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Florida's Pandemic Response May Have Been Vindicated

State was criticized for reopening early, but death rate isn't above national average
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2021 7:35 PM CDT
Updated Mar 16, 2021 12:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – Florida was heavily criticized for reopening too early last year—especially after a surge in coronavirus cases followed. But a year into the pandemic, critics are starting to wonder whether Republic Gov. Ron DeSantis may have got it right after all. The pandemic has killed more than 32,000 people in Florida, but the death rate isn't worse than the national average and is only slightly higher than that of California, which has kept much tighter restrictions in place for much longer, and the economy is thriving, Axios reports. Florida fully reopened in September and DeSantis never imposed a statewide mask mandate. More:

  • "An unspoken grand bargain." The New York Times, one of several outlets that recently took another look at Florida's response, describes the state's coronavirus deaths as "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."
  • Not so fast, NYT. Charles Cooke at the National Review says the Times should be more willing to praise Florida's achievement. He says that since the state kept people employed and educated and the death rate remained below that of many states that locked down, "then there was neither a meaningful tradeoff nor a 'grand bargain,' was there?"

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  • Big decisions. The Tampa Bay Times looks at some big decisions DeSantis made over the last year. One that is now being widely praised is his decision on March 14 of last year to bar visitors from long-term care facilities. In contrast to New York, he also stopped hospitals from transferring COVID patients back to care homes.
  • Time for an apology? Ed Morrissey at Hot Air says the national media is only "grudgingly" acknowledging Florida's success. The "reluctance to credit Florida for making potentially wiser choices for its entire population appears tied to the political fortunes of its governor," who is being talked about as a 2024 White House contender, says Morrissey, who suggests the Times should apologize for spending the last year criticizing DeSantis and promoting Gov, Andrew Cuomo, "perhaps the nation's worst governor in the pandemic."
  • "Vindication" for DeSantis. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Florida's successes, including a lower unemployment rate than many states and a booming housing market, are "vindication" for the governor. "We’ve shown people that you can have a good time, you can be safe, and you can make the decision that’s best for you," he told the paper.
  • "I'd much rather be in Florida." One of the people the Times spoke to was Patricia Garcia, a 34-year-old who moved to the state in 2017. She said she is a Democrat, but she had defended the governor's policies to friends in other states. "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."
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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