Looking at the numbers for Texas and Florida, the two large states where Republican governors have vocally refused to enforce social distancing and where there is great skepticism toward the vaccine, the results are startling. I compiled the following chart the same way as the earlier comparison of the U.S. and the U.K., indexing both states’ death rates to the peak in the first wave, which in the southern U.S. came in August last year. As with the U.S. and the U.K., the pattern was remarkably similar until early this summer. Since then, Texas has endured a clear-cut third wave. The experience in Florida is remarkable, and suggests that there is more to the problem than vaccine hesitancy:
Unlike virtually anywhere else in the Western world, Florida is in the midst of a third wave much worse than the first two. Without getting too political, this makes the state’s current policies toward the virus very hard to understand; and also makes the current death toll look like the result of deliberate decisions, both by politicians and individuals. This is only a hypothesis, and it looks as though there is more to the Floridian third wave than resistance to vaccines, but numbers like this help explain why investors are calm.
Let me repeat the key bit: “Without getting too political, this makes the state’s current policies toward the virus very hard to understand; and also makes the current death toll look like the result of deliberate decisions, both by politicians and individuals.”
A POLITICO analysis of weekly Covid-19 reports from the Florida Department of Health shows that 10 children under the age of 16 died from Covid-19 from July 30 to present as the Delta variant — which is much more transmissible — became the dominant strain. Previously, a total of seven kids died from the virus from the beginning of the pandemic through July, amounting to a span of more than 15 months.
The state now has seen 17 deaths, and American Academy of Pediatrics Florida President Lisa Gwynn said many of them may have had underlying medical conditions when they became infected.
“Having said that, it doesn’t mean we’re not worried sick about it,” Gwynn said during a Sept. 3 interview. “We’re all worried because we’re not sure what’s going to happen in the future.”
The child deaths come as Florida finally sees an easing in the surge of new infections, which ravaged the state over the summer. Florida accounted for one in five infections nationwide over the summer, which stretched an already strapped nursing workforce and jammed hospitals to the point where some facilities used office boardrooms as overflow wards.
But the deaths since July 30 also occurred as hundreds of thousands of kids in Florida began returning to classrooms and amid the ongoing fight between DeSantis and school districts over student mask mandates.
The more than 46,000 people in Florida who have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began includes over 36,000 seniors aged 65 and older. While the 17 child deaths may seem low compared to the older adults, the increase of six deaths in August is an inevitable result of more kids becoming infected, according to officials at the Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.
Mobeen Rathore, Wolfson’s chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology, said more children are being admitted to intensive care units and getting intubated.
“Unfortunately, some of these children will not survive,” Rathore said.
… [O]therwise healthy kids are now facing multisystem inflammatory syndrome about a month after they become infected by the virus. The syndrome, also known as MIS-C, is an inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The syndrome can also affect individuals with mild cases.
COVID-19 killed one Floridian an average of about every four minutes last week, the second worst in the nation.
But for those wanting to know how many people are dying every day in their own communities – good luck. The state of Florida won’t say. Nor will most local public health officials. At least one county acknowledged it doesn’t know. Federal websites show either incomplete or inconsistent data for Florida’s counties.
We know that Florida last week reported 2,345 COVID-19 deaths for the state. But, almost uniquely throughout the United States, Florida has not reported deaths at the county level for three months. The intensity of this worst wave of the pandemic in a given locale is anyone’s guess.
The state Department of Health says to look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for county death tolls. But the number reported on one CDC webpage undercounts Florida’s tally by thousands, and the CDC’s most prominent map of county-level COVID-19 deaths shows only blanks for each of the state’s 67 counties.
The Florida Department of Health once reported county death tolls each day before switching to weekly reporting in early June. Spokeswoman Weesam Khoury gave no indication the department intends to return those local death statistics to its weekly reports …
When pressed on why the data don’t appear in the state’s weekly reports, Khoury replied, “If you don’t like those answers, I don’t know what else to tell you.”
But remember: people choosing not to get vaccinated–even if vaccination almost entirely protects the 97% of the non-immunocompromised population from serious breakthrough infections of the type requiring hospitalizations–or wear masks in public, which helps reduce transmission of COVID, are making a personal choice that we all should respect. If that purely personal private liberty-loving choice somehow mysteriously has an effect on others, then it is the responsibility of those others–who probably don’t exercise or take care of themselves right–to alter their behavior regardless of the external costs blithely imposed upon the whole state by the freedom-loving among us whom, my commentators and others (like Fl. Gov. Ron DeSantis) instruct, we must coddle and respect and not burden with our greedy desire to do things like drink clean tap water or have an open hospital bed available if we need one.
