Mask mandates are finished, even in hospitals. The federal COVID emergency ended two months ago, along with the last federal vaccine requirements. And last week, for the first time since Gallup began asking Americans about the pandemic, a majority of them said that it was “over.”
That shifting attitude has started to show up in the race for president. Ron DeSantis, whose battles against mask and vaccine mandates made him a Republican star, has lost ground as voters move on from the pandemic. And attacking Donald Trump’s early handling of the COVID outbreak, accusing the former president of destroying “millions of lives” by supporting stay-at-home measures and not firing top health officials, hasn’t paid off.
One reason COVID policy is a tough sell for DeSantis: The states that get first crack at picking a GOP nominee had experiences much closer to Florida’s than New York’s or California’s.
Stay-at-home orders in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina were ended before the CDC recommended it; in all three states, public schools were allowed to re-open for the 2020-2021 school year. Mask mandates ended in Iowa in February 2021; in New Hampshire two months later; and in South Carolina, McMaster ended local mask mandates in May 2021.
Donald Trump calls Ron DeSantis a “son of a bitch”— Republicans against Trump (@RpsAgainstTrump) July 9, 2023
How can any decent person vote for this guy?
If Trump is the GOP nominee, many DeSantis supporters will find it extremely difficult to vote for him. #NeverTrump pic.twitter.com/AhDW2qN5Ij