News & Politics

The Media Second-Guessing Governor DeSantis' COVID-19 Response Is Ridiculous

Screenshot via Twitter/The Recount

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Governor Ron DeSantis has not released recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that contradict Florida’s COVID-19 messaging. The Center for Public Integrity obtained the December 6 report, which states:

The White House task force, which consists of top federal health officials and is led by Vice President Mike Pence, contradicted DeSantis’ public messaging in a number of ways in its Dec. 6 report. The Republican governor has ruled out any further business restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, arguing such measures do not work and harm the economy.

But the task force made the case that such restrictions do slow the spread, and recommended the state to step up its policy response to the virus.“

Despite the severity of this surge and the threat to the hospital systems, many state and local governments are not implementing the same mitigation policies that stemmed the tide of the summer surge; that must happen now,” the federal report reads.

How about if people who are worried about exposure manage their own behavior, and everyone else can do as they please? Florida’s positive test rate was consistent throughout the entire month of November. The article states that the current number is 8.5%. All of the monitoring results are under the guardrail Florida set, which is 10%. With draconian and business-killing lockdowns, New York’s positive test rate is 5%. Los Angeles County, which closed all outdoor dining the day before Thanksgiving, has a rate of 11.70%.

So, it appears that closing bars and restaurants and issuing stay-at-home orders are not really stopping the spread in any significant way. And Florida has not seen a spike in positive test rates in the last month. But the media thinks DeSantis should listen to the “experts” in D.C., even though there is no basis for it. Even the task force noted:

The task force’s Dec. 6 report notes that, compared to other states, Florida appears to have fewer cases than some of its peers — many of which have implemented economic restrictions. The Sunshine State had the 41st most new cases per 100,000 residents, and just the 33rd highest rate of positive cases in the country as of the date of the report.

Florida is fully open, yet ranks 33rd on the list of 50. This does not seem to be a convincing reason to change anything, especially when the negative impacts of lockdowns are being documented around the world. The damage done to lives, livelihoods, and health due to lockdowns needs to be balanced with the disease experience, especially when the impact on children and young adults is considered.

Governor DeSantis is also in possession of information that most other states aren’t. As previously reported, his administration requires labs to provide the cycle threshold (Ct) of all positive tests. Florida likely sees Ct values that create a similar picture to one that was painted by an analysis conducted for the New York Times in August. In the results, only about 10% of the COVID-19 tests from three states were likely to indicate illness or the ability to transmit the virus.

The 11,699 positive tests the Tampa Bay Times is wringing its hands over more than likely equates to about 1,699 people who are going to become ill or be able to transmit the virus. This is because labs in the U.S. use a Ct of 37-40. In July, Dr. Anthony Fauci said a Ct of 35 or more was likely to be viral debris, which cannot make you or anyone else ill. When the Ct is considered, shutting anything down in a state of 30 million people may make no sense at all. Florida’s highest number of positive tests are in people aged 15-44 who generally do not suffer from serious illness and have a case-fatality rate near zero.

A recent request for a retraction of an article in Eurosurvelliance suggests the Ct for active COVID-19 illness is more likely 30. The request identifies several flaws in the original peer-reviewed test instructions and is signed by 22 researchers who performed an independent peer review. Additional cycles that amplify a sample will find exponentially more positive tests. It is shocking that more states have not followed Florida’s lead in mandating Ct values in results reporting.

Because the Florida Department of Health now has the Ct information, they are better positioned than a task force in D.C. to judge the actual risks. This includes evaluating hospital capacity. In most hospitals, all inpatients are screened for COVID-19 upon admission, whether they have symptoms or not. The same standard for the Ct of the test would apply. It would be surprising if Florida did not discover far more patients hospitalized with a COVID-19 positive test, not hospitalized for a COVID-19 positive test.

Governor DeSantis and his team have had one of the best COVID-19 responses in the country. The Tampa Bay Times and the task force in D.C. would do well to let them proceed as they see fit.