If so, the New York Times offers it grudgingly. They acknowledge that Florida’s death rate is no worse than the national average despite the state’s more liberalized approach to pandemic restrictions, which had critics predicting a catastrophe for months. In fact, Florida appears to have fared better than several states that imposed much more draconian lockdowns, although the NYT still casts Florida’s decisions as “an unspoken grand bargain”:
To bask in that feeling — even if it is only that — is to ignore the heavy toll the coronavirus exacted in Florida, one that is not yet over.
More than 32,000 Floridians have died, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge. Miami-Dade County averaged more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the past two weeks, one of the nation’s most serious outbreaks. And Florida is thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
Yet Florida’s death rate is no worse than the national average, and better than that of some other states that imposed more restrictions, despite its large numbers of retirees, young partyers and tourists. Caseloads and hospitalizations across most of the state are down. The tens of thousands of people who died were in some ways the result of an unspoken grand bargain — the price paid for keeping as many people as possible employed, educated and, some Floridians would argue, sane.
Ahem. If Florida has had better outcomes, as the NYT reports, then what exactly is the “unspoken grand bargain”? That might apply if Florida had worse outcomes than lockdown states, but not if they’re doing just as well or better. National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke points out the fallacy:
It cannot simultaneously be true that “the tens of thousands of people who died were in some ways the result of an unspoken grand bargain” and that Florida’s death rate is “no worse than the national average, and better than that of some other states that imposed more restrictions.” If it is true that Florida both refused to lock down harshly and kept as “many people as possible employed, educated and . . . sane” and has a death rate that is “no worse than the national average, and better than that of some other states that imposed more restrictions, despite its large numbers of retirees, young partyers and tourists” — well, then there was neither a meaningful tradeoff nor a “grand bargain,” was there?
It’s not the only point made grudgingly, either. The NYT points out that Florida’s decision to keep beaches open “infuriated many people,” but now “the decision seems obvious in retrospect, given how much safe people are outside.” That decision didn’t seem obvious just in retrospect, however. Florida made that decision based on the science, well-known at that time as well as now, that COVID-19 does not transmit easily outdoors, especially in sunshine. We knew that as early as April of last year, in the first weeks of the pandemic. With that in mind, imposing lockdowns and forcing people to remain indoors is a far worse policy choice, especially in warm-weather states.
Rather than lock down, Florida enforced some social-distancing and mask requirements but allowed venues to operate normally. Now they’re recovering economically much faster, while not suffering worse outcomes from the pandemic. That has other states taking a second look, and the media too, according to Axios:
After a solid year of living with a pandemic, the national press is beginning to ask the question that even Democrats have been quietly pondering in the Sunshine State: Was Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pandemic response right for Florida?
Don’t forget: More than 32,000 Floridians have died, a number the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge, but our death rate is no worse than the national average — and better than some states with tighter restrictions.
Follow the link to the NYT story as well as another grudging look from the Los Angeles Times as well. Thus far, the reluctance to credit Florida for making potentially wiser choices for its entire population appears tied to the political fortunes of its governor, Republican Ron DeSantis. After a year of promoting perhaps the nation’s worst governor in the pandemic, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, as the leader sine qua non of the pandemic, that reluctance to credit Florida’s approach seems at least in part related to the need to explain away a year’s worth of reporting the exact opposite.
Floridians don’t appear reluctant at all to credit DeSantis, not even across party lines:
Ms. García, a 34-year-old Democrat, said she found herself unexpectedly defending Mr. DeSantis’s policies to her friends up north.
“People here, they’ve been able to work. The kids have been able to go to school,” she said. “We have this reputation in Florida of being all Florida Man and crazyland. But I’d much rather be in Florida than California, New York or Chicago.”
In fairness, Florida’s weather allowed for more liberalized restrictions. No one would have argued that opening the beaches on Lake Superior would have been a rational policy in December, for instance. But California has similar weather advantages, and instead of giving people outdoor venues to socialize and conduct commerce, they kept them locked indoors — where the virus can do its worst. Perhaps the leadership of the lockdown states should answer for those choices … and the media should answer for its coverage of them, too.