The politicization of the coronavirus pandemic has led to widely different approaches to control of the virus, depending on the governance of your state. Perhaps no two states have differed more in their approaches than California and Florida. While geographically located nearly three thousand miles apart, the ideology of their governors may be even farther apart.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom is a liberal Democrat while Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis is a conservative Republican. While California is a distinctly blue state, Florida is only nominally red. California overwhelmingly voted for Joe Biden for President, while Donald Trump won a closer victory in Florida.
From the beginning of the pandemic, California’s Newsom strictly locked down the state, closing bars, indoor dining, and church services. School closures were widespread, especially in public schools where teachers unions dominate. Most of the state’s six million public school students have been learning remotely since the pandemic began in March of last year. Newsom announced last month a $2 billion plan to push the state’s schools to begin allowing their youngest students to return to the classroom in February, but the teachers unions, especially in Los Angeles, have balked at returning until the teachers are vaccinated.
Florida’s DeSantis took a very different approach. After following an early lockdown with similar measures to Newsom, he allowed bars and restaurants to reopen by June. A few months later, he lifted more statewide restrictions on the economy and prohibited law enforcement from fining people who don’t wear masks. Schools reopened and church services were allowed with social distancing, masks, and sanitary precautions. In October, DeSantis said statewide school closures because of the coronavirus “should be off the table.”
How did the two states compare in controlling the virus? That’s the critical question. Despite the vastly different approaches, the statistics are actually similar.
Death rates in Florida are 110 per 100,000 residents while in California they are only 81 per 100,00 residents. Florida, however, has a much older population. Recent CDC data indicate that California’s death rate is gaining ground on Florida, with the seven-day average daily deaths at 1.4 per 100,000 residents, compared with Florida’s 0.8 per 100,000 residents. The most recent data indicates positive tests in California are also higher at 105 new cases per 100,000 versus Florida’s rate of 64 per 100,000.
California’s hospitalization rates have also surpassed Florida, at 56 per 100,000 residents, compared with Florida’s rate of about 35 per 100,000 residents. Last week California reached the grim milestone of 3 million coronavirus cases. The death rate from Covid-19 in Los Angeles County is actually about one person every six minutes, according to Fox News.
To be sure, the Covid-19 virus has taken the lives of thousands in both states. But the sharply contrasting approaches of Governor Newsom from Governor DeSantis have had a huge impact on the economic and social well-being of the residents of their states. While California has experienced severe lockdowns with devastating impacts on businesses, schools, and churches, Florida’s economy has rebounded well, students are back in classrooms and church services have been attended in person since June.
These differences have had incalculable benefits to the residents of Florida. Now that this data is available, it should give pause to those politicians who continue to insist on the harsh lockdown strategies of people like California’s Governor Newsom. There’s a reason why he is facing a recall election while DeSantis’s popularity is soaring. Those of us who live in Florida are truly blessed.