Rick Scott is the Mayor from Jaws

Florida Governor Rick Scott is a lot of things. Global warming denier because he is not a scientist. Supporter of private prisons that not only waste state money but treat inmates unconstitutionally and inhumanely. Skeletor’s less mirthful younger brother.

But this Friday, Scott added another ignominious distinction to his resume. He is now the owner of a spot-on impersonation of Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn from Jaws. Scott’s great white shark is the Zika-carrying mosquito.

In one of two front page New York Times articles about Zika in Florida yesterday, Scott’s message to residents and visitors to Florida’s Miami-Dade County was lacking in urgency when compared to the CDC. Let’s just kick it to the Times:

He [Scott] minimized the extent of the spread, saying in a news conference, “We have two small areas. One less than a mile, and we’ve already been able to reduce the footprint. We have another area now that’s 1.5 miles on Miami Beach. That’s out of state that takes 15 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola, so let’s put things in perspective.”

His communications director, Jackie Schultz, said Friday that Mr. Scott “is encouraging  people to come to Miami, to come to South Beach. Just remove standing water and wear bug spray.”

The CDC and Florida are at odds over the state of a square mile in the Wynwood section of Miami. Scott calls the area clear while the CDC says it is still an active Zika zone.

It’s hard to read these statements by the Scott administration and not think of Mayor Vaughn from Jaws. Unwilling to acknowledge the reality of the situation, he kept the beaches open and made statements that could be delivered by Rick Scott and his team. Like this:

I’m pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have in fact caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But as you see it is a beautiful day. The beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. Amity, as you know, means friendship. 

And this one:

You yell, “Barracuda.” Everyone says, “Huh. What?” You yell shark and we’ve got a panic on our hands on the fourth of July. 

Or this whole scene between Vaughn, Roy Scheider’s police chief, and Richard Dreyfus’ expert scientist. 

Scott is willing to ignore the potential health risks associated with a spreading virus that we continue to learn more about. And with the lag time between between when someone comes into contact and when a diagnosis can be confirmed, Scott is playing fast and loose with public safety in the name of protecting tourism dollars.

But you don’t have to take my word for it on the threat to people’s health. Just check the other article about Zika in yesterday’s New York Times. It is all about women in South Florida struggling to avoid contracting Zika while pregnant.

 

 

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