Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Under Fire For Blaming Coronavirus Surge On ‘Overwhelmingly Hispanic’ Farm Workers

Ron DeSantis appears at a press conference.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the state’s recent surge in coronavirus cases has been caused in part by the “overwhelmingly Hispanic” day laborers and agricultural workers — even though advocates in this industry have blamed the state for inadequate testing for these groups.

As the New York Post reported, DeSantis is coming under pressure for the comments made earlier in the week to a local Florida news station that migrant workers are partly to blame for the recent uptick in cases. In the interview with WFOR-TV, DeSantis said that these workers must endure tight confines as they travel to jobs, leaving them at risk of contracting the virus.

“Some of these guys go to work in a school bus, and they are all just packed there like sardines, going across Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and there’s all these opportunities to have transmission,” DeSantis said.

But as the New York Post noted, state officials have contradicted the governor’s claim. Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner, said that most of the state’s farm workers left two weeks ago after harvests ended and that more recent surges in coronavirus cases are coming from non-agricultural areas of the state. Other advocates have said that DeSantis ignored pleas from advocacy groups asking in April for better plans for testing foreign workers.

DeSantis has faced criticism for moving forward in reopening Florida’s economy at a time when other states were still adopting stringent lockdown measures. He was criticized for being slow to order the closure of state beaches as well, leading to warnings that the state could be vulnerable for an increase in cases.

That is what has happened over the course of the last few weeks, with confirmed cases of the coronavirus rising across the state. As CBS News reported, some are warning that Florida could become a new epicenter for the outbreak in the United States. Experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania released a report this week saying that without instituting more stringent measures to stop the spread, Florida and a handful of other states are at risk of seeing cases continue to rise.

“The most concerning areas for additional widespread community transmission continue to be in Texas, Arizona, the Carolinas and, once again, Florida,” the report said. “In fact, Florida has all the makings of the next large epicenter…the risk there is the worst it has ever been in our projections.”