UPDATED: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis Doesn’t Want Sick Non-Floridians “Dumped” in the State

Cruise ship docking in Miami port

Image via Shutterstock

By Giselle Balido

April 1, 2020

As passengers aboard two Holland America ships grow more desperate, the fate of the ships carrying a number of COVID-19 patients is being debated in South Florida.

UPDATE: After weeks of resisting to protect the more than 20 million Floridians and avoid COVID-19 contagion, DeSantis has finally decided to order people to stay home. He changed his mind after the 30-day guidelines extension was confirmed by the White House yesterday, The New York Times reports.

Zaandam and Rotterdam, two Holland America sister ships carrying passengers and crew from a South American cruise, are pleading with Florida officials to let them carry off the sick and the dead on board. However, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida’s health care resources are already stretched too thin, and he doesn’t want non-Floridians “dumped” in the state, as reported by AP.

“We view this as a big, big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in Southern Florida right now,” DeSantis told Fox News, as anxious passengers remain confined to their rooms and hope the governor will allow them to disembark, despite confirmed coronavirus cases onboard. Four deaths were reported, at least two of which were caused by the novel coronavirus.  

Governor DeSantis said he hasn’t taken action due to White House Task Force recommendations.

Related: Republicans Still Want to Take Healthcare Away From 20 Million Americans — In The Middle Of A Pandemic

In turn, DeSantis said he had been in contact with the Coast Guard and the White House about diverting them. Local officials are meeting today to decide whether to let them dock at Broward County’s Port Everglades cruise ship terminal, where workers who greet passengers were among Florida’s first confirmed coronavirus cases. For its part, the U.S.Coast Guard said that it’s working with Holland America on a docking plan that would require the two ships to handle their medical issues without impacting South Florida’s hospitals.

With authorities country after country are sealing borders and imposing quarantines in response to the pandemic, the two ships became pariahs, with no safe port in sight. Passengers, who were ordered to stay in their cabins and avoid all contact with others, are becoming more desperate with each passing day.  

“The COVID-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our common humanity. To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human values,” wrote Holland America President Orlando Ashford in an opinion column in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

More than 300 Americans Aboard

But so far, DeSantis has remained firm in his decision. “We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources,” DeSantis told Fox News, despite Holland America’s assurance that more than 300 U.S. citizens are on both ships combined.

Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis, long a political protégé of president Donald Trump, was publicly praised by Trump for “doing a fantastic job” for the state, as the total number of people testing positive in the Sunshine State jumped to 5,704 on Sunday, an unprecedented 13 percent increase, according to the Florida Department of Health (FDH). “He’s a very talented guy. He’s a very good Governor. Everyone loves him. He’s doing a fantastic job for Florida,” Trump said.

Related: Rep. Anthony Brindisi Secures Grant for New York Health Facilities to Combat Coronavirus

Strong Words from Congress

But despite the Republican president’s praise of his close political ally, some members of Congress from Florida strongly feel that both Trump and DeSantis are failing the test of leadership. “They’re much too timid, much too controlled by a failure to understand the depths of this crisis. And it’s not only putting people at risk, it’s about life and death. And if they don’t step up, many people will die unnecessarily,” said U.S. Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala. Rep Debbie Mucarsel-Powell pointed out in a Tweet that the state’s lack of preparedness is the result of DeSantis’ refusal to expand Medicaid.

And U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, has also expressed strong criticism of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Wasserman Schultz,  who has called the briefings from the White House “the president’s daily effort to lie the coronavirus into submission,” is equally vocal about Gov. DeSantis’ performance “We have a governor who has been really irresponsible and has had an absence of leadership.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press.




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