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“Florida shows that even a large state that made a strong push to vaccinate people can be crushed by the Delta variant, reaching frightening levels of hospitalizations and deaths,” the New York Times reported Aug. 28. The Times article is one of many reports showing the recent numbers on coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths in Florida, which are currently certainly above much of the country.
However, these cold numbers lack context and generate a misguided matrix of opinion that is embedded deep within American society: “Florida is a health disaster.” One only has to look at the responses and quotes to the New York Times tweet to see how many people, without factual basis, criticize the newspaper for saying that Florida is a state that heavily boosted vaccination. It is an irrefutable fact, yet many believe that Governor Ron DeSantis is an anti-vaccine politician.
Florida, better than most states
Florida is not a health disaster as the media would have you believe. Despite the fact that deaths in Florida in recent weeks are above the national average, the state also ranks among the 20 territories with the lowest average number of deaths per 100,000 population in the United States since the pandemic began. This is according to the most recent CDC data.
If Florida is compared territorially and population-wise with the other three largest states in the union — Texas, California and New York — the state of Florida comes out well; it has far fewer deaths than these three, having, in addition, a larger population on average.
According to a chart published by Phil Kerpen, with the most recent data available from the CDC and NCHS combined, Florida has a total of 40,360 coronavirus deaths. California, meanwhile, has 67,027, Texas follows with 58,718, and New York has 55,428.
In the average number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Florida also registers better numbers, ranking 17th with 152.8 deaths. California follows in 27th place, with 183.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Then comes Texas in the 47th position with 251.1. Finally, New York appears with 269.1 deaths on average in the penultimate place. It is only surpassed by the small state of Mississippi.
Florida, in fact, has a better average number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants than the United States as a whole: 152.8 vs. 190.1.
The question here is not to determine which state did better or worse, as there are many variables that can be considered in making a statement of that caliber. For example, Florida has not had as many deaths as Texas, New York and California since the pandemic began, however, since vaccines have been available, its performance has deteriorated relative to New York.
The idea is to give context to the numbers. For example, covering the statistical fact that today Florida has more deaths than New York without remembering, for example, that Florida has one of the five oldest populations in the United States — much older than New York, California and Texas — is a serious journalistic error.
Likewise, it is logical that the southern state has more cases of COVID-19 since Floridians have long led a normal life, free to go to any type of place or business without major restrictions. Many Floridians even take off their masks as the vaccination process progresses. Something that, at the time, the CDC itself recommended and then retraced its own steps asking people to wear masks despite being vaccinated.
Although it is not usually read in the mainstream media, this approach adopted by Ron DeSantis to face the pandemic — which not only has consequences at a health level, but also at an economic and social level — allowed the state of Florida to save businesses, jobs and prevent the economy from suffering the blows of a global economic crisis that dramatically affected states such as New York or California.
In terms of unemployment, the difference is abysmal. Today, Florida has an unemployment rate of 4.1 %, while New York stands at 7.0 % and California at 5.5 %. The growing migration of New York citizens and businesses to Florida is another indication of how the southern state continues to be economically attractive despite the pandemic crisis.
What will other states do?
After a year and a half of pandemic, with the vaccination process underway and with the appearance of new drugs to face COVID-19, it is necessary to ask: to what extent will the sanitary restrictions continue, if the variants evolve, will there be confinements like last year, will people be forced to wear masks despite being vaccinated, will they be forced to wear masks?
Last year, at the height of the pandemic, Florida did not have any lockdowns and citizens enjoyed the freedom that Californians and New Yorkers did not have. Was that a health disaster? No, quite the opposite.
Today Florida has a problem of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, while this is happening, the authorities are working to continue vaccinating and, in addition, promoting an FDA-approved drug that can save thousands of lives known as monoclonal antibody therapy. Now, despite what the mainstream media may say, this does not mean that the state governed by DeSantis should change its approach, especially when the health and economic numbers back up his strategy.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.