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The Tale of Two States

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

As the COVID-19 cases rose leading up to the holiday season of 2020, many people began pointing the finger of shame at governors like Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis, stating their lack of action was going to lead to a huge spike in COVID-19 numbers.  Meanwhile, the media was heaping praise upon Governors like Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo, stating their efforts in combatting the Coronavirus were worthy of a hero’s title.

What is absolutely frustrating is engaging in debate with the left when they tell us to “follow the science” when it comes to COVID-19 policy.  When questions are raised regarding the effectiveness of COVID-19 restrictions, the left resorts to shouting claims of one being “anti-science” or that conservatives are “ignoring the data.”  Nothing could be more disingenuous.  In fact, when the data is compared, it shows that there is no appreciable difference between states that face strict lockdown requirements and those that don’t.

I live in California and we have been on various lockdown requirements since March of last year.  Additionally, we have been on a mask mandate for several months and have been advised not to travel unnecessarily.  Governor Gavin Newsom has been celebrated by the left as one of the best leaders when it comes to COVID-19 policies.

In January, I attended a work event in Miami, Florida.  The state has been open and without a statewide mask mandate for months, long before the November/December surge in COVID-19 cases.  Much of the business is open in the state, and the tourism industry is well on the road to a full recovery.  In fact, Florida remains one of the only destinations in the country, to which people have traveled.  Later this month, I will be going back to Florida for CPAC, which was moved there from the normal location outside of DC.  Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, has been vilified by the media and the left for his response to COVID-19.

Let’s first realize that Florida has about half the population (at 22 Million) that California does (at 40 million), however, Florida has a higher population density than does California, with 326 people per square mile, compared to California’s 246 people per square mile.  Aside from that, there are not many other differences between the states aside from humidity.  California and Florida have similar temperatures, similar demographics, and similar industries.  The states both have a huge tourism industry, a busy restaurant industry, and are home to manufacturing and other industries.

As of the most recent count, California has had 3.3 million COVID-19 cases, while Florida has had 1.7 million cases.  That works out to approximately 85,000 cases of COVID-19 per million people in California, and 79,000 cases per million people in Florida.  In other words, despite the lockdowns and mask mandates being enforced in California, Florida is still better off with its infection rate and caseload.  The doom and gloom threatened by the left as a result of DeSantis’s lack of action, has simply turned out to not be the case. Meanwhile, as the media continues to celebrate Newsom’s actions in California, his state is 2nd in the nation for COVID-19 deaths.  Florida is 4th.

“But Scott! Doesn’t that mean that Florida has more deaths per capita?”

When it comes to the raw numbers, yes. California leads Florida in deaths with approximately 42,000 deaths, with Florida having approximately 27,000.  That means that Florida has 1,219 deaths per million, compared to just 1,059 for California.  In other words, Florida has 161 more deaths per million as compared to their West Coast comparison.

“See Scott!  Florida is worse!  It is all DeSantis’ fault!”

Except the data doesn’t stop there.  Let’s first remember that Florida has a much older population than California. Secondarily, we know that COVID-19 is much more deadly to older people than it is to younger people.  Florida is 5th in the country for median age, at 42, with California, placing at 45th with an average age of 37.  That means that Florida’s average age is 15% higher than that of California.  Florida’s death rate? It is 15% higher than that of California.  In other words, Florida’s death rate isn’t attributed to inaction by DeSantis, but rather directly correlated to the age of the population of the state, as it is a retirement state for people fleeing high taxes in colder, more northern states.

Again, it must be pointed out that Florida has been open this entire time, absent a mask mandate, while California has been teetering on economic collapse as they continue to push businesses closed as a means to combat the spread.  With Florida open for business (and many other states still closed), people have been flocking to their land-based tourist attractions (the cruise industry is still closed), including theme parks. That means, beyond the transmission of the virus between Florida residents, there are many from out of state that may be bringing the virus into the state during visits. Florida is denser, has more visitors, and nearly zero lockdown requirements, yet still maintains COVID-19 numbers lower than California, which does have more lockdown requirements.

Simply put, COVID-19 measures are not working on an apples-to-apples comparison.  The media’s portrayal of DeSantis as a villain in this story is downright despicable, especially in light of Newsom’s lockdowns, rising COVID-19 numbers, his hypocrisies in obeying those orders, and the collapse of California’s economy.  If the media narrative was even slightly correct, Florida’s numbers would be out of control. Fact is, they aren’t.