People are comparing Florida and California’s COVID-19 death rates; here’s why experts say it’s unfair

Coronavirus

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Two large states, two vastly different responses to the pandemic with similar results. The discussion is heating up comparing California to Florida, but according to some experts, it’s an unfair comparison.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has been out and about at vaccination sites practically daily to highlight the state’s progress in returning to a new normal.

“Good enough never is. We still have a lot more work to do,” said Newsom. “California has administered more vaccines than any other state in this nation, by a significant factor. Over 10.6 million.”

With about 40 million residents, the country’s most populous state was in a hard lockdown exactly a year ago and face masks have been mandated since June.

In Florida, which has about half the population, there was a Stay at Home order last spring but there has never been a mask mandate.

Governor Ron DeSantis has drawn praise from some since Florida’s death rate is just slightly higher than California’s.

“We’ve done it in a way, instead of always locking people down, trying to lifting people up, saving people’s livelihoods, saving their jobs, saving their businesses,” said DeSantis.

The California economy is battered and unemployment is over 9%.  But experts say more lives have been saved there.

According to analysis by the LA Times, if California had Florida’s death rate, an additional 6,000 people would be dead.

And California’s rate in Florida would mean 3,000 lives saved.

“It is appropriate to look at different states and say, that’s interesting and whatnot. But we cannot just say that had Florida and California had the same policy on the books, that Florida and California would’ve had the exact same COVID death rate,” said Associate Professor at UC Irvine Andrew Noymer.

Public health experts point out local mask mandates in Florida, and non-compliance in California.

Also of note, about twice as many Californians live in overcrowded housing where coronavirus transmission is more likely.

“It’s like playing cards. and you play the cards that you are dealt. California was dealt a completely different deck of cards compared to Florida,” said UW Medicine Institute of Health Metrics’ Dr. Ali Mokdad.

Another point is higher humidity in Florida, which is believed to tamp down spread.

“The big surge in California was a totally different variant, made the virus more transmissible and we were caught off guard in California and  many places with this new variant,” said Dr. Mokdad.

“We just have to be circumspect before we start dunking on one governor or the other,” said Noymer.

Health experts maintain that staying home and masking do make a significant difference in the spread of coronavirus. They also say states should only be compared to themselves.

Florida and Arizona both had similarly loose restrictions and the death rate in Arizona has been among the highest per capita.

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