holidays.

NBC Universal, Inc.

COVID-19 this week was projected to become the No. 1 killer of Americans, surpassing lung cancer and heart disease.

In Florida, the increase in new cases Thursday was the 10th largest on record.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday assured Floridians there is "light at the end of the tunnel."

He also criticized how experts have warned the public about a disease that this week was at times killing more than 3,000 Americans a day.

"Unfortunately we’ve been through a time period where the public health messaging has been very poor," DeSantis said.

Miami-Dade's chief medical officer had his own message on Friday.

"Avoid large groups and gatherings and celebrations," said Dr. Peter Paige. "We have to be even more attentive over the holiday season. You know, we’re all used to gathering with family, friends, coworkers over the holiday season. We have to be more conscientious this year."

But DeSantis, who’s invited 160 lawmakers to a holiday party Monday night in Tallahassee, is on a different page.

"I'm not out there lecturing people about things like, I mean, we try to put out the information, but for example, I would never tell anyone not to see their family," DeSantis said, answering reporters' questions Friday in Tampa. "I thought that was totally, totally overboard when you had some of these public health bureaucrats saying that."

He also said he is not going to tell people they have to get a COVID vaccine.

"I think the fact that we’re not mandating it helps our credibility because the minute you mandate, man, people would be in their corner and you would have a lot of problems," DeSantis said.

The problem now -- two weeks after a Thanksgiving holiday when DeSantis did not discourage family gatherings -- is the virus is spreading further, just as those public health bureaucrats warned.

"It's not just about us individually," Dr. Paige said. "It's about our family, our friends, people who are higher risk. We don’t want to spread it and what we’re seeing with the positivity rates currently across the county and the state is indicative of community spread."

Contact Us