WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Democrats in Congress are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to take precautionary health measures and stop blocking local leaders from implementing ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Darren Soto came together Thursday morning in a news conference held via Zoom to condemn the Republican governor's lack of restrictions amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Florida set another record Wednesday for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.
Wasserman Schultz said DeSantis has demonstrated "gross negligence" when it comes to the state's coronavirus response.
"He's done that all the way through the crisis," she said, adding that it's resulted in "death by DeSantis."
DeSantis signed an executive order last week that gives parents the right to choose whether their children should wear masks in schools, threatening to withhold funding from any school district that goes against the order.
The move comes months after DeSantis issued executive orders suspending all pandemic-related suspensions and fines imposed by Florida counties or municipalities.
DeSantis has also resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate or another shutdown.
Wasserman Schultz said she believes there should be a statewide mandate, but if the governor won't do that, local governments should be allowed to do so.
"The bottom line is the governor should get out of the damn way," she said.
Her words echoed what President Joe Biden said Tuesday, criticizing DeSantis and other Republican governors who have blocked mask mandates in their states.
That led to a strongly worded rebuke from DeSantis during a news conference Wednesday in Panama City.
WATCH: DeSantis berates Biden
"Why don't you do your job? Why don't you get this border secure?" DeSantis said. "And until you do that, I don't want to hear a blip about COVID from you."
Wasserman Schultz said DeSantis "is flouting science."
"He is giving the middle finger to science," she added.
Soto said DeSantis should be doing more to encourage vaccinations.
"If you're unvaccinated, you're probably going to get the coronavirus," Soto said.
Wasserman Schultz said DeSantis has never had a conversation with the congressional delegation throughout the pandemic, instead acting as a "lone wolf."
Frankel said she believes many school districts and local governments are treading carefully in fear of retribution from DeSantis, calling him "a bully."