Florida may be done with the pandemic, but the pandemic is not done with Florida

The New York Times today features an opinion piece on which “Florida Man” is likely to be the frontrunner in 2024, the twice-impeached Former Guy or Governor Ron DeSantis who, as author Michelle Cottle observes, is being praised in conservative circles for keeping Florida “largely open for business.” And it is perfectly true that this narrative is stoked and tended and kept alive by the Governor’s team and supporters.

The problem is that it was never true, and Florida’s numbers, also according to the Times, are trending in the wrong direction, and fast.

First, the premise: Florida was largely open for business:

  • As Florida Times Union columnist Nate Monroe has pointed out on multiple occasions, the Mayors of Florida’s largest cities, Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, and many others defied the Governor’s orders and imposed lockdowns and mask mandates, which saved countless lives, while the Governor postured for an audience of one. (Google “DeSantis wants a cookie”)
  • The only thing that was fully locked down was the Governor’s Mansion, where his wife and three toddlers were kept safe, suggesting that the Governor understood the magnitude of the threat perfectly well
  • The public was also barred from the Capital in Tallahassee, reduced to screaming about his culture-war legislative agenda into microphones in remote sites. They might as well have been howling at the moon.

Second, the implication that lockdowns were unnecessary because the Florida Covid-19 statistics aren’t awful. Okay, but they are pretty bad, and there is some question as to whether Florida has only counted “residents” in their cases, hospitalizations and deaths, without including the tourists who were encouraged to travel to Florida. Everyone acknowledges that nearly 38,000 souls perished, 2.3Million cases were reported, and only 46% of Floridians are fully vaccinated. And right now, all the trend lines are going in the wrong direction, also according to the NY Times:

This is the daily case count, sorted from highest to lowest. The second column represents the case count per 100,000 people. Florida’s has risen from 7 to 10 in the last week, more than double the nationwide number.

This shows the most impacted counties–cases, cases per 100,000 and trend line. Five of the top 10 counties are in Florida.

It is way too early to be hailing Governor DeSantis as the right-wing savior who can wage a war against Critical Race Theory with one hand, and swat a pandemic away with the other. Republican Governors of Massachusetts, Maryland , South Dakota and Vermont have far superior bragging rights.

The “which Florida Man?” narrative is easy, and DeSantis is pumping it for all it’s worth, but at the moment, it just doesn’t hold up to even mild scrutiny.

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