Florida's Delta disaster

Conservative media is trying to spin the worst mortality rate in the country as a GOP victory

Today, for some reason, a bunch of folks in conservative media woke up and decided to start fights on the internet by claiming Florida governor Ron DeSantis won the coronavirus.

Here’s New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz: “Florida has lowest COVID-19 case rate in the country. They did it without vaccine mandates, without mask mandates in school & with no restrictions on businesses. Life simply went on. [Ron DeSantis] was right again.”

And here’s radio host and knuckle-dragging moron Clay Travis striking a similar note: “New York and California have had vaccine & mask mandates for substantial periods of time now. Yet Florida, which has mandates for neither vaccines or masks, has less than half the rate of covid of both NY & CA & the lowest covid rate in the entire country right now.”

Cases are low right now in Florida simply because the Delta wave burned through the state, virtually uncontrolled, earlier in Florida than elsewhere. But what these arguments elide is that the state’s Delta outbreak was the worst in the country, due in large part to DeSantis’ refusal to support bare minimum mitigation measures.

You can roughly peg the start of the Delta death wave to August 1. Since then, Florida’s lost over 20,000 people to Covid — nearly one third of its total pandemic death total. Looking nationwide, no other state comes close to Florida in terms of Delta wave mortality — the rate in Florida is 93 deaths per 100,000, compared to a nationwide average of 39 per 100k (again, these figures only calculate death since August 1).

Just to be clear: in terms of mortality, Florida has had the worst Delta outbreak in the nation. I pointed this out to Markowicz. She responded: “I love the narrow date [sic] set to prove whatever we need proved but I tend to like data and evidence so where is that data and evidence that mitigation factors like mask or vaccine mandates would have made a difference? Which state implemented them and saw better results?”

Fair enough. Since the very start of the pandemic, Florida has had the seventh highest overall Covid mortality rate in the nation — not exactly anything for DeSantis to crow about. As for the evidence on the difference mitigation factors make, perhaps that’s best summed up by this recent study in The Lancet. It found that if vaccination rates in Florida had kept pace with rates in Vermont and Massachusetts — two of the most well-vaccinated states in the nation — DeSantis could have avoided 664,000 cases, 61,000 hospital admissions and 16,000 deaths by August 31st.

None of this is particularly complicated.