Think about Florida and COVID-19. What do you imagine? Sweaty young partygoers packing Miami night clubs over spring break and causing chaos and curfews? The Grim Reaper (actually lawyer and liberal ghoul Daniel Uhlfelder) stalking Florida beaches to protest their reopening? The state hosting the Super Bowl in Tampa with 25,000 people in the stands and an unmasked Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis watching from a suite? That same governor coming out against “vaccine passports”? A writhing, swarming, human petri dish of disease?
Actually, Florida is doing just fine. The state is successfully balancing coronavirus measures with economic issues like the ability work and play, otherwise known as “living.” The state never came close to becoming another New York or New Jersey, overwhelmed with cases and fatalities. Even California, a Democratic state run by a liberal governor, a state that was supposedly doing everything right by locking down normal life for months, is doing relatively worse than Florida by most measurements, both virus- and employment-related.
As the virus spread through the United States in March 2020, Florida’s tourism-dependent economy and senior-skewed population appeared to put the state at a disadvantage, both economically and therapeutically, against a virus that was particularly dangerous to the elderly. Florida did all sorts of things that were supposed to bring mass death, including opening up beaches and theme parks and attractions before other states dared. Frightening projections were made when the state reopened schools in August.
Yet the feared surge of cases never transpired. Florida’s local press, where DeSantis has few friends, admits he made the right call: “Defensive DeSantis still drawing heat for virus policies, but not on reopening schools,” read the headline to a story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Even though the dire predictions of death in Florida never came to pass, the ignorant shrieking of “DeathSantis!” continues unabated.
Rebekah Jones, who for a time ran the state’s coronavirus data dashboard, became popular for a moment among the DeSantis-hating media after she accused the governor of cooking the virus numbers to reopen the state — until stories about her interesting personal life seeped out. Even Jones’ supposedly more scientific measurements were based on discredited assumptions, as the New York Times reluctantly admitted deep into a loaded anti-DeSantis story.
No governor has taken more flack over the pandemic than DeSantis, who stopped Florida officials from closing businesses or penalizing people without masks, even while other governors moved toward lockdowns. DeSantis started lifting lockdown restrictions back in May of last year and lifted all remaining restrictions in September.
The governor’s favorability ratings have rebounded as residents have grown to appreciate their quasi-normal existence. Floridians are eating in restaurants and going to movies and even comedy clubs. Children attend school, play together at recess, and compete in sports with fans in the stands.
Recently I did something in a medium-sized Central Florida city that remains illegal in the cultural meccas of Los Angeles and New York City. I attended a concert by a Bee Gees tribute band, albeit with a somewhat masked-up audience and socially distanced seating. If it had been up to the “follow-the-science” types, there would still be zero concerts, no theme park visits, no sports on any level, and of course no Super Bowl — no fun diversions from the sadness and fear of the past year.
Yet even though the dire predictions of death in Florida never came to pass, the ignorant shrieking of “DeathSantis!” continues unabated. Objective measurements of success won’t assuage the Left’s mask-based moral superiority. In any case, people in Florida, or at least the sliver I see every day, are quite mask-compliant, which makes it odd to read horrified accounts from people who don’t live here that claim otherwise.
Proof that anti-DeSantis loathing has broken the press is this staggering sentence from a hostile NBC News online story: “Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, ignored federal guidelines and prioritized getting senior citizens — one of Florida’s most potent voting blocs — vaccinated first.”
Yes, after a year of accusations that Republicans want to “kill Grandma,” the press is now blaming DeSantis for protecting Grandma.
Florida has avoided the dark imaginings of the Left, controlling the pandemic while not wrecking the lives of its citizens and allowing a semblance of normal life to continue. Even the DeSantis foes at the New York Times were forced to acknowledge on a recent Sunday front page, with a healthy dose of petulance, that in Florida “Much of life seems normal … ”
Perhaps worried it had been too fair, the Times followed up with this snark from reporter Apoorva Mandavilli: “Scientists view Florida — the state furthest along in lifting restrictions, reopening society and welcoming tourists — as a bellwether for the nation. If recent trends there are any indication, the rest of the country may be in trouble.”
Yes, it’s that gruesome wishful thinking of “wait two weeks” again — predicting a rise in Florida’s case and death rate that never actually arrives. Expect the Left, locked into defending their year-long lockdown policy, to never forgive Gov. DeSantis for being right.
Clay Waters is a long-time media watcher (formerly TimesWatch) who critiques the New York Times for NewsBusters. Links to his published stories, poems, and reviews at www.claywaters.org.