When the New York Times Misses the Story About Gov. DeSantis and COVID

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an awful article about Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis and the challenge COVID-19 is causing him. Its basic premise can be summarized thusly (boldface mine):

While leaders in that state also refused lockdowns and mask orders, they made it a priority to vaccinate vulnerable older people. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, opened mass vaccination sites and sent teams to retirement communities and nursing homes. Younger people also lined up for shots.

Mr. DeSantis and public health experts expected a rise in cases this summer as people gathered indoors in the air-conditioning. But what happened was much worse: Cases spiraled out of control, reaching peaks higher than Florida had seen