FLORIDA POLITICS: Donna Shalala sends counterpoint to Mike Pence visit to Miami

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala will lead a group of South Florida leaders on a Monday morning conference call to talk about the state and federal government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the specific implications of sending kids back to school.

The 10:00 a.m. call is timed to contrast with Vice President Mike Pence’s Monday afternoon visit to the University of Miami, where he is expected to promote the progress made on a coronavirus vaccine.

Shalala, the former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, will be joined by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Rep. Javier FernandezKarla Hernandez-Mats, the president of United Teachers of Dade, and by Florida teachers Jessica Harrington and Keegan Schlake.

Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said last week that he does not currently envision sending students back to school in August, but a final decision has not been made. Gov. Ron DeSantis said earlier this month that teachers must return to work in August because it is proven that students are at less risk than the general population.

Earlier this month, when Pence was set to visit Tampa, Shalala staged a similar press conference and excoriated DeSantis and the administration of President Donald Trump for its tepid approach to closing down the economy. 

“Why are we in this situation? Because we didn’t do the right thing at the beginning and now we’re trying to play catchup,” said Shalala early in July. “Only 50% of this state closed down. We needed at the beginning to hit this virus with a hammer, to starve it all the way down. …The governor has been meek. He’s been following the lead of the White House. He’s been consulting with the President and the President is literally endangering the health of every Floridian.”

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