A Thing I Got Wrong on COVID-19: The DeSantis Response in Florida

The Governor of Florida has gotten overwhelmingly critical media coverage while outperforming and outclassing St. Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York

I saw this tweet from The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins the other day and I’ve been dwelling on it for a while.

I think, if we are honest, everyone from Dr. Fauci to the President to the media to you and to me has gotten stuff wrong. There is just so much we still do not know about the virus. Just yesterday, serious scientific reports came out that those people who appear to be getting the virus a second time actually are not. They test positive because of how their bodies are shedding the virus. There is just so much we are learning and learning so fast.

I want to dwell for a moment on something I got wrong. It comes as the national press continues to get the news wrong in Florida and Georgia. A cottage industry of blue check marked progressives are assuring reporters that Florida and Georgia are fabricating positive news just as Georgia reports hospitalizations for COVID-19 have fallen below 1000 for the first time since April 8th. It also turns out that the virus has receded far faster in Gainesville, GA than anyone expected. There had been an explosion of the virus in a poultry processing facility in Gainesville among the hispanic immigrant workers. The Governor of Georgia and his team rapidly mobilized with local authorities to bring in Spanish speaking officials, go into communities, and work locally to stop the spread. It worked.

Here is what I want to admit to getting wrong.

I initially believed the national media narrative in March that Ron DeSantis was asleep at the switch in Florida and responded late. But it turns out that while we were all focused on crowded beaches, DeSantis had already zeroed in on where the virus was most likely to be, i.e. nursing homes.

On March 15, 2020, as the national and local media blasted DeSantis for his refusal to close beaches, Florida’s Governor was issuing an important order two months sooner than St. Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York who can do no wrong in the eyes of the media. On March 15, DeSantis ordered all seniors in elder care facilities who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 to be moved to facilities other than their nursing homes. New York’s Governor was still sending infected patients to nursing homes last week.

The results speak for themselves. While Florida’s nursing homes have not been spared, Florida’s data shows that only 1,789 of 146,482 long term care facility residents have been infected. That is a dramatic departure from other states, particularly from New York where bodies continue to be discovered in nursing homes.

In heavily tourist Orlando, the outbreak did not spread out of control as media fear-induced reporting prognosticated. In fact, the only major hotspot in the state is the Miami-Dade area where the data from the New York Times shows many New York residents fled and spread the virus. While the media quibbles over whether to call COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus,” in Florida it could more accurately be referred to as the New York virus, or the Cuomo coronavirus.

DeSantis even, without media attention, had his team survey Florida to find areas of high foot travel concentration and low automotive travel due to poverty, age, and other issues. He then set up walk-up field testing centers in those areas so residents could walk up for tests instead of relying on public transportation or other vehicles. That did not get national coverage either.

On April 19, 2020, to howls from the national press, Duval County, Florida in the state’s northeast corner reopened beaches. The hashtag #FloridaMorons trended on social media and got picked up by the Washington Post. At the time, Duval County, Florida, which is the Jacksonville area, had only 30 COVID-19 patients in area hospitals out of a million-person population. The press missed all that in favor of outrage coverage.

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Actually, that is all we have gotten from the national press about Florida. When Florida quarantined people coming from New York City, the national press was outraged, but it appeared to help stop the spread of the virus. As of this writing, New York has 353,000 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19 and 22,843 deaths for a population of 19.45 million residents. Florida has 46,944 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19 and 2,052 deaths for a population of 21.48 million residents.

Put another way, 1.8% of New York’s residents got infected and 6.5% of those infected have died. 0.21% of Florida’s residents got infected and 4.3% of those infected died. That Florida has so impressively outperformed New York might be one reason so many leftwing agitators have concluded the data is rigged. Otherwise, they would have to admit the conservative governor outclassed and outperformed their media darling.

An honest media would report all of this. Back in mid-March, I bought into the initial media narrative that DeSantis should have acted sooner. But, like with Brian Kemp in Georgia, he listened to local experts and public health officials, looked at Florida’s data, ignored China’s data, and made logical and appropriate decisions for Florida.

So why has the media been so critical? Even now, a number of reporters are playing up stories about errors in the data. The Florida modeling data and the related flaws have been explainable and understandable and Florida put all the data online for others to see and assess for themselves. Still, the media has not pushed back nearly as hard against progressive data truthers as the media pushed back on those from the right skeptical of the high number of cases and deaths.

Why is that? Why are the data truthers now on the left?

I increasingly have a hard time coming to any conclusion except one. Georgia and Florida are both viewed as potential swing states in November. The American political press is emotionally invested in defeating Donald Trump. Much of the political press is guided by the old Haley Barbour axiom that to win a state for the President, you need to win the Governor’s mansion. By undermining Kemp in Georgia and DeSantis in Florida, the media is actually working to undermine the President’s chances in both states.

To report honestly on Georgia and Florida would be to report that there are rational, reasonable explanations for some of the hiccups in data reporting that were fixed. It would report that the media reports the data still shows not only downward trajectories for the virus in both states but also that most of the media fear scenarios have never even come close to happening.

Instead, the national media is mainstreaming a leftwing fever dream that Florida’s government is firing a truth-teller for exposing bad data. When right-of-center people were highlighting a funeral home director in Florida who claimed dead people were being inappropriately labeled as COVID-19 victims, the media forcefully pushed back. Here, a geographic information systems (GIS) manager with a degree in geography and journalism was fired for insubordination after a series of data issues and insubordination. The national press is rushing to paint her as a martyr while ignoring very serious issues about her conduct. Note that the GIS manager is not an epidemiologist and it was the epidemiologists who were directing what data was needed. But who cares about facts when the media can advance the left’s narrative that all good data is fraudulent and only the bad data is real unless it is New York’s, then it must be ignored.

As nursing homes in New York were forced to accept infected patients, Florida had largely sealed off their elder care facilities. As New York residents continued to fill hospitals, Florida hospital capacity was declining. As Andrew Cuomo continued to receive unlimited praise and fawning press coverage, DeSantis and Florida’s residents were savaged as morons. Those supposed morons, by every measure, have outperformed New York in the Floridian response to COVID-19.

If only Ron DeSantis had a brother with a CNN show should he too could get fluffed up on TV.

How much different would the media coverage be if they were not so embedded in New York City? How much different would the media coverage be if they were not emotionally invested in the moral crusade of defeating Donald Trump? We will never really know, but we can all say with certainty that the national press owes Ron DeSantis and the people of Florida a huge apology for not only getting so much wrong but so freely criticizing a state that actually got so much right.

As cases and bodies have piled up around the world, the media has responded to right-wing COVID-19 truthers by pointing out you cannot hide all the bodies. But in Florida, to avoid having to apologize or admit they got it wrong, now the media believes the bodies are being hidden and the situation is far worse than claimed.

And for initially accepting the prevailing media narrative about Florida back in March, I need to admit I got that wrong.

Lastly, a Democrat establishment that so willingly rushed a half-assed impeachment to end the Trump presidency in an election year would, of course, spread fear and discontent to keep an economy shuttered in hopes that might end Trump. And their friends in the press who have decided ousting Trump is a moral crusade worth fighting would willingly help them amplify stories to help them. We are seeing that in Florida.