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Examining Donald Trump's and Ron DeSantis' Records on Handling the Covid Pandemic

Donald Trump recently launched into fresh attacks on Ron DeSantis, claiming that the Florida Governor 'didn't do a great job' on crime and the Covid pandemic.

Former President Donald Trump has launched into a new line of attack on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a recent interview on the Full Send Podcast.

Trump strongly criticized Gov. DeSantis’s record on crime, as well as his handling of the Covid pandemic:

Well actually if you look at the numbers, he didn’t do a great job. If you take a look at the numbers he’s very high on crime. Very high, right at the top. Almost at the top. I think he gets good publicity, although now people are starting — cause I’m putting out the Covid numbers, he didn’t do well on Covid — he had more deaths than almost every country, in Florida. I hate to say it 'cause Florida’s my state, but he did not do well.

It’s really, it’s very interesting, I don’t wanna knock anybody, but the thing he did well on was public relations, because the numbers weren’t what they pretended to be.

It is unclear if Trump is accusing DeSantis of misrepresenting the Covid death data in Florida, in a manner similar to discredited faux-whistleblower Rebekah Jones, or if he is merely going according to the official numbers.

Florida registered the third-highest number of Covid deaths in the country, but those inflated statistics are mainly due to the state's large and elderly population. California and Texas, both with higher populations, registered higher death tallies.

If you judge DeSantis's performance according to death rate per capita, Florida had just the 18th highest figure. If you further adjust for age, due to Covid being far more deadly for the elderly, then Florida is in the middle of the pack.

In fact, Florida ranks 31st in age-adjusted Covid-related deaths.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been widely praised on the right, and condemned on the left, for his handling of the Covid pandemic. But his management of the state comes down to the perception among many that the Florida governor largely respected citizens' rights, avoided stringent lockdown measures, and preserved economic vitality at a time when much of the nation was reeling from the crisis.

This dispute bears a closer examination of both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's and former President Donald Trump's respective handling of the Covid pandemic.

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A timeline of DeSantis's major actions to address the coronavirus pandemic is provided below:

A timeline of Trump's major actions to address the coronavirus pandemic follows below (a compilation of statements can be found here):

  • Jan. 29, 2020: The White House forms a coronavirus response task force, initially led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar

  • Jan. 30, 2020: Blocks travel from China

  • Feb. 24, 2020: Requests $1.25 billion in emergency aid. It grows to $8.3 billion in Congress.

  • March 11, 2020: In prime-time Oval Office address he announces travel ban for non-Americans from most of Europe

  • March 13, 2020: Declares national emergency to access $50 billion for states and territories, clears the way for fast-track waivers for hospitals and doctors

  • March 14, 2020: The House passes relief bill with paid leave for certain workers, expanded food assistance and unemployment insurance benefits, and employer tax credits. Trump signs it four days later.

  • March 16, 2020: Releases plan "15 days to slow the spread"

  • March 17, 2020: Trump said in a news conference that for the next 14 days, "we’re asking everyone to work at home, if possible, postpone unnecessary travel, and limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people."

  • March 27, 2020: Signs $2.2 trillion emergency spending bill

  • March 29, 2020: Trump extends stay-at-home guidance to the end of April

  • April 4, 2020: Trump urges use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to fight the virus

  • April 16, 2020: Releases guidelines to restart the economy

  • April 29, 2020: Trump administration organizes Operation Warp Speed

  • May 29, 2020: Terminates U.S. relations with the World Health Organization

  • Aug. 5, 2020: Downplays Covid risk to children and urges schools to reopen

  • Aug. 6, 2020: Predicts a vaccine could be available before the end of the year — or "right around" the Nov. 3 election

  • Oct. 2, 2020: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump test positive for Covid-19. Trump is moved by helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Center

  • Oct. 5, 2020: Announces in a tweet he will leave the hospital that night, which he does. Tells Americans: 'Don't be afraid of Covid."

  • Oct. 12-Nov. 2, 2020: Trump returns to the campaign trail and hold numerous rallies in the wake of his Covid diagnosis

  • Oct. 16, 2020: States are required by this date to submit their first plans to distribute the vaccine

  • Nov. 3, 2020: Election Day

  • Nov. 9, 2020: As the U.S. surpasses 10 million cases, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announce results of Covid vaccine trials

  • Dec. 2, 2020: At an Operation Warp Speed briefing, federal officials indicate a fast-paced vaccine rollout is coming

Donald Trump has now attacked Ron DeSantis on numerous issues in anticipation of the Florida governor potentially announcing his 2024 presidential run, including entitlementsabortion, crime, and now, the Covid response.


Let's also briefly address the claim that Florida governor Ron DeSantis is not doing 'very well' on crime. According to the state's  2021 Annual Uniform Crime Report released in February 2023, Florida's crime rate dropped to a 50-year low.

"Crime is down in Florida for a 50-year low, according to the 2021 Annual Uniform Crime Report released today," the release stated. "The report covers the calendar year of 2021 and shows Florida’s total crime volume dropped 8.3 percent, or 38,524 fewer reported index crimes, compared to 2020."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won re-election in the state of Florida by nearly 20% of the vote. Donald Trump is currently crushing the potential 2024 candidate Ron DeSantis in the polls. A Harris/Harvard poll conducted from April 18 to 19 showed Trump leading DeSantis by 35 points among Republican voters in a hypothetical GOP presidential primary.

In summary, Governor Ron DeSantis did a commendable job managing the Covid pandemic during a time of uncertainty. His policies were based on the best available evidence at the time, and took into consideration the rights and well-being of the Florida citizens as a whole.

Former President Donald Trump faced considerable pushback from his Covid policy advisers throughout the pandemic on issues ranging from masks to lockdowns to travel restrictions to early treatment to mandates. Due to federalism, it is critical to distinguish between the actions of state governors, as exemplified by the case of Gov. Ron DeSantis, and that of the U.S. government during the Covid pandemic.

While there are still plenty of fair criticisms about the former president’s Covid response, it is a credit to the Trump administration that it did not issue the federal mandates seen under the Biden administration. Donald Trump has been consistently vocal about his opposition to mandates, particularly vaccine mandates, including while he was in office.

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Kyle Becker