White House fires back at Florida's GOP governor over handling of COVID surge

"I'm standing in your way," Ron DeSantis had responded to President Joe Biden.

August 5, 2021, 4:11 PM

The White House on Thursday hit back at Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis after he told President Joe Biden he will stand "in his way" while the country experiences an alarming surge of COVID-19 cases, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying the "facts" about hospitalizations in Florida speak for themselves.

At Thursday's briefing with reporters, ABC News Correspondent Stephanie Ramos raised DeSantis’ latest fundraising push using the president’s comments from Tuesday urging DeSantis to help or "get out of the way," and she asked whether Biden is considering reaching out to DeSantis.

"Well, first, from Day One, we've approached this not as a political issue but a public health issue," Psaki began. "We remain in touch with officials in Florida, just like we're in touch with officials from around the country about how we can provide assistance from the federal level to help address this public health crisis."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing in Washington, Aug. 5, 2021.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Then, she turned up the heat.

"It is a fact -- and data that you all are aware of -- that 25% of hospitalizations in the country are in Florida. It is also a fact that the governor has taken steps that are counter to public health recommendations. So, we're here to state the facts," she said.

"Frankly our view is that this is too serious, deadly serious to be doing partisan name-calling," she continued. "We're focused on providing public health data information to the people of Florida to make sure they understand what steps they should be taking, even if those are not steps taken at the top of the leadership in that state."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference in Panama City, Fla., on Aug. 4, 2021.
Mike Fender/News Herald via USA Today Network

Later, after taking a short joyride around the White House South Lawn driveway in an electric SUV during an afternoon event on curbing auto emissions, reporters asked Biden about DeSantis’ recent comments slamming him and his response to the pandemic.

"Governor who?" Biden responded.

President Joe Biden gets into Jeep Wrangler 4ex Rubicon on the South Lawn of the White House during an event on clean cars and trucks in Washington, Aug. 5, 2021.
Susan Walsh/AP

In Florida, at least four school districts say they are pushing back against the governor’s mask ban.

It comes as the country has seen 864,000 vaccinations in the last 24 hours, the highest daily number since July 3, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.

Florida is among the seven states officials named that have some of the lowest vaccination rates and "account for about half of new cases and hospitalizations in the past week, despite making up less than a quarter of the U.S. population," Zients said.

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