Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci attacked a fundraising website for Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that is selling merchandise mocking COVID-19 vaccines and other health measures amid the state’s deadly COVID crisis.
“We have an extraordinary problem that’s killing people in the United States — killing us and putting us in the hospital,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “There’s no place” for “that kind of politicization” when “you’re dealing with a public health crisis,” he added.
The DeSantis campaign team website raising funds for the governor is currently selling T-shirts and drink coolers featuring the phrase “Don’t Fauci My Florida.” Vaccines against COVID-19 are often referred to as the “Fauci-ouchie” in a humorous nod to the man who has relentlessly encouraged them — as well as other COVID-19 safety precautions like social distancing and masks.
One of the beverage coolers for sale features DeSantis’ photo and his own quip: “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
After the merchandise triggered an uproar last month, an unrepentant DeSantis declared: “Florida chose freedom over Fauci-ism. I wasn’t about to let the state get Fauci’d.”
Helen Aguirre Ferre, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, called the merchandise — particularly callous in the face of Florida’s skyrocketing COVID-19 cases — “lighthearted fun,” in a statement to Newsweek.
“While this isn’t an official campaign website, as Gov. DeSantis hasn’t filed papers for his re-election, we view it as a great opportunity to have some lighthearted fun and give his supporters a chance to feel even more connected with his message of keeping Florida free,” she said.
She insisted that DeSantis’ “official staff” wasn’t involved with the site, Newsweek reported.
Florida is tallying the highest daily case numbers and deaths of the entire pandemic. The states’ cases jumped nearly 152,000 over the week ending Aug. 26, and deaths increased more than 1,700.
Hospitals are running out of ICU beds and are now being overwhelmed with bodies. Fourteen portable morgues have been sent to hospitals in central Florida to help, and some have already rented refrigerated units to store the dead.
Tapper asked Fauci about the DeSantis merchandise in light of his state’s COVID crisis.
“Just in the six weeks since the governor’s reelection campaign launched those products, more than 5,000 Floridians have died of coronavirus,” Tapper stated. “What do you make of the way some of these governors and politicians are attacking you?”
Fauci said he’s attacked because he’s highly “visible,” but emphasized that he’s “merely articulating the proper public health practices that are recommended” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“They like to pick out a certain person because they can make that person the personification of political divides, which is so unfortunate. We should put all of that aside,” Fauci said.
Just over 52% of Floridians have been fully vaccinated. DeSantis has instead been pushing the monoclonal antibody treatment Regeneron, which can only be used once people are sick with COVID-19. He also issued an executive order banning mask mandates in schools which were intended to protect children who can’t yet be vaccinated.
A Florida judge on Friday blocked his ban, ruling that DeSantis had overstepped his authority and violated the state constitution.
In his interview, Fauci also discussed COVID-19 boosters and vaccines for schoolchildren on the horizon. He supports mandating COVID vaccines for children in schools, just as other vaccines are required before they can attend.
He also warned people not to take ivermectin — a drug commonly used to deworm livestock and is currently being peddled on Fox News — to fight COVID-19. Some poison control centers are being overwhelmed with concerned calls about dangerous effects from the drug.
Check out Fauci’s full interview in the video clip up top. Tapper asks about the DeSantis merchandise beginning at 6:25.