Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is winning the COVID marathon and helping build a strong Florida in the process. For months the media predicted that Florida would become the ‘new New York’ when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, beating their drums—and chests—at our Republican governor and his pro-growth economic policies. And yet their fear-filled prophecies have not materialized. Florida is successfully flattening the curve, the number of new COVID-19 cases is on the decline, the positivity rate has been below 10 percent for more than two weeks straight, and our economy is regaining strength.
Even after the “surge” this summer, Florida is still miles ahead of other densely populated states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and more, when it comes to the death rate from COVID-19. The state has more than sufficient hospital and ICU bed capacity to avoid the health care system from being overwhelmed, with some counties at above 90 percent bed availability.
Gov. DeSantis approached the COVID-19 pandemic with caution, not fear. His administration acted quickly to prioritize the protection of nursing homes, a decision that likely saved countless lives, yet has earned little appreciation from the media. His Executive Orderexpanding telehealth services for state employees ensure state workers can receive health care while continuing to social distance. And by signing HB 23 into law, Gov. DeSantis, with the Florida legislature, permanently increased all Floridians’ access to quality health care by allowing qualified out-of-state physicians to use telehealth services to treat those in the Sunshine State.
By partnering with legislators, the governor also demonstrated proactive thinking by making Florida a leader in health care choice and affordability before the pandemic even began. Last year, Gov. DeSantis signed into law new provisions that expanded Floridians’ access to affordable short-term health plans, as well as association health plans that empower small businesses to access low-cost health insurance for themselves and their employees. These wise decisions made well before COVID-19 have led Florida into 2020 with smarter policies and more affordable health care options compared to other states.
Gov. DeSantis’s level-headed leadership has also put Florida on track to rebound quickly from the global pandemic.
Prior to the viral outbreak, Gov. DeSantis led Florida to achieve our state’s lowest unemployment rate on record. Millions of Floridians were working and enjoying the benefits of a strong economy, and Florida had become a national leader in the fight against government welfare dependency. Gov. DeSantis’s belief in the power of work to grow individuals and build communities, and his commitment to those same principles, is already helping Florida to make a strong comeback. First-time unemployment claims are on the decline and businesses are open.
Gov. DeSantis and the legislature made it easier and more affordable for licensed professionals to get to work. The Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act will significantly reduce burdensome licensing requirements and remove costly fees that keep individuals from pursuing professional work.
These reforms could not come at a better time as many Floridians are looking to return to work or start a new career. Since the end of July, when the job-killing CARES Act unemployment insurance boost expired, our country has seen the economy come roaring back to life. Nearly 1.3 million new businesses have opened, unemployment claims dropped, and manufacturing is at an 18-month high. Here in Florida, we have more than 143,000 new businesses created since June 1—an increase of 61 percent over the same period last year. And the number of people filing for unemployment in Florida has dropped by nearly a third since late July.
Let's put that into context: In mid-April, Florida’s first-time unemployment claims reached more than 500,000. Today, that number has plummeted to less than 50,000—the lowest level since the pandemic began. As unemployment plummets, new businesses form, and open jobs are on the rise, now is the best time for Floridians to get back to work.
Gov. DeSantis is also working hard to ensure students can safely return to school. A full economic recovery must include open schools and the governor’s refusal to shy away from this hard work should be applauded, not attacked, as so often is the case in the liberal media.
Their preferred narrative that red states are “backward” and are failing in the fight against COVID-19 is just not true. To date, New York City has by far the highest COVID-19 death rate across the United States; the rest of New York state ranks ninth. The crisis in New York should not be compared to Florida, whose death rate ranks 16th in the nation, despite having the second-highest population of senior citizens.
Not only do states like Florida have lower COVID-19 death rates than their blue-state counterparts, but their economies are also in a stronger place, as well. While the unemployment rate in New York is still hovering around 16 percent—including roughly 20 percent in New York City—Florida’s unemployment rate is already under 12 percent. True in other red states as well. South Carolina’s unemployment rate is under nine percent and South Dakota’s is just over six percent.
Gov. DeSantis remains focused on making Florida a better place to do business and raise a family. His efforts to protect Floridians’ health, education, and economic opportunity have not gone unnoticed by Floridians, even if you don’t hear about it from the mainstream media.
Tarren Bragdon is the chief executive officer at the Foundation for Government Accountability