Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made some news this week, and the best part is that he hampered the Biden administration. After Florida saw success from an early COVID-19 treatment program–namely, infusion centers providing monoclonal antibodies–the Department of Health and Human Services mysteriously decided to centralize the distribution of Regeneron. DeSantis then announced that Florida had made a deal with UK-based monoclonal antibody company GlaxoSmithKline. The company’s formulation of sotrovimab was given an emergency use authorization by the FDA but not put on a federal purchase agreement.
In a press conference, DeSantis noted, in a sly jab at the administration, “We know there’s going to be a continuing need to make this early treatment available for folks. And so in some respects, it’s sad that I have to announce, but I am happy that we’re not just sitting on our rump — we’re making things happen.” He added, “So, the state of Florida has been able to acquire an additional 3,000 doses of the monoclonal antibody treatment, which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.”
DeSantis directly accused the Biden administration of punishing Florida for deploying the treatment successfully. That is certainly how it looks. Florida’s share was cut in half in the name of “equity,” according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Equity has no place in the distribution of medical treatment for a seasonal virus. The southeast was getting hit and got their supply of the only FDA-approved and NIH-recommended outpatient treatment reduced. The shipments should flow to where the transmission and case numbers are the highest.
Earlier this week, DeSantis appointed a new surgeon general, Dr. Jospeh Ladapo, and he is a breath of fresh air. He is already sending the left over the edge because he is unflappable in his perspective. In his first press conference, he announced that the pandemic of fear was over. Florida’s public health response will focus on providing education and information. Lapado is a signatory to the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocates for focused protection. Lapado said he might disagree with some of the specific prescriptions but agrees with the principles. He also dismissed the idea of lockdowns.
When asked about vaccine mandates, Lapado said, “Vaccines are up to the person. There’s nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure. So, absolutely great things about vaccines for COVID-19 are they prevent serious illness. Fantastic.” He added, “People get to make a choice about what they want to do with that information. The state should be promoting good health. And vaccination isn’t the only path to that.” Then he touched the third rail, “It’s been treated almost like a religion. That’s just senseless, right? There are lots of good pathways to health, vaccination’s not the only one. So, we support measures for good health. That’s vaccination, losing weight. it’s exercising more and eating more fruits and vegetables, everything.”
In his first official act, Lapado joined DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to announce that the state would empower parents to decide whether they should take a healthy child out of school after a confirmed exposure to COVID-19. DeSantis said the forced quarantine of healthy children is both disruptive and a burden on families. Lapado added, “There’s not a single high-quality study that shows that any child has ever benefited from forced quarantining policies, but we have seen demonstrable and considerable harm to children. It’s important to respect the rights of parents.”
In more good news, COVID-19 cases in the state of Florida continue to decline. The successful early treatment program has relieved the burden on hospitals, with approximately a month of census declines and a reduction in emergency room visits for COVID-like illnesses. Also, a judge just handed municipalities trying to defy Florida law about vaccine passports for employees an injunction against implementing them. Gainesville, Florida, actually backed off its mandate and will negotiate with employees. Orange County, Florida, decided that unvaccinated employees will receive a reprimand, not be subjected to termination.
Under DeSantis’s leadership, it almost seems like Florida will begin to handle COVID-19 like we do every other respiratory virus: Ensure that the health system has supplies of necessary treatment, focus on treating people early and outpatient, and quarantine the ill. Florida will also focus on educating the public and giving people high-quality information to discuss with their doctors to make decisions about their personal health. After living in a county that has treated COVID-19 this way for over a year, I suggest that everyone should try it.
WATCH the full press conference announcing Dr. Joseph Lapado: