Analysis: Florida's Coronavirus Policies Still Working Well, But Keep an Eye on Concerning Data

Posted: Jun 18, 2020 11:30 AM

They're at it again.  The media/Left's obsessive fixation on making Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis look bad, regardless of actual results or data, remains unrelenting.  Because the state's number of confirmed Coronavirus cases has increased significantly in recent days, the critics are racing to declare this a failure, even after their previous declarations of failure were utterly pulverized by actual statistics and favorable outcomes.  Angry that Rich Lowry's National Review piece set the record straight last month, they're seizing on that headline in a profoundly misleading attempt to dunk on DeSantis, as if they're finally being proven right.  A few examples:

The latter tweet comes from a former Congresswoman and the daughter of a prominent Florida Democratic politician.  She sought the party's gubernatorial nomination in 2018, losing to Andrew Gillum, who then lost to DeSantis.  What should DeSantis be apologizing for?  The superb handling of nursing homes (light years ahead of this lethal debacle)?  The low death rate in a large state with a disproportionately huge elderly population?  Or the increased testing regime that is a major factor in fueling the new case count?  As testing increases -- this is a good thing that people have been demanding! -- more positive cases will turn up.  That's not the only component of the uptick, of course; reopening and large protests around the country will inevitably contribute to some viral spread.  But citing 'new cases' as the metric by which to judge any jurisdiction's handing of the pandemic is unfair and deceptive.  What's interesting about Florida's rising case total is that it hasn't yet led to a commensurate uptick in hospitalizations (see update):

As Florida reported a second record day of new COVID-19 cases Friday, with 1,902, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Miami-Dade — the hardest-hit county in the state — dropped to 546, the lowest number since April do experts make sense of conflicting information — in this case, rising positive cases but falling hospitalizations — to assess risk? And how can regular people figure out what’s going on when they look at the numbers? Over the past eight days, Miami-Dade has averaged about 260 new cases a day, according to the county’s “Moving to a New Normal” report — up from an average of 202 a day the prior week...

It's important to keep a vigilant eye on these trends, and it's clear that the crisis has not ended, despite how many Americans seem to be treating it.  This ambivalence-to-brazenness has certainly been encouraged by many public officials' mixed messaging and double standards in recent weeks.  Things could really deteriorate (what's happening in places like Arizona, parts of California, and elsewhere is certainly troubling), so any claims of victory are at best premature. Effective treatments and the warp speed developments of vaccines remain our best shot at effectively beating the disease.  But there's also some evidence that in Florida, the mismatch between spiking new cases and stable/manageable hospitalization rates is partially attributable to the fact that more young people are getting tested.  Even as some of them are testing positive, their cases are mild or even asymptomatic, not requiring any hospitalization or serious treatment:

Hospitalizations and hospital capacity are far more important indicators than total cases.  Let's keep watching the data closely, but if it continues to be the case that cases are surging due to more testing among young, healthy people, while vulnerable populations are remaining well protected (with the hospital systems not approaching overload), that sounds like what a policy success would look like.  Confident claims of success or failure at this stage are premature.  This is not what policy success looks like:

Florida has recorded less than 3,000 deaths from COVID.  New York has recorded more than 17,000, many of them in nursing homes that were failed by destructive state policies.  Florida has a larger population of senior citizens than New York, and roughly two million more residents overall.  That said, Coronavirus deaths are a lagging indicator.  Infection rates and hospitalizations are metrics on which to keep close tabs.  On the former front, I'll leave you with this:

We're still in the first wave.  And this is my general theory on best practices as we await confirmed treatments and approved vaccines, in short:

UPDATE - This is the type of thing that's worrisome: