Let's be clear: The Coronavirus pandemic is serious and ongoing. Mitigation steps are critical, and the rush toward new treatments and vaccines are urgent. A number of states that were not hammered by the virus in the initial spring wave that crashed in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and parts of the Midwest have been experiencing that first wave this summer. While there's much we still do not know about the disease, it seems likely that some combination of businesses reopening, large scale protests, and perhaps air conditioning in large indoor gathering spaces, have contributed to the recent travails in places like Southern California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia and Florida.
What also seems clear is that the news media -- which was attempting to create emergencies in Florida and Georgia many weeks before their current (and hopefully declining) problems began -- have kicked their negative coverage into overdrive. Based on the way the story is being presented, one might think that these 'sun belt' states have been crushed by the virus in an unprecedented way. A recent hit piece in the Washington Post once again zeroed in on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose early focus on protecting nursing homes has been largely successful, certainly compared to the approaches of several of his Democratic counterparts. The story was a mess. This whole thread is useful:
The tell is what they leave out. No similar story about Gavin Newsom despite CA experiencing a very similar spike. In fact, one of their main (& dishonest) metrics here is cases exceeding NY (which ignores testing differences), but CA actually has more than FL. pic.twitter.com/YNKIrQ4b9O— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) July 26, 2020
They also mentioned Jones firing without detailing her credibility issues and evidence against her.— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) July 26, 2020
Again, I could take these articles more seriously if WaPo hadn't been publishing them on a daily basis since late March while FL had some of the lowest numbers in the country.
Putting aside WaPo avoiding a deep-drive into the states that actually failed by any reasonable metric (NY, NJ etc), CA is experiencing a similar spike to FL. Here is the only similar article for CA:— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) July 26, 2020
Instead of blaming Newsom, it's treated as a surprise. "Even California..." pic.twitter.com/nGpEvO2gHs
In case you missed it, the "Jones firing" refers to this complete non-scandal that was ignorantly or dishonestly hyped by many in the press who have been creepily invested in Florida's failure for months. The real 'tell' here is that they were piling on DeSantis even when his results were absolutely superb, prior to the current spike. Relatedly, headlines blaring about Florida's case count blowing past New York's are wildly misleading, considering that Florida has administered far, far, far more tests than New York was able to conduct and process in the throes of COVID. At the moment, it looks like Arizona, and Texas may be past their peaks (remember, deaths are a lagging indicator), with Florida and California leveling off. Let's hope these trajectories continue, and improve:
There are some signs that Covid spread may be slowing in Texas and Arizona, less clear in Florida and California. But overall we may be hitting a plateau in current epicenters of epidemic spread in south. One important metric: Positivity rate in Arizona and Texas starting to fall pic.twitter.com/QsWUy4Cd3E— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) July 26, 2020
Tragically, deaths will likely continue to increase for a period of time in these states due to the aforementioned lagging indicator effect, but a flat-to-downward curve on other metrics is obviously preferable to all the arrows still pointing up. And to keep things in perspective, click on this chart and keep skimming until you finally reach Florida. Texas is even lower:
This report from John Elflein of @Statista shows there is still quite a disparity in death rates from state to state:— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) July 26, 2020
Death rates from coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States as of July 24, 2020, by state(per 100,000 people)https://t.co/BKTyYvuKuH pic.twitter.com/MA0f8CpWij
AZ/TX/FL cases have nearly reached NY's peak and showing signs of decreasing. Daily deaths are so far 6x lower than NY's peak.— Yinon Weiss (@yinonw) July 23, 2020
Meanwhile, Australia had more cases today than Sweden. Even an island can only isolate for so long. Brings into question the whole point of lockdowns. pic.twitter.com/8I1plRd1r5
This is not to say that outbreaks in these states should not be taken very seriously, or that there's no room to question if certain reopening plans were rushed or premature. I'll note that Democrat-run Colorado opened on a similar timeline, but has generally done well, despite some hiccups that have flared up. Nevertheless, its death rate per 100,000 is still worse than Texas or Florida's, a fact that has received scant attention. Its trajectory on infection rates is better, however, which may be at least partially attributable to Colorado's lack of ubiquitous air conditioning. Meanwhile, the shameless governor of New York is attacking anyone who dares to point out his failures, while otherwise glowing news coverage has boosted his approval. And the negative glare of hostile press has taken a toll on Republican governors whose stats are all much, much better than Cuomo's:
“The facts” include 32,000 dead under Cuomo’s watch, double the next closest state, and a death rate AT LEAST TRIPLE the rate of 41 other states. https://t.co/UZ8fbUrWhn— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) July 27, 2020
Don’t ever doubt the power of the media to shape an election. pic.twitter.com/vA0yZHJcVr— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) July 25, 2020
Bottom lines: If, and it's a big if, the current trends continue, it looks like Arizona, Texas, et al could be headed for a "flattened curve" spike, wherein hospitals were not overwhelmed. This was the goal of the whole 'flatten the curve' mantra. New York's curve looks like the 'what to avoid' model from the famous chart, while other states that have experienced a less severe and delayed surges would appear to be relative success stories. Of course, things could spike out of control, and developments could go sideways. Vigilance and precautions remain priorities. But news reports savaging red states with little-to-no context on relative performance are driving a partisan narrative, rather than telling the truth. All leaders should be held accountable for their responses to this pandemic. Fair assessments require thoughtfulness, context, and reasonable comparisons. The national media is largely failing in this respect, but given the polling numbers posted above, it's hard to shake the feeling that some journalists would say they're succeeding. I'll leave you with this thread of more promising news.