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Gov. Ron DeSantis under national spotlight amid rising COVID cases in Florida

The governor was called out multiple times during White House press briefings related to the pandemic in Florida.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — As students head back to school under Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order to leave masks optional among schools and businesses, the governor is under a magnifying glass by the United States as Florida leads the nation in new COVID-related hospitalizations and cases.

Top leaders like President Joe Biden and the nation's top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, are questioning DeSantis' decisions as it relates to protecting the people in his state from the coronavirus.

Last week, Biden said not allowing mask mandates in schools is "bad health policy." And yesterday, while Fauci said he wouldn't get involved with DeSantis, he noted that his actions, from a public health standpoint, were "not an appropriate thing to do."

The back-and-forth between public officials on how the state manages the pandemic has spotlighted Florida's governor who has been in office since January 2019, right before the pandemic began, when he won the election against former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. 

Before becoming governor, the 42-year-old politician from Jacksonville represented Florida's 6th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018. DeSantis will serve as Florida's governor until 2022 when elections roll back around. 

As the pandemic continues and cases rise to numbers the state saw pre-vaccine, DeSantis is adamant that he will not close down the state and there will be no mask mandates for public schools or businesses despite guidelines by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that recommend vaccinated and nonvaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where there are surging cases of COVID-19.

His stance has further pressed the nation's attention after his office released a statement that said school superintendents who implement mask mandates against DeSantis' executive order will face risking their salary. The statement also came not long after the state sent teachers and principals $1,000 checks for their teaching efforts last school year during the pandemic.

The seriousness of such a consequence made its way to Washington, D.C. where Press Secretary Jen Psaki called out the Florida governor.

"If you [DeSantis] are not interested in following the public health guidelines to protect the lives of people in your state, to give parents some comfort as they're sending their kids to schools, then get out of the way and let public officials, let local officials do their job to keep students safe," Psaki said when answering questions from a reporter during the press briefing Tuesday, Aug. 10.

Wednesday, Psaki mentioned the governor once more making it clear that the president and White House are making decisions to put an end to the virus. 

"Our war is not on DeSantis," Psaki said. "It's on the virus, which we're trying to kneecap. And he does not seem to want to participate in that effort to kneecap the virus, hence our concern."

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