The Complex Debate Over Florida’s COVID-19 Response: Examining Death Rates and Policy Criticisms

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the world, with millions of people losing their lives to the virus. In the United States, the pandemic has hit different states in different ways, with some states experiencing higher death rates than others. One state that has been in the spotlight recently is Florida, which has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks.

Critics of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, have blamed him for the surge in cases and deaths, citing his refusal to implement strict measures like mask mandates and vaccine passports. However, DeSantis and his supporters have pushed back against these claims, arguing that Florida’s death rate is not as bad as some other states, and that the surge in cases and deaths is due to factors beyond his control.

One argument that DeSantis and his supporters often make is that Florida’s death rate was lower than some other states before vaccines were available to adults. They point to data showing that Florida initially had fewer deaths per capita than New York and California. However, critics argue that this comparison is not fair, as Florida has a much higher elderly population than New York and California, who were hit hard by COVID-19 early on.

Even when you look at age-adjusted data after vaccines became universally available, Florida still fares worse than New York and California. Critics argue that this is evidence that DeSantis’s policies have failed to protect Floridians from the virus. However, DeSantis and his supporters argue that the data is more complex than that, and that Florida’s death rate is not as bad as it seems.

One analysis that supports DeSantis’s view is a 2022 study that standardized deaths per capita for age and prevalence of major comorbidities.[0] This study found that Florida had the 12th lowest death rate in the country, and New York was not far behind, with the 15th lowest.[0] This suggests that Florida’s high death rate is partly due to its elderly population, who are more vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19.

However, critics argue that this analysis is flawed, as it only accounts for age and comorbidities, and does not take into account other factors like population density, access to healthcare, and vaccination rates. They point out that Florida has a lower vaccination rate than New York and California, which may be contributing to the surge in cases and deaths.

To be fair, Florida is not the worst state in terms of deaths per capita. According to data from the New York Times, Florida comes in 13th in the nation, which is better than some other states like New York and New Jersey.[0] However, this is still a high death rate, and critics argue that DeSantis should be doing more to protect Floridians from the virus.

Ultimately, the debate over Florida’s COVID-19 response is complex, and there are valid arguments on both sides. However, what is clear is that COVID-19 is still a serious threat, and it is important for everyone to take measures to protect themselves and their communities from the virus. Whether this involves strict mandates or individual responsibility is a matter of debate, but what is clear is that we all need to do our part to end the pandemic.

0. “Ron DeSantis wasn’t always a COVID rebel: Looking back at the Florida governor’s initial pandemic response” CBS News, 15 Jun. 2023,

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