Now that Donald Trump no longer resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (NW), the media has a new target in its sites. The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is being hammered for his handling of COVID, as hospitalization numbers in Florida have surged.
It’s no secret why the media has put a bull’s-eye on the pragmatic Gov. DeSantis, reports the WSJ.
Before the Delta variant hit this summer, Florida had the 10th-lowest age-adjusted Covid death rate of any state.
Why DeSantis Is Celebrated by Conservatives
(Ron Desantis) was able to keep death rates low without gutting the state’s economy, bankrupting its businesses or sending millions of Floridians into unemployment. Throughout the pandemic, the Sunshine State has recorded unemployment rates far lower than other big, densely populated states like California, Illinois and New York, which imposed stringent lockdowns—a measure Mr. DeSantis resisted.
Deceptive Media Coverage
Fair enough, agrees the WSJ on criticizing DeSantis’ handling of COVID hospitalization cases, before the newspaper goes on to explain how coverage by the media has been “downright deceptive.”
Particularly dishonest was a Miami Herald article on Aug. 31 with the headline “Florida changed its Covid-19 data, creating an ‘artificial decline’ in recent deaths.”
The Herald’s claims were amplified by the national media as smoking-gun evidence that Mr. DeSantis deceived the public on the Covid death toll in Florida. The insinuation is that Mr. DeSantis has become the Andrew Cuomo of the South.
Many top health officials, however, “support Florida’s switch to the new methodology. The new methodology relies on the actual date of death rather than the date a death was recorded.”
Not until the article’s 13th paragraph does the Miami Herald concede that health officials support the new methodology. Miami Herald’s Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist and frequent critic of DeSantis, writes:
Deaths by date of death curve is the most accurate you can get. You know exactly when people died, you know how to construct the curve and exactly when we were experiencing surges in terms of deaths.
Why the Hullabaloo?
Previously, Florida had reported only the cumulative number of confirmed Covid deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each day. That can produce a distorted picture of the course of the pandemic because recorded deaths often occurred weeks or even months earlier. The new method is valuable to epidemiologists because it helps construct a more meaningful measure of the course of the virus and its peak.
Constructing a More Meaningful Measure
Florida, on 10 August, stated refreshing its whole time series posted to the CDC site daily, “so observers could follow the total number while researchers seeking the accurate epidemiological curve would have that additional information.”
Nothing was concealed, covered up or put into “artificial decline.” The death totals under each method are the same—only the date attribution differs.
Florida has been the state hardest hit by the Delta variant this summer, and Mr. DeSantis hasn’t hidden that. The media has constantly reported on the summertime surge in infections and hospitalizations. But the press seldom notes that Florida’s age-adjusted death rate from Covid is still below the national average—and way below those of New York and New Jersey.
No governor has handled COVID perfectly. But it is dishonest to cast Florida’s reporting change—which literally provides more information—as an attempt to hide deaths.
The sad irony is that covering up such totals is precisely what Mr. Cuomo, New York’s disgraced former governor, did. But the media treated that story mostly with indifference.
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