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DeSantis touts Florida's response to COVID-19 pandemic 3 years later

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo joined the governor.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Thursday morning in Winter Haven to mark three years since the U.S. encouraged a "Slow the Spread" approach to COVID-19. 

DeSantis spoke at The Fire Restaurant located on West Central Avenue in Winter Haven. He lauded Florida's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the stark contrast between the Sunshine State and many other states across the country when it came to lockdowns, school closures and masking and vaccine policies. 

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, as well as small business owners and students, joined the governor. 

Referring to the federal government's response to COVID at the time, while President Donald Trump was in office, DeSantis said, "They were wrong about almost everything. They were wrong about lockdowns, remember they said that was what you need to do to stop COVID."

In the early days of the pandemic, DeSantis ordered bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days and restaurants to only seat half of their capacity. Restaurants and food establishments also were forced to stop offering dine-in service.

Stay-at-home orders came in April 2020.

Such emergency orders and the "extraordinary measures" were no longer justifiable following the rollout of vaccines, the governor said in May 2021 while signing an order to suspend local emergency orders.

Florida has reported 7.5 million cases of COVID-19 and 86,850 deaths.

Earlier this week, Florida Republicans advanced two of Desantis' key initiatives — banning gender-affirming care for minors and eliminating diversity programs in colleges.

The proposals have cleared separate committees but must still win approval from the full House and Senate chambers.

DeSantis is pursuing an aggressive conservative agenda on race, gender and education ahead of his expected presidential candidacy, continuing a stance that has made him one of the most popular Republicans in the country.

The Republican supermajority in the statehouse is set to rubber stamp virtually all of DeSantis' priorities during this year’s legislative session, giving the governor a platform of policy wins that could prove popular during a GOP primary.

The governor has been a leading critic of diversity, equity and inclusion programs in colleges, known as DEI, as well as critical race theory, which is a way of thinking about American history through the lens of racism.

His administration this week moved to revoke the liquor license of a Miami hotel that hosted a Christmas-themed drag show back in December. The state's complaint claims "A Drag Queen Christmas" exposed minors to "simulated sexual activity" and "lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays." Officials from Hyatt told CBS MoneyWatch that the hotel's liquor license remains valid.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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