By Brad Polumbo
When the COVID-19 crisis came to our shores, some states chose to embrace harsh lockdowns and heavy-handed government restrictions while others prioritized personal freedom and economic vitality. Thanks to this natural experiment, Americans got to vote with their feet on what worked best—and new data show that lockdown-weary New Yorkers fled to one key free state in droves: Florida.
“Florida might as well be known as the sixth borough,” the New York Post reports.
Under Governor Ron DeSantis’s much-criticized leadership, Florida reopened schools and businesses and rejected lockdowns far earlier than most other states. It’s experiencing a population boom, with a particular influx from New York.
“New data from the Sunshine State’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offers the latest glimpse of just how many New Yorkers fled south during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Post report continues.
The DMV data show that roughly 33,500 New York residents swapped their drivers’ licenses for Florida documents from September 2020 to March 2021. That’s 32 percent higher than the previous year. And far more of Florida’s new residents came from New York than any other state, although, interestingly, the other top former states of new Floridians included lockdown-heavy Illinois, California, and New Jersey.
These new data and the stark trend they reveal show that the American people are wise to a truth many politicians and establishment media figures still deny: Harsh lockdowns largely failed to contain COVID-19, while their disastrous economic consequences and other grave unintended consequences likely far outweighed any benefits.
Migrating Americans have come to this realization despite the cacophony of voices insisting otherwise.
Alarmist media outlets decried Georgia’s easing of harsh pandemic restrictions as an “experiment in human sacrifice” and a “death march.” But as FEE’s Jon Miltimore recently reported, “Today the state’s COVID mortality rate stands 30-35 percent lower than many states that enforced strict lockdowns, such as New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.”
Similarly, many politicians predicted disaster and carnage when Texas and Mississippi decided to roll back their remaining restrictions in March. Said disaster never materialized—not even close.
Pandemic outcomes and economic results alike have resoundingly vindicated free states over lockdown states. So, it’s perhaps unsurprising that tens of thousands of families chose freedom over big government when given the choice to relocate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s just hope that this trend continues long after the pandemic.
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