DeSantis responded that he didn't want to hear "a blip about CoVID from you", adding, "Why don’t you do your work?"
This exchange was bitter and direct, especially for politicians who are dealing with a crisis that is threatening to kill more Americans. It was also a reminder that the well-known cudgels in virus politics -- which pit "freedoms” against restrictions and masks -- are still potent weapons. DeSantis in particular seems eager to continue that fight into next year’s midterms elections and beyond.
Rob Bradley, a Republican who was forced to resign from the Florida Senate due to term limits, said that "He has been, I would argue," the leading voice of opposition against the Biden administration." "It is not surprising to see Biden & DeSantis getting at it."
This strategy is not without risks. DeSantis will be running for reelection in the next year. He is often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate for 2024. Because he spent much of the pandemic pushing a message which prioritized the state's economy over strict restrictions to stop the spread, his national profile has grown.
His state is the epicenter of this latest surge. Florida has repeatedly broken records for hospitalized patients this week, and it and Texas accounted for a third of all new cases nationwide last week, according to the White House.
DeSantis has responded by banning mask mandates in schools and arguing that vaccines are the best way to fight the virus while new restrictions amount to impediments on liberty.
DeSantis stated that Florida is a free country and that he would empower his people in a fundraising email. This was to retaliate against the president. "We won't allow Joe Biden or his bureaucratic flunkies in to take over the rights and freedoms Floridians have earned."
Biden's willingness and ability to criticize the Republican governor of Florida, as well as his colleagues from other hot spots such as Texas, marks a new confrontational turn. In the hope of depoliticizing vaccination, the White House has been trying to reduce the distance between the presidents for months.
It was trying to stop panic from the country over the spreading of the delta variant, and to keep its promise to the nation that it was ready to overcome the pandemic. But with new cases averaging more than 70,000 a day -- above the peak last summer before vaccines were available -- the messaging has shifted.
The White House now describes what's happening as a localized concern. It primarily affects areas that have low vaccination rates or have not followed federal guidance that recommends face masks for areas with high cases. Republicans like DeSantis tend to run the hardest-hit regions.
Biden seems more reluctant than DeSantis to continue this feud. Biden smiled when asked about DeSantis' comments on Thursday.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, didn't hesitate to criticize the administration, saying that DeSantis had "taken steps that are contrary to public health recommendations."
In spite of DeSantis' position, she said that the administration officials were still in contact with Florida's public-health officials. Psaki said that the White House is focused on making sure Floridians are aware of what they need to do to protect their health, even if these steps are not taken by the state's top leadership.
It is not unusual for Republican governors to attack Democratic presidents, and vice versa. Even heated partisan back-and forth as intense as the coronavirus rages has been seen before.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was the governor of New York during the first months of last year's pandemic. As a science-based counter to Donald Trump's daily meetings with the media, Andrew Cuomo held daily press briefings that were broadcast live on national TV.
Cuomo was preparing his briefing when Trump took to Twitter that Cuomo was complaining about the governor of New York and needed to "get out there and do the job." Cuomo responded, "If he is sitting at home watching TV, perhaps he should get up to go work."
Cuomo is now under intense pressure to resign after an investigation found he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers. However, his state is not the same virus hot spot as Florida.
Biden is also known for not channeling his predecessor's combative tactics. This underscores how bizarre the political dynamics surrounding the virus surge.
Another indication that the back-and-forth between Biden and DeSantis could foreshadow similar future clashes as the midterms loom is that the governor and president recently put aside their differences and appeared together after the deadly collapse of a condo building in Surfside, Florida. This is a far cry of what's actually happening right now.
DeSantis is "only telling us what he wants," Bernard Ashby, a Miami cardiologist who heads the Florida Chapter of the Committee to Protect Health Care said. As the leader of the state, I believe it is his responsibility to do something to reduce the number of people who are infected, hospitalized and end up in the ICU, where they eventually die.
DeSantis is still doubling down. DeSantis' harsh words about Biden have caused controversy online and the governor has appeared on Fox News to repeat them.
"That's his strategy all his existence...whatever plays on Fox News is his destination," stated Kevin Cate, a Florida-based Democratic strategist who was a veteran of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Cate, a campaign consultant for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running for governor and has been an outspoken DeSantis critic, said if the Florida loss of life now occurring because of the coronavirus had been a hurricane, the governor would have "suited up" for disaster response without worrying about the political optics.
He said that Ron DeSantis would have one-tenth the vitriol against the viruses that he spews on Joe Biden, and people wouldn't be dying in Florida.