Is Florida doing better against the coronavirus than “closed” states?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted calls from some of his mayors to take state action to combat COVID-19, such as a mask mandate and the power to adopt local restrictions.

A day before Florida recorded its one millionth case, DeSantis told reporters that states in closure mode are much worse than Florida.

“So I hear people say, ‘Well, Florida is open, and there’s more and more of them,'” DeSantis said on Nov. 30. ” Well, okay, closed states grow twice as much as we do. If we look at the per capita cases, in these states, which have closed schools, the shutters, and some of them also order at home there, there is a huge increase in these cases. “

We have verified DeSantis ’claim that“ closed conditions grow at twice the rate we are ”. We found that while Florida is doing relatively well at the moment, DeSantis overestimated the relationship between cases and blocking rules. It is likely that other factors beyond state rules will affect the rate of COVID-19.

Status of closures nationwide

To reduce the spread of the virus, states have enacted various restrictions and sometimes eased or lifted them, including mask orders, restrictions on restaurant capacity, and a ban on large gatherings.

Republican DeSantis issued a Sept. 25 order that generally lifted restrictions on businesses and suspended fines for people who failed to comply. While many shops and restaurants have adopted their own masks and rules of social isolation, the Florida population is still packed into a few. bars and others collection points.

In November, there were a growing number of cases in Florida, but unlike other governors, DeSantis said it would not issue new seats.

Review of evidence

We asked Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for DeSantis, for evidence to explain the governor’s claim that cases in closed states are growing twice as fast as in Florida.

Piccolo referred to the New York Times ’November 30 update of its state-by-state analysis, which shows which states have mostly closed businesses, which have no restrictions, and which are“ mixed ”. The Times it also published a map on which states provided home-based orders or advice.

Piccolo then used the Covid Act Now website to calculate the number of cases per 100,000 residents and hospitalizations in each state with stricter restrictions.

We checked the numbers ourselves. We focused on the states to which the Times referred to the introduction of the most stringent restrictions on businesses or residents from November 30, and on those states that applied medium-level restrictions on both businesses and residents. All in all, 10 states qualified this group of states with high coronavirus restrictions. (Our list of 10 states differed slightly from that provided by Piccolo, but not substantially.)

Broadly speaking, we found that Florida’s record, at least in early December, was favorably similar to most states in the country, including those with stricter restrictions. Specifically, Florida was among the best in comparing mortality from coronavirus cases and per capita hospital care, and better than some more tightly regulated states. (Click on the figure to see separate comparisons of cases, deaths, and hospital care.)

So there’s something DeSantis said. However, there are some important caveats.

First, some more tightly regulated states performed better than Florida. For example, Oregon, Washington, and California had fewer coronavirus deaths per capita than Florida, while Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington had lower rates of hospitalization.

Second, DeSantis’ reference to ‘double’ underlines the strength of its argument. Of the 10 states with the strictest rules, per capita cases, deaths, and hospitalizations were only about half as high as Florida rates.

Third, Florida is likely to perform much better than many other states in the fight against coronavirus, but this does not necessarily mean that the lack of restrictions can be attributed to better statistics on coronavirus.

The following figure shows 27 states, including Florida, that a New York Timesanalysis shows that the least restrictive COVID-19 rules apply to businesses and residents.

Again, Florida is in a good position compared to other states in terms of cases, deaths, and hospital care. But many states, which followed similarly low levels of restrictions as Florida, performed much worse.

We found that 12 of the low-limit states had twice the number of Florida cases, eight had twice the number of deaths, and nine had twice the rate of hospital care. Five states doubled the proportion of Florida in all three statistics – South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Indiana – and five more states doubled Florida to two statistics.

It is also important to note that some states added or tightened restrictions in November, making it difficult to assess the effects so far.

Why can Florida be relatively good?

A comparison with other lightly regulated states suggests that Florida may do relatively well for reasons other than low-regulation policy.

Florida weather, for example, makes it easier for residents to eat and gather outdoors, even at this time of year. Scientists generally say that the virus passes from person to person less easily outdoors than in tight indoor rooms.

“I think it’s reasonable to say that warm weather definitely plays a role in Florida’s relative success,” said Brooke Nichols, a mathematical modeler for infectious diseases at Boston University’s School of Public Health. “It’s not incredibly hot anymore, so air conditioning is needed for indoor gathering, but it’s not too cold for people to gather indoors because of the heat.”

In addition, it is difficult to establish a causal relationship: Does loose regulation help reduce infection rates, or does a low infection rate allow for looser regulation?

In Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, the number of cases has increased following the removal of mitigation strategies, said Mary Jo Trepka, president of the Department of Epidemiology at Florida International University.

“We don’t know how bad it will be,” Trepka said.

It is also important to note that states are not isolated. In much of the pandemic, Florida was open to tourists, which means we don’t know if the spread of the coronavirus within Florida will increase infections in other states after these tourists return home, said Marissa Levine, a professor of public health at Southern University in Florida. .

Jason L. Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, warns that DeSantis claims success can only be compared to other states and that cases and hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks. “It tells me how serious the situation is across the country,” he said.

It’s our decision

DeSantis said, “Closed states are growing at twice the rate of us.”

Currently, Florida has relatively low rates of coronavirus cases, deaths, and hospitalization. But the connection between these statistics and the restrictions on Florida businesses and residents is less clear than DeSantis suggests.

Only about half of the 10 most strictly regulated states saw rates of cases, deaths, and hospitalization that were twice as high as the Florida-DeSantis standard.

Meanwhile, several other states that followed the same less restrictive policy as Florida fared much worse than Florida. This suggests that factors other than behavioral standards, such as warm weather, may play a role in keeping coronavirus infections relatively low in Florida.

We evaluate the Half True statement.

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