Was Florida Man right all along?

Weeks after some Sunshine State beaches reopened and got #FloridaMorons trending on social media, Florida has suffered around 43,000 COVID-19 infections and 2,000 deaths. Not good, obviously, but not nearly as bad as predicted – and not even close to the carnage wrought by coronavirus in New York.

And yet, as Renuka Rayasam and real-life Florida Man Marc Caputo note in Politico, New York is hailed as a model of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic while Florida is dismissed as an apocalyptic wasteland:

First, let’s just come out and say it: [Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis looks more right than those who criticized the Sunshine State’s coronavirus response. According to the latest Florida figures, fewer than 2,000 have died, and around 43,000 have been infected. That’s a fraction of the dire predictions made for Florida when spring breakers swarmed the beaches, and those numbers are dwarfed by similarly sized New York, which has seen 12 times more deaths and nearly eight times more infections. (Check out POLITICO’s coronavirus tracker for more.) More people reportedly died in New York nursing homes than in all of Florida.

The polling disparity: DeSantis is actually polling worse than [NY Governor Andrew] Cuomo in their respective states, and the Florida press is wondering why. Part of that is style. Cuomo has a smooth delivery, a deep and calming voice and an attitude that projects he can answer any question. DeSantis sometimes comes across as peevish and defensive, has made a misstatement or two and was mocked for struggling to put on a mask. But most of the difference between DeSantis and Cuomo is due to politics. DeSantis governs a politically divided state. Cuomo is a scion of Democratic royalty in a deeply Democratic state.

Yes, there’s media bias, too. Cuomo also has something else DeSantis doesn’t: a press that defers to him, one that preferred to cover “Florida Morons” at the beach (where it’s relatively hard to get infected) over New Yorkers riding cramped subway cars (where it’s easy to get infected). In fact, people can still ride the subways for most hours of the day in New York, but Miami Beach’s sands remain closed. Maybe things would be different if DeSantis had a brother who worked in cable news and interviewed him for a “sweet moment” in primetime.

DeSantis can’t quite take a victory lap, however. For one, he can’t take all the credit. He deferred to local leaders early on as they issued closure orders in places like Miami-Dade County — the most populous in the state, and the one with the most coronavirus cases — which shuttered dine-in restaurants and nightclubs two months ago.

And, for all of the relatively OK news about coronavirus infection and death rates, there’s a looming problem associated with coronavirus and Republican rule of the state: Florida’s horrendous unemployment compensation system, which can’t handle the volume of claims and, critics charge, was designed to discourage people from getting government help….

Florida’s warm climate could be a factor, for all we know. Either way, while it’s far too early to declare COVID-19 beaten in Florida, it’s certainly true that the worst predictions simply haven’t come true, and that media figures who pushed that narrative should admit their error and resolve to be more careful in the future.

(Note: they won’t.)

By October, if Florida has still been spared the worst, I expect the Vaccine Denier in Chief to make this media failure a part of his rambling stump speech. And for once, he’ll have a point.