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Justin Fox

California Versus Florida, a Covid Reckoning

The two states had very different strategies for handling the pandemic, but it's hard to tell which came out better after a thorough look at the data.

Stricter wasn’t necessarily better.

Stricter wasn’t necessarily better.

Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg

California and Florida have a lot in common: Large populations, nice weather, beautiful beaches, celebrities, Disney theme parks, hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus orchards.

When Covid-19 came to the U.S. in early 2020, the two states reacted similarly, shutting down in-person schooling and indoor dining and urging residents to stay home. Through some combination of that quick action, March weather that’s conducive to spending time outside and keeping windows open, and pure luck, both largely avoided the initial spring 2020 Covid wave that took so many lives in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast. They have also had similar success in vaccinating older residents, which for the past year-plus has been by far the most effective way of preventing Covid deaths.