Governing with contagion: Pandemic politics, COVID‐19, and undermining public health in Florida


The United States approached the COVID‐19 pandemic with inconsistent responses that varied by state. In Florida, legislators passed laws contrary to mitigating the pandemic. These laws included banning county and municipal efforts to control the spread of COVID‐19 through mask mandates, social distancing, and prohibiting vaccination mandates during infectious disease epidemics. Moreover, the Legislature simultaneously prioritized policies of social exclusion, passing bills that constrained the rights of transgender individuals, Black Lives Matter protestors, and educators. In this article, I use the perspectives of critical medical anthropology and “governing through contagion” to examine Florida’s COVID‐19 response. I argue the COVID‐19 pandemic provided an opportunity for legislators to obfuscate their political power and advance a politics of social division while simultaneously passing policies that undermined human health. I refer to this process as governing with contagion: Using a pandemic as a politically expedient backdrop to conceal power and simultaneously harm human health.