One of President Joe Biden’s advisers expressed genuine shock over the monumental differences in how Florida, under the leadership of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, managed to keep its COVID-19 death and illness rates stable even though he took an ‘open the economy’ approach rather than a ‘lockdown the economy’ approach, like his blue state rivals.
“I want to start with what we just saw, contrast states like Florida and California,” MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle said to Andy Slavitt, Biden’s senior coronavirus response adviser, during a segment this week. “California, basically in lockdown and their numbers aren’t that different from Florida?”
“Look, there’s so much of this virus that we think we understand that we think we can predict, that’s just beyond, a little bit beyond our explanation, but we do know is that the more careful people are, the more they mask and social distance, and the quicker we vaccinate, the quicker it goes away and the less it spreads,” Slavitt said.
The WH’s Covid adviser, @aslavitt46, is asked why Calif., still in lockdown mode, has numbers that aren’t better than a free state, Florida.
Slavitt: “There’s so much of this virus … that’s just a little beyond our explanation” pic.twitter.com/zZFBugW97r
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 17, 2021
“But we have got to get better visibility into variants. We don’t know what role they play, large events, etc. But the, you know, this is a, as we all have learned by this time, this is a virus that continues to surprise us. It’s very hard to predict. And you know, all around the country, we’ve got to continue to do a better job. And I think, I think we are but we’re not done yet,” Slavitt said, adding “there’s so much of this virus that we think we understand that we think we can predict, that’s just beyond, a little bit beyond our explanation.”
What isn’t difficult to understand is that DeSantis, early on, took a far different approach than his New York Democratic gubernatorial colleague, Andrew Cuomo. The former moved specifically to protect the elderly and the infirm in nursing homes; the latter ordered eldercare facilities in his state to take in patients sick with COVID-19 and the result was predictable.
COVID swept through those New York nursing homes like wildfire through dry brush, and now, Cuomo is a hair’s breadth away from facing impeachment as both Democrats and Republicans in his state demand answers as to why his administration reportedly hid the real nursing home death figures, which are thousands more than officially recognized.
Politico summed up DeSantis’s approach:
In response to his critics, DeSantis has counter-accused them of elevating the work of a “conspiracy theorist” who publishes false information about Florida’s death numbers. He has fought with reporters over mask-wearing and the state’s vaccination efforts. And he also notes that his resistance to closing beaches wasn’t the disaster critics predicted, the forecasts of overwhelmed hospitals never happened statewide and schools have been operating without community spread (even though a teachers union sued him for opening schools), and he boasts that he was among the first governors to reserve vaccines for those over 65 years old.
“What we showed in Florida is you need to lead. I got a lot of blowback. A lot of that was BS, quite frankly,” DeSantis told Politico. “We led on schools. We led on putting people back to work. We would not have had a Super Bowl [in Tampa] if it was not for me.”
The Florida Republican also swatted at “the national media and all these people who are self-anointed experts … They all said Florida would be the worst. But COVID mortality is less than the national average per capita.”
“Our economy is better than the national average,” he continued noting that the state’s unemployment rate is low. There is also a booming real estate market and the state treasury is taking in higher-than-expected tax revenues.
New York and California? Residents are fleeing those places as fast as they can, many of them heading to the free states of Florida and Texas.