DeSantis Touts His State’s COVID-19 Response at CPAC: ‘Florida Got It Right’

February 26, 2021 Updated: February 26, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis touted his state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic after he did not issue sweeping lockdowns during the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

“Florida got right. The lockdown states got it wrong,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at the Florida-based event on Friday morning, kicking off the three-day event that is slated to end Sunday.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Florida did not issue economic lockdowns and did not place strict gathering limits—in contrast to states such as California, Michigan, or Pennsylvania. As a result, Florida has seen an influx of new residents who ostensibly are fleeing their home states due to the lockdown orders.

While DeSantis has been skewered by mainstream news outlets and some Democratic elected officials, both California and Florida have similar per capita rates of COVID-19 cases. California—which has implemented numerous lockdowns since last summer—has about 8,900 cases per 100,000 people while Florida has 8,700 per 100,000 people. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has triggered significant at-home backlash over the state’s lockdown rules and school closures, with a recall petition that is circulating around the Golden State nearing the threshold.

CPAC moved the event from the District of Columbia to Florida amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. Speakers on Friday include Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and more.

As some prominent Republicans are girding for more prominence in the party ahead of the 2024 presidential election, DeSantis is seen as a potential front-runner by some if former President Donald Trump doesn’t run. Should Trump run again, he would be the presumptive front-runner and would likely face little GOP opposition.

“We cannot, we will not, go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” DeSantis said on Friday, adding: “The question is: When the klieg lights get hot, when the Left comes after you, will you stay strong or will you fold?”

He added: “We reject open borders and instead support American sovereignty and the American worker. Building a movement on amnesty and cheap foreign labor is like building a house on a field of quicksand.”

“We look around in other parts of our country and in too many places we see schools closed, businesses shuttered and lives destroyed,” DeSantis remarked, adding that while many other states implemented lockdown order during the pandemic, “Florida lifted people up.”