Florida’s most prominent elected Democrats have made it clear that if they were in charge of state government, Florida’s citizens would be in full-blown lockdown mode, based solely on the rising number of new COVID-19 infections in the state. Meanwhile, Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted repeated calls from Democrats and their allies to mandate new restrictions on Floridians. He has maintained this approach with a watchful eye on a handful of metrics that have guided his administration’s pandemic policy.
The most vocal Democrat leaders, which include Nikki Fried, Gwen Graham, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have in the last 24 hours published statements on social media accusing DeSantis of bungling the coronavirus response and urging significant restrictions on the movement and freedoms of Florida residents. I won’t bother to link to them all. The examples of full-blown panic are too numerous to list. Here’s a classic example:
His policies are simply not working, and he’s recklessly reopening Florida despite the data screaming for caution – it will cost lives, public health, and our economy.
— Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) June 16, 2020
Democrat leaders have tunnel-vision.
They are laser-focused on the daily number of new cases of COVID-19, and refuse to consider other data. They use this metric to argue for renewed government-mandated restrictions, despite the fact that the initial rationale for shelter-in-place and business lockdowns were to “flatten the curve” so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. When that didn’t happen, Democrat leaders were quick to credit the lockdown, while Republicans openly wondered if the lockdown did more harm than good.
With that in mind, let’s clear some things up for those Democrats who seem befuddled about why Florida isn’t in a rush to return to lockdown status:
The Lockdown Obviously Prevented the Spread of COVID-19, But…
Most Republicans with an ounce of sense will admit this. Some rightly point out that lockdowns in tight spaces like high-density apartment complexes or multi-generational housing probably experienced more harm than good, but on balance, the lockdown worked as advertised.
But that’s just it. The lockdown worked for those whose housing situations were ideal for the lockdown to work, and it didn’t work so well for others. This is a very strong argument against a one-size-fits-all statewide lockdown policy.
The lockdown also did enormous, nearly incalculable economic damage. I won’t belabor the point. It is known.
The lockdown also did far more harm than good to a small subset of the population who avoided the hospital or medical care when they should have sought it out. Suicides increased. Mental health declined. Statistics on this are out there, but it makes perfect logical sense and there is ample anecdotal evidence supporting it. Again, one-size-fits-all is not good policy overall.
In short, Republicans are well aware that the lockdown short-circuited the spread of COVID-19, but it also short-circuited far too many other things, too. And ultimately, Republicans have reached the logical conclusion that locking down indefinitely is simply too ruinous for our state, and there is a better approach using robust data that isn’t focused solely on ever-rising coronavirus case counts.
Regardless of Increased Testing, It is Obvious that COVID-19 is Spreading
Yes, Governor DeSantis likes to talk about the impact of increased testing on the surge in COVID-19 cases. Certainly, we are finding more cases than we would if we weren’t testing, so clearly the increased volume of tests accounts for some of the new cases we are seeing. But DeSantis is well aware of the increase in test positivity rate, which has been climbing since late May:
Note the dramatic spike on the light blue dashed line on the right of the chart. That line is the actual daily percentage, not averaged to smooth out spikes and valleys. Clearly, the virus is spreading.
This chart should not surprise anyone. That’s because DeSantis himself warned back in late April that when Florida reopened, there would be an increase in COVID-19 cases once the economy started to return to normal. He urged us all – particularly the media – not to panic over it. This was expected.
Another Lockdown isn’t Necessary – Unless Hospital Capacity is Threatened
DeSantis made it clear in late April that he believed the lockdown was no longer necessary and began lifting restrictions.
And so far, at least, the new surge in infections doesn’t appear to be the same threat it appeared to be back in early March. While the number of daily new cases has surged dramatically, there has been no corresponding surge in hospitalizations or deaths. In fact, hospitalizations are still below the level they were more than three weeks ago:
All that blue space on the right? Those are cases that, so far, haven’t resulted in hospitalizations. The reason? College-aged kids are the ones getting sick now, while older, more susceptible Floridians are taking precautions to avoid the illness. This is another argument against a government-mandated lockdown. People are smart enough to assess risks for themselves and take precautions.
Here’s an updated graph comparing the ages of all new cases since the so-called “second wave” started on June 1st (light blue bars), compared with the “first wave” between March 3rd and May 31st (dark blue line):
One more chart: these are cases from the last 36 hours:
This reinforces the point in stark terms: 20, 21, 22 and 23 year-old young adults are the unquestioned driving force behind the spike.
DeSantis has this same data. He’s seeing the same trend. He’s well aware that COVID-19 cases are spiking, he knows the virus is dangerous, but he can look at the chart and see that those who are more susceptible to illness and serious symptoms are taking precautions to protect themselves. He’s also well aware that hospitalizations and deaths are flat. He knows our hospital system can handle this current spike – at least for now. If the underlying data starts to change, most Floridians will protect themselves. There’s no need for DeSantis to intervene and impose arbitrary restrictions on Florida’s citizens.
On the other hand, if things shift and hospital capacity becomes threatened, DeSantis will almost certainly choose to shift strategies. Right now, that’s just not the case.
Cases are going to Keep Climbing for the Next Several Weeks
There is no doubt about it – no question whatsoever. All the new cases will, in turn, infect more people. It’s a highly contagious disease. DeSantis knows this. His choice, unfortunately, is between trusting people to see the data for themselves, and take appropriate precautions, or impose draconian restrictions on everyone.
Everyone needs to take precautions to protect themselves and others. DeSantis should be the biggest cheerleader for this. But he should NOT impose lockdowns unless hospital beds and medical care is threatened.
Given all the above, are you satisified with the way DeSantis has handled the situation? If not, what measures would you like to see implemented – and how would you enforce those measures? Drop us a comment below.