Florida now has America's lowest COVID rate. Does Ron DeSantis deserve credit?

Which state in the United States has the lowest COVID-19 rates right now?
California is not the only state with strictest vaccine and mask requirements. It is not Vermont either, even though 71% of Vermonters have been inoculated to the highest level in the country.

Florida is the state that has had the most recent COVID cases per capita, and it's not Nevada.

It has been quite a reversal. Florida had an average of 25,000 new cases per day in mid-August. That's about 116 people for every 100,000. This was the highest rate in the U.S., and the most severe in the world. The Sunshine State was awash with the highly contagious Delta variant and became the epicenter of the global pandemic.

On Aug. 16, medics transferred a patient from an ambulance to a stretcher outside Coral Gables Hospital. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images).

However, Florida's daily average has dropped by more than 90% to 1,700 cases per 100,000 residents in the past two months. This is roughly half the current COVID rate in California and less than 25% of Vermonts. Hawaii is the only state with single digits, with nine cases per 100,000 residents.

Florida is not yet to be congratulated.

The declining infection rates of the state are becoming political talk points, just like everything else in America's COVID ordeal. Fox News and Twitter now believe that Florida's turnaround is proof of the Republican governor's intransigent policies. Ron DeSantis (and likely 2020 presidential candidate) spent his summer preventing local schools, businesses, and governments from trying reduce transmission by requiring vaccinations. He also emphasized expensive post-infection treatment such as monoclonal antibody therapy instead.

The mainstream media and DeSantis critics remain silent as Florida's COVID figures drop, according to a Newsmax headline.

It's official: Florida has the lowest per capita COVID cases of any state in the contiguous 48, Steven Krakauer, executive producers of "The Megyn Kelly Show," tweeted last Wednesday. We look forward to the next round of DeSantis media coverage, which is sure to be soon

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Gov. Ron DeSantis listens as speakers discuss monoclonal antibodies treatments for COVID-19, Sept. 16. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Clay Travis, conservative radio host, said that they did it without the use of vaccine mandates or masks. Ron DeSantis is a terror to the coronabros. All their mandates and shutdowns that destroy freedoms do not provide any benefits.

Is that true? Was DeSantis able to increase Florida's COVID number? Is it possible that the 180-degree turn in Florida proves that more cautious policies do not provide any benefits?

No.

DeSantis would be unlikely to claim that he is responsible for Florida's lower COVID rates today than August. We know that the virus is a wave-like phenomenon that rises, peaks, and then recedes in a very consistent manner for a long time.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times says that Covid has had a consistent, if not clear-cut cycle. The number of cases in each country has increased for approximately two months, before falling again. This is the same pattern that Covid has been following, even though it's extremely contagious.

Florida is not an exception. Cases began rising in June and then started to fall in August, exactly as planned. The states with the highest COVID cases in the last two weeks were Tennessee, Oklahoma and South Carolina. They also experienced huge peaks in the middle of September. The steeper the descent, the higher the peak.

Lauren Parsons, a critical care respiratory therapist, collects blood from a COVID-19 victim at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The reason COVID appears to change every two months is not clear to epidemiologists. Perhaps that's because it takes so long to reach the most difficult targets in a specific group of people. Or maybe people follow their own cycles of taking more or less COVID precautions depending on their level and concern. It could be a combination of both.

Regardless of the outcome, DeSantis' argument recognizes this. According to his supporters, waves of infection are inevitable. Florida is most vulnerable in the summer when heat and humidity make it difficult for people to go outside. These waves can be stopped by insisting on preventative measures like vaccinations and masks. What's the point in continuing to infringe upon people's freedoms?

This is where logic plays a key role. Experts predict that SARS-CoV-2 could become an endemic disease, spreading seasonally across the globe in ever-evolving variants that may make some people feel sick for a few days, but ultimately prove to be less harmful and fatal because everyone has some immunity from prior infections or vaccinations.

Then, vaccine passports and mask mandates will prove to be more trouble than their worth.

However, the problem is that the U.S. has not reached endemicity in this summer, and likely won't achieve it any time soon. A third of eligible Americans, or 43 percent, still aren't fully vaccinated. The evasive Delta properties have caused Americans with compromised immune systems to lose their protection. Boosters are still not able to provide full protection from serious illness for older, more vulnerable Americans. The vast majority of children are not vaccinated and are now back in schools across the country for the first time since the outbreak.

Karen Guerrina is administered a dose from the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination by Nurse Jill Dortha at Winter Springs High School, Fla. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It is very risky to let the virus spread without encouraging precautionary measures like indoor masking or universal vaccination. DeSantis has disapproved of such precautionary measures. He even tweeted about monoclonal antibody, an expensive treatment that is only available after you have been infected. This can be 30 times more than vaccines. In addition to banning the use of masks, DeSantis wants to give unemployment benefits to those who refuse to comply with vaccine requirements at work and to offer $5,000 bonuses to anti-vax officers in Florida to encourage them to move.

While it is true that COVID waves can come and go, regardless of the actions of leaders like DeSantis, the important question is what happens to their constituents when they do arrive.

The bottom line is that people didn't do as well in Florida this summer. Why? They died far too often. These numbers are shocking in their raw form. Before vaccines eliminated the risk of death, 2384 Floridians were killed by COVID-19 in 2020. In the last four months, nearly 21,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19. Another 135 Floridians continue to die every day, on average.

Even more alarming are the relative numbers. Florida was 26th in the country for cumulative COVID deaths per person before Delta. Now it is ninth. Three of the top three states on this list, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts, suffered the majority of their deaths at the start of the pandemic. This was long before vaccines and other interventions dramatically reduced the virus' deadlines.

A COVID-19 testing site at a Manhattan street. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images).

Florida, however, is the only state where more people are dying from the Delta wave than any other wave of the virus. This is despite the fact that safe, effective and free vaccines have been widely made available to all Americans over the age of 12 years. The majority of those states are Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia. Montana, Idaho Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Kentucky, Montana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana and Idaho. These are all places where conservative leaders prioritize freedom from COVID restrictions above freedom from COVID themselves.

The sad truth is that these deaths were much more preventable than before. DeSantis' defenders may argue that it is only a matter time before the worst of Delta strikes places like California, further proving that a less cautious approach to the virus does not provide any benefits. However, Florida's highest daily COVID death rates were nearly six times higher than last summer. This doesn't explain why California fell 10 places on the state by-state cumulative death rate list while Florida rose nearly 20.

It doesn't explain why Californians didn't pay any lockdowns or business closures this summer; only masks and testing in school, and some vaccinations at indoor businesses, was acceptable.

In the end, policies can only do so much during a pandemic. Leaders like DeSantis have the power to promote or discourage safety measures and take responsibility for any behaviors they normalize. If they wish, their supporters can credit them for decreasing case numbers. They are also responsible for the damage each wave leaves behind.

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