DeSantis, Social Media Posts Mislead on COVID-19’s Toll in Florida

By Brea Jones

Posted on November 5, 2021

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SciCheck Digest

Florida’s total COVID-19 case rate is higher than the national rate and 10th highest in the U.S. But social media posts and the state’s governor point to a recent decline in daily cases as evidence of Florida’s success in handling COVID-19, while ignoring the full impact of the pandemic’s toll on the state.



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In early November, the U.S. surpassed 750,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and has had more than 46 million cases since the pandemic began. Florida has the 10th highest cumulative case rate of the pandemic, according to federal, state and local data compiled by the New York Times.

Daily COVID-19 cases in Florida surged over the past year, as we’ve reported, with the state reaching record-high levels of hospitalizations due to the disease in early August. However, the daily number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida has decreased in recent weeks, according to the Florida Department of Health, as the wave of cases caused by the delta variant subsides.  

The steady decline in cases has led to sunny social media posts proclaiming Florida has the “lowest Covid rates in the country without having to institute communist mandates & lockdowns.”

“Florida now has the lowest COVID case rate and California is middle of the pack,” reads the screenshot of a tweet from California Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. “Isn’t it interesting how an all-important metric suddenly no longer matters.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also touted his state’s recent COVID-19 data during an Oct. 29 interview on Fox News’ “Ingraham Angle.” Host Laura Ingraham introduced DeSantis by saying, “Florida is one of the big COVID success stories that the media would prefer to ignore altogether. Now, the Sunshine State now has one of the lowest daily case and death rates out there.”

DeSantis replied: “I guess Florida is no longer part of the United States. They just pretend like we don’t exist.” He also said, “Now that we’re in a situation we have very low numbers, you don’t hear a peep.” 

The social media posts and DeSantis are correct that Florida’s daily COVID-19 case rate is currently low. But what’s left unsaid is that Florida’s total case rate is still higher than the national rate and among the highest in the U.S. 

As of Nov. 5, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases for Florida was 7 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Times database as of Nov. 5. Florida was tied with Louisiana for the fewest daily cases per 100,000 among the 50 states. 

But, as our chart below illustrates, Florida has the 10th highest case rate — more than 17,000 per 100,000 people — when measured by its total number of cases during the pandemic, as of Nov. 5. That’s higher than the national case rate of 13,995 per 100,000 people. 

According to data compiled by the New York Times, Florida — the third largest state — has the third most COVID-19 deaths and cases in the nation, with more than 3.6 million cases and more than 59,000 deaths since February 2020. When adjusted for population, Florida’s COVID-19 death rate also ranks 10th among the 50 states, with 278 deaths per 100,000 people.

Florida’s recent rise and decline of cases fit a pattern that health experts have seen with other variants, where cases peak and decline over a two-month cycle. 

“There’s this weird two-month thing that goes on. We all picked it up,” Michael Sweat, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and a leader of its COVID-19 tracking team, said in a university blog post. “I mean, it’s like every time when you get a wave, it goes up, peaks and declines in about two months.”

Florida — along with Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and Kentucky — followed this trend, as cases started to rise in late June and began to fall in August. Only Kentucky’s seven-day average case rate is higher than the U.S. seven-day average rate, as of Nov. 5. 

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.

Sources

Adams, Helen. “Pandemic predictions: Two-month cycle and immunity effect.” Medical University of South Carolina. 14 Oct 2021.

Alvim, Leda. “Florida’s COVID-19 deaths are still among the highest in the nation.” WUSF. 14 Oct 2021. 

Chow, Denise, et al. “The new faces of Covid deaths.” NBC News.  2 Nov 2021.  

Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.” New York Times. 2 Nov 2021. 

COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report: State Overview.” Florida Department of Health. 29 Oct 2021.

FLORIDA COVID-19 UPDATE FOR OCTOBER 22, 2021.” Florida Hospital Association. Accessed 2 Nov 2021. 

Florida Department of Health. COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report: State Overview. 29 Oct 2021.

“’Ingraham Angle’ on liberal media ignoring Florida COVID success.” Fox News. 29 Oct 2021. 

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. Coronavirus Resource Center. Accessed 5 Nov 2021.

Jones, Brea. “COVID-19 Surges Among Unvaccinated in Florida, Contrary to Baseless Claims.” FactCheck.org. 30 Jul 2021.

Kevin Kiley” webpage. Ballotpedia. Accessed 2 Nov 2021.

Kiley, Kevin (@KevinKileyCA). “Florida now has the lowest COVID case rate and California is middle of the pack. Isn’t it interesting how an all-important metric suddenly no longer matters.” Twitter. 29 Oct 2021. 

Leonhardt, David and Ashley Wu. “Has Delta Peaked?” New York Times. Updated 17 Sep 2021.

Michael D Sweat PhD” webpage. Medical University of South Carolina. Accessed 4 Nov 2021.

Rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United States as of October 29, 2021, by state.” Statista. Accessed 2 Nov 2021.

Romano, Andrew. “Florida now has America’s lowest COVID rate. Does Ron DeSantis deserve credit?” Yahoo News. 27 Oct 2021.

Schneider, Mike. “Florida breaks record for COVID-19 hospitalizations.” AP News. 1 Aug 2021.

Schutz, David. “Florida now has the lowest rate of daily COVID cases per capita of any other state.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 29 Oct 2021.

Unites States Census Bureau. “2020 Population and Housing State Data.” 12 Aug. 2021.

Vakil, Caroline. “US passes grim milestone of 750,000 COVID-19 deaths.” The Hill. 4 Nov 2021

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