As COVID-19 surges more than ever before, tests are scarce and lines are hours-long. This crisis stems from a failure at all levels, from the Governor’s Mansion to the White House.
The COVID-19 crisis is not a new one — since March 2020, the pandemic has ravaged the United States. However, as COVID rages on and large portions of the population remain unvaccinated, new variants have begun to emerge.
The danger of these variants is becoming increasingly clear with the emergence of Omicron. Omicron spreads more rapidly than previous variants and evades much of the protection from past infections and vaccines.
This surge is on full display in the Sunshine State. From Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, Florida reported over 385,000 COVID cases, topping previous records in the state.
This is not to say that vaccines no longer work. Early data suggests that booster shots massively increase immunity and decrease the chance of hospitalization and death, leaving unvaccinated people most vulnerable.
Children, largely unscathed by previous variants, are seeing record-high hospitalizations and infections in the U.S. An average of 672 kids enter the hospital every day, and each week that number more than doubles.
Parents are worried about school openings and the safety of their whole families. Many times tests are necessary for school and work, but they’re hard to find and expensive, especially in Florida.
As with previous surges and variants, the Florida state government has failed to have an effective and science-based response to the Omicron variant.
At a press conference in Naples, Florida, DeSantis and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo told asymptomatic, healthy people to not get tested, stating, “If you don’t have symptoms, you are not a case.”
The suggestion that asymptomatic people do not have the virus or cannot spread it is completely baseless. Omicron is likely the same as every other COVID variant, where anyone with an infection can spread the virus to others, despite vaccination or the absence of symptoms.
DeSantis’s lies attempt to prevent further overloading of the testing system, putting on full display his administration’s failures regarding testing infrastructure.
Throughout Florida, people are waiting in extremely long lines, some for hours, just to get a COVID test. The holidays and the opening of schools and work exacerbated this problem, making testing sites inaccessible for many.
On top of this, recent investigations found that up to one million rapid COVID tests expired last month, sitting unused in a warehouse. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sounded the alarm on Twitter but was ignored by the administration attempting to cover up their mistakes.
The school system has felt some of the worst effects of the COVID surge and failed policy. As DeSantis pledges to keep Florida schools open, thousands of instructors, bus drivers and students are forced to call out sick, putting immense stress on parents, students and teachers.
Instead of encouraging testing to limit the spread of COVID, pushing for vaccination and enforcing federal mandates, DeSantis has used his platform to spread lies. Our most vulnerable people and essential workers are feeling the brunt of his failures.
While DeSantis certainly hasn’t made the situation any better, a lot of blame lies at the federal level, specifically with the Biden administration’s empty promises to expand testing and prepare for future variants.
On a call with governors from across the country, Biden stated that COVID has “no federal solution,” and efforts must come from the state level. This contradicts all the president’s promises to end this pandemic — which arguably won him the election — and instead harks back to the days of the Trump administration.
The COVID surge can only be handled with strong support from the federal government, using its vast number of resources and experts to best handle this seemingly endless pandemic.
Biden promised the purchase of 500 million free COVID tests in late December, but they were not available for the holidays, when people were recommended for testing before large family gatherings. To this day, the tests are not available.
The tests that are out there — few and far between — are skyrocketing in costs. Walmart and Kroger announced their at-home tests will be increasing in price, from $14 up to $23.99 after a deal with the White House expired.
At the peak of the COVID pandemic, which Biden was elected to take seriously, he has done too little, too late, and now working-class Americans are feeling the effects.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Americans, and especially Floridians, have felt the dire effects of the pandemic on their daily lives. They look to their leaders for strength and solutions, but all they get are lies and empty promises.
But, not all hope is lost. Vaccines are still highly effective especially after your booster, and preliminary evidence shows Omicron is less deadly than previous variants of COVID.
Furthermore, new anti-viral COVID drugs by Pfizer and Merck have been recently authorized by the FDA, greatly reducing the risk of hospitalization for people infected with the coronavirus. This would reduce the stress on our hospitals and medical facilities, which are filling up rapidly.
COVID-19 remains a huge threat to Americans, especially our most vulnerable. It is up to all of us to get vaccinated, mask up and test when we can. However, our leaders must also step up and show true leadership in this time of crisis, ensuring that brighter days are ahead for all of us.
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Featured image: Coronavirus particle. Unmodified photo by T. Douglass Gurley, MD, used under a Creative Commons license (https://bit.ly/3r79qfz).