The state of Florida has enjoyed remarkable success in combating the coronavirus. Under Gov. DeSantis, Florida has sustained minimal harm from COVID-19, in terms of lives lost, despite its above-average elderly population. According to the CDC, Florida has only reported 2,679 deaths involving COVID-19 — thousands fewer than even states with smaller populations, like, for example, Michigan (5,029), Illinois (5,434), and New Jersey (12,540).
Florida seemed to be doing fine throughout the initial phase of reopening, which began May 18. But since the state began phase two — with restaurants at half capacity and gyms and retail businesses open, among other things — new cases of the virus have surged, just hitting a record daily high of over 3,200 this week. COVID alarmists are overreacting, though. New cases don’t mean a coronavirus apocalypse. In fact, as long as vulnerable Floridans are protected, new cases among the healthy population are expected, and even helpful in reaching herd immunity.
Predictably, this uptick has spurred a slew of criticisms from the media suggesting that Florida may be reopening too soon and putting its own population at risk. One CBS Miami story reported the experience of 16 friends who, after attending a recently reopened bar together, were all diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Receiving the text messages that my friends were just boom, positive, boom, positive, boom, positive, back to back to back, it was overwhelming,” said one friend. “I feel foolish, it’s too soon,” said another. Being young and healthy, none of the friends became direly sick, although a few experienced flu-like symptoms. Collectively, though, the message the friends took away from their coronavirus experience was resolute: “We want to tell people it’s really not ready for what we thought it was ready for, it’s too soon.”
Too soon? Too soon for what, exactly? The coronavirus is not going to just go away. Florida was always going to have to reopen at some point; and for such a densely populated state, there was virtually certain to be an uptick in cases no matter when it reopened. Who can say whether or not reopening in three months’ time would have resulted in a less severe increase in cases?
The media’s frenzied reporting of spikes in cases, instead of the lower death counts, has been the source of much confusion over the risk this virus poses to the public. In the end, cases aren’t what’s really important; deaths are. Sure, it’s annoying to have flu-like symptoms for a few days, but for the vast majority of coronavirus “cases,” that’s all a positive diagnosis means. It is the mortality of the virus, not its contagiousness, that will leave behind lasting harm in its wake, and it is fallacious to assume, in all cases, a linear correlation between the two.
Everything we know about this virus shows that the elderly are the demographic most at risk of dying. Gov. DeSantis is therefore right to plan for the protection of those in nursing homes through providing periodic COVID testing for residents and staff members, continuing to prohibit visitations to the facilities, and requiring hospitals to test for COVID before discharging patients to long-term care facilities. It is of the utmost importance that Florida’s vulnerable, elderly population be protected from coronavirus, and the governor continues to supply this protection.
But isn’t it kind of the point that young, healthy people — like this group of friends — get the virus, get over it, and get immune? After all, people younger than 50 generally have very little to fear from the virus. The best thing that can happen, in terms of total lives saved, is that young people go out, contract the virus, and get better, so as to contribute to the herd immunity that will protect the more vulnerable elderly populations from infection. This virus needs hosts to spread, and if the majority of potential hosts are immune, the virus will have a very difficult time infecting those who are most at risk.
Florida is not reopening “too soon.” In all likelihood, it is for the best that the Sunshine State is opening back up, even with the recent spike in cases. Gov. DeSantis is right to emphasize efforts “to continue to protect the most vulnerable,” while also recognizing that keeping young, healthy individuals shut away in their homes will do very little to accomplish that end.