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Politics: Florida Democrats call on DeSantis to accept federal help to expand COVID-19 testing

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  Old Florida Keys bridge reopens to pedestrians, bicyclists MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — A segment of a 110-year-old Florida Keys bridge is reopening to pedestrians and bicyclists on Wednesday following a $44 million restoration project. Rehabilitation construction on the oft-photographed 2.2-mile (3.5-km) span of the Old Seven Mile Bridge began in late 2017. “What made the project challenging was that it is a historic bridge, and we had to restore the bridge to the same aesthetic fabric as the original,” said project manager Tony Sabbag, a Florida Department of Transportation contractor. © Provided by Associated Press In this Monday, Jan.

Ten Democratic members of Congress from Florida wrote to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday calling for him to utilize federal assistance to expand COVID-19 testing in the state.

Florida Democrats call on DeSantis to accept federal help to expand COVID-19 testing © Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee Florida Democrats call on DeSantis to accept federal help to expand COVID-19 testing

"We urge you to, once again, vocally encourage vaccines and boosters, and stop propagating vaccine and booster messages filled with doubt and indifference," the letter said, noting that cases in Florida have risen by 948 percent in recent weeks.

The letter also encouraged DeSantis to advocate for widespread testing and to reverse bills that limit local officials and private businesses from policies like mask and vaccine mandates.

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"These policies are not based in science and do not protect the health and safety of Floridians," the letter added.

Democratic Florida Reps. Val Demings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Lois Frankel, Charlie Crist, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto signed the letter.

"As a federal elected official, Rep. Demings should be using her platform to urge the Biden Administration to speed up the delivery not only of tests, but of life-saving monoclonal antibody therapies, such as Evusheld and Sotrovimab," a spokesperson from DeSantis's office said in an email to The Hill when asked about the letter.

"Governor DeSantis has prioritized early treatment and therapies, which have saved thousands of lives in Florida, but unfortunately the federal government controls the entire supply," the spokesperson added.

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"Florida governors of both parties have never hesitated to seek the appropriate federal assistance following natural disasters. Our governor should put his partisan battles aside and use all resources at our disposal to save lives and keep Floridians safe," Demings said in a statement.

Demings also referenced Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) recent decision to ask for federal assistance with COVID-19 testing and treatments in his state.

Abbott, who has been a leading opponent of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, said at the time that Texas was "urging the federal government to step up in this fight and provide the resources necessary to help protect Texans."

Last week, DeSantis announced that Florida would provide 1 million at-home tests to be sent first to long-term care facilities and nursing homes, then to "senior heavy communities."

The governor added at the time that Florida's position on testing is "if you are just young and healthy, you don't need to be running out and getting tested every day."

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases in Florida have skyrocketed in recent weeks. For the most recent data from Dec. 31- Jan. 6, Florida's Department of Health reported 397,114 new COVID-19 cases, an increase from 297,888 cases the week of Dec. 24 and 128,151 the week of Dec. 17.

Seventy-two percent of the state's population ages 5 and older are vaccinated, according to the health department.

Opinion: The future of the GOP isn't about Ron DeSantis or Glenn Youngkin .
As debates continue about the Republican Party's post-Trump future, it will be critical to see past conventional political labels -- lest they conceal the true threats imperiling American democracy, writes Nicole Hemmer. The tendency to see the Republican Party as a body organized by a split between moderates and conservatives goes back decades, but today, those labels fail to capture the party's truth, she argues.A year after Donald Trump left the White House and with the 2022 midterms looming, much of the Republican Party has its sights on what, and who, comes next.

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