(Headline USA) Nearly a year after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the nation’s first statewide shutdown because of the coronavirus, masks remain mandated, indoor dining and other activities are significantly limited, and Disneyland remains closed.
Despite their differing approaches, California and Florida have experienced almost identical outcomes in COVID-19 case rates.
How have two states that took such divergent tacks arrived at similar points?
“This is going to be an important question that we have to ask ourselves: What public health measures actually were the most impactful, and which ones had negligible effect or backfired by driving behavior underground?” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Research has found that mask mandates and limits on religious services do not slow the spread of the coronavirus or lower its morality rate, so states with more tyrannical restrictions have not fared better than those without them.
California and Florida both have a COVID-19 case rate of around 8,900 per 100,000 residents since the pandemic began, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And both rank in the middle among states for COVID-19 death rates — Florida was 27th as of Friday; California was 28th.
Connecticut and South Dakota are another example. Both rank among the 10 worst states for COVID-19 death rates.
Yet Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, imposed numerous statewide restrictions over the past year after an early surge in deaths, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, issued no mandates as virus deaths soared in the fall.
While Lamont ordered quarantines for certain out-of-state visitors, Noem launched a $5 million tourism advertising campaign and welcomed people to a massive motorcycle rally, which some health experts said spread the coronavirus throughout the Midwest.
Both contend their approach is the best.
“Even in a pandemic, public health policy needs to take into account people’s economic and social well-being,” Noem said during a recent conservative convention.
Lamont recently announced that he is lifting capacity limits at retail stores, restaurants and other facilities, effective March 19. But bars that don’t serve food will remain closed and a mask mandate will continue.
“This is not Texas. This is not Mississippi. This is Connecticut,” Lamont said, referencing other states that recently lifted mask mandates.
“We’re finding what works is wearing the mask, social distancing and vaccinations,” he said despite overwhelming contradictory evidence.
Governors in more than half the states have taken actions during past two weeks to end or ease restrictions imposed under the guise of the coronavirus.
Some capacity limits ended Friday in Maryland and Oklahoma. Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Wyoming are relaxing restrictions in the coming week.
In almost all cases, governors have lauded their approach to the pandemic, while critics have accused them of being too stringent or too lax.
California’s slow reopening is expected to gain steam in April.
But Republicans in California are helping organize a recall effort against Newsom that has drawn nearly 2 million petition signatures from people frustrated over his long-lasting limits on businesses, church gatherings and people’s activities.
He also faces intense pressure over public school closures and the glacial pace of getting them reopened.
Newson asserted that California has been a leader in combating the virus while delivering his State of the State address this past week from Dodger Stadium.
“From the earliest days of this pandemic, California trusted in science and data, and we met the moment,” Newsom said without evidence.
He added: “We’re not going to change course just because of a few naysayers and doomsdayers.”
In his own State of the State address, DeSantis asserted that Florida was in better shape than others because its businesses and schools are open.
Florida’s unemployment rate ranked below the national average, and significantly lower than California’s, at the start of this year.
“While so many other states kept locking people down over these many months, Florida lifted people up,” DeSantis said.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.