So, today, I suppose we must invest in home water filters or environmentally hazardous plastic-bottled water, until that runs out, anyway. What? That’s not in your budget? Tough on you, eh? Stand up and learn not to drink so much water! (Wait, staying well hydrated is good for you? But, but…) And, meanwhile, feel the patriotism! And thank Gov. DeSantis for his leadership on the COVID issue! And wait for tomorrow…
As the delta variant spreads through Florida, data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest this could be the most serious and deadly surge in COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.
As cases ballooned in August, however, the Florida Department of Health changed the way it reported death data to the CDC, giving the appearance of a pandemic in decline, an analysis of Florida data by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald found.
On Monday, Florida death data would have shown an average of 262 daily deaths reported to the CDC over the previous week had the health department used its former reporting system, the Herald analysis showed. Instead, the Monday update from Florida showed just 46 “new deaths” per day over the previous seven days.
The dramatic difference is due to a small change in the fine print. Until three weeks ago, data collected by DOH and published on the CDC website counted deaths by the date they were recorded — a common method for producing daily stats used by most states. On Aug. 10, Florida switched its methodology and, along with just a handful of other states, began to tally new deaths by the date the person died.
If you chart deaths by Florida’s new method, based on date of death, it will generally appear — even during a spike like the present — that deaths are on a recent downslope. That’s because it takes time for deaths to be evaluated and death certificates processed. When those deaths finally are tallied, they are assigned to the actual data of death — creating a spike where there once existed a downslope and moving the downslope forward in time.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced late Monday that the Florida Department of Education has withheld the monthly salaries of school board members in Alachua and Broward counties who voted to impose mask mandates that only provide for a medical exemption from a doctor. The state actually withholds the equivalent in funding of the members’ salaries.
I am sure that our very educated Governor (Yale College, Harvard Law) could, if he wanted, explain how the rule of law is for suckers, not the manly types who plan to inherit Trump’s mantle and govern with the mailed fist. But that is the unspoken part of the act.
More likely he would argue that since the injunction against enforcement of DeSantis’s anti-mask-rule order doesn’t technically forbid the Florida Dept. of Ed from just happening spontaneously to implement the DeSantis policy of fining counties for having a mask requirement, without formally relying on the Governor’s order. So, that’s all alright until another court issues a more far-reaching injunction.
And indeed, as a formal legal matter that argument about the limited reach of the original injunction might be accurate. (It’s a little hard to tell from the news reports of the decision.) But the question then is whether the mask-requirement-in-schools issue is one for which this sort of legal hardball (or sophistry?) is morally appropriate. I appreciate that there might be deep issues of principle where such an action might even be praiseworthy — don’t do something horrible until there is no legal argument left unturned, and then resign rather than sign the order sending people to the camps. I simply cannot conceive of the masking rule as such a deep question of liberty and principle; we require K-12 students to have various immunizations, and to wear clothes, indeed many public schools have quite strict dress codes. But here, the DeSantis admin is using these arguments to advance their play-to-the-base electoral scheme to block life-saving health measures. Even if this is a valid technicality, it is being harnessed in favor of a policy that will — there’s no way to sugar-coat this — kill people.
As The Times reported on Wednesday: “More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic.” The Times continued, “This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now.”
… DeSantis is playing to an electorate beyond the panhandle. As long as he is still mentioned in the same breath as Biden, even if the coverage is negative, he is playing well among Republicans. As long as he is fighting Washington and Democrats and experts, it doesn’t matter to entrenched Republicans that he’s not fighting the plague.
Some bodies must be sacrificed to appease the gods of partisan resistance.
To keep the spotlight, DeSantis is employing many of the same tricks as Trump: fighting with the media about coverage, deflecting blame onto Biden and convincing his followers that folding to facts is the same as forfeiting freedoms.
As DeSantis said in early August, “We can either have a free society, or we can have a biomedical security state.” He continued, “And I can tell you: Florida, we’re a free state. People are going to be free to choose to make their own decisions.”
Yes, Florida, DeSantis is allowing you to choose death so that he can have a greater political life.