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Justin Fox

Governors Get Too Much Credit and Blame on Covid

From California to Florida, strict-or-loose pandemic policies set by states don't seem to have been the deciding factor when it comes to how many people died.

Enjoying less-restrictive Covid policies in Florida.

Enjoying less-restrictive Covid policies in Florida.

Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been enjoying national attention in recent weeks — and even been touted as a 2024 presidential contender — because, as daily activities have gone back to more or less normal in his state, it’s apparent that Florida has weathered Covid-19 with less loss of life than the rest of the country (157 Covid deaths per 100,000 residents versus 170 nationwide). Meanwhile, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, facing a Republican-led recall effort largely because of his stricter-than-average Covid policies, points to an even lower Covid death rate (151) as evidence that his approach has been a success.

Look at a map of Covid death rates by county, though, and you can’t help but wonder if this focus on governors and their policies is misplaced.