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Key Florida official overseeing COVID-19 response resigns

February 15, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this March 15, 2017 file photo, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, asks a question about a concealed weapons bill during a meeting of the criminal justice subcommittee in Tallahassee, Fla. Moskowitz, who heads Florida's Division of Emergency Management, told the USA Today Network that an official announcement of his departure is expected by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Republican governor was scheduled to hold a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 afternoon, where he will likely be asked questions about the pending departure. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)
FILE - In this March 15, 2017 file photo, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, asks a question about a concealed weapons bill during a meeting of the criminal justice subcommittee in Tallahassee, Fla. Moskowitz, who heads Florida's Division of Emergency Management, told the USA Today Network that an official announcement of his departure is expected by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Republican governor was scheduled to hold a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 afternoon, where he will likely be asked questions about the pending departure. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — One of Florida’s top lieutenants in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak resigned Monday, citing the grueling nature of the role — exacerbated by the demands of orchestrating the state’s pandemic response — for his decision to leave the key post.

Jared Moskowitz, who led Florida’s Division of Emergency Management for the past two years, said he tired of being away from his wife and two children, all of whom remain in Broward County while he spends much of his time more than 400 miles (640 kilometers) away in the state’s capital city of Tallahassee.

“My 4-year-old said to me a couple of weeks ago: Daddy works for the governor. I don’t want daddy to work for the governor anymore. I want daddy to come home,” Moskowitz said. “And when your 4-year-old says that to you, you listen.”

Following the November presidential election, Moskowitz was touted by some Democrats to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Joe Biden — but that prospect was doubtful considering his ties with a Republican governor closely allied with former President Donald Trump.

At the start of the pandemic last year, Moskowitz said, he was away from his family for three months to help lead the response to a catastrophic public health crisis that has so far killed nearly 29,000 in Florida and infected more than 1.8 million Floridians.

“I spent a tremendous amount of time away from them. My family quarantined without me in the beginning of the pandemic without me for months,” Moskowitz said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon, just hours after submitting his resignation to the governor.

At a Monday news conference at the Capitol, Gov. Ron DeSantis thanked Moskowitz for his service.

“He has worked incredibly hard. He’s done a fantastic job,” DeSantis said. “He’s done well by us.”

Moskowitz, 40, said he plans to stay in his job until April 30, and the governor has signaled that Kevin Guthrie, the deputy director for the agency, will take on the role.

He said Sunday that he did not have another job lined up and downplayed possibilities that he might seek any of the public offices that are coming up for election next year.

Moskowitz, a Democrat and former member of the state House, assumed the state’s top emergency job shortly after DeSantis, a Republican, took office in 2019.

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As director of emergency management, Moskowitz likely expected to focus on such events like hurricanes.

During his tenure, Moskowitz has instead overseen the emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak, including setting up testing sites — and now vaccination facilities — across the state.

The task has proven to be a logistical nightmare — as well as politically fraught, as Florida became an early epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Moskowitz represented the Coral Springs area of Broward County in the state House of Representatives, serving from 2012 until 2019 and DeSantis tapped him to become his emergency services director.

Moskowitz publicly defended the Republican governor as he came under attack by Democrats and others critics of his response to the coronavirus, including the governor’s decision to prioritize vaccinations for seniors 65 and up while delaying inoculations for some essential workers.

But Moskowitz at times expressed his independence, such as when, earlier this year, he acknowledged the chaotic rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

“The Biden administration is doing a fantastic job with the hand they’ve been dealt, trying to increase allocations and production. There is no easy button to do that,” he said.

It’s not unusual for high-level officials to leave their posts.

Last week, the governor’s chief of staff, Shane Strum, said he would be departing the DeSantis administration to helm Broward Health.