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Monday, April 22, 2024

The pandemic hit our state hard over the past two years. We've lost nearly 70,000 Floridians to the virus, our children's schooling has been interrupted and supply chain problems have made everything more expensive.

But we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And while we may never eliminate COVID-19 like the flu, we should be able to live with it without a major disruption to our lives.

Finally, it’s time to think about moving forward. 

We got here because while some of our leaders played partisan politics, others got to work — and together, we all did our part. We developed the best vaccines in the world in record time and distributed over 250 million of them to Americans. We passed legislation that kept small businesses open and put money in people's pockets to ride out the crisis. Local leaders made the tough calls to keep people safe despite intense political interference from Tallahassee.

But there's still a lot of work to do to strengthen our economy and our state. 

We have to help our children make up for the learning loss from two years of COVID-19. We have to fix the supply chain issues that are jacking up prices and making basic necessities like gas, clothes and food hard to get. We have to help workers get off the sidelines by getting them reliable childcare and sick leave so they can get back to work easier and faster.

And as a precaution, we need to prepare for the next pandemic. We need to stockpile basic lab testing materials and medical clothing and equipment now, so if we need them again, we aren’t caught off guard. And we need to move this manufacturing to the United States, so we aren't reliant on China in the event of a future crisis.

Finally, we need to keep promoting vaccines and boosters to the millions of Floridians who still haven’t gotten the shot. Other states and countries are already doing this. Florida needs to catch up.

And it’s clear Gov. DeSantis isn’t up for the job. Our governor opposed the American Rescue Plan that saved our economy from the kind of crash we experienced during the Great Recession. And instead of championing life-saving vaccines, he catered to anti-vaccine and anti-mask conspiracy theorists — even appointing one as Florida’s Surgeon General.

Today, Florida has one of the lowest rates of booster shots for seniors, and the Omicron variant has killed more seniors than most states.

And right now, the Governor is doubling down on his war on our schools, trying to strip $200 million from schools that disagreed with him on masking efforts, promoting "Don't Say Gay" legislation that discriminates against Florida kids and trying to silence the teaching of our nation's heroic civil rights struggle because it makes him feel "discomfort."

I don't know about Gov. DeSantis, but my parents raised me to follow the Golden Rule, to tell the truth — to be kind to others. 

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I'm running for Governor of our great state, because I’ve led our state out of tough times before. 

It’s time to end these politics of division. 

We can and will come together to build a Florida that works for everyone — not just for some. It’s time to turn the chapter on this pandemic in our state; it’s time to rebuild and restore our Florida. It’s time we get new leadership back in Tallahassee.

Follow Charlie Crist on Twitter @CharlieCrist.

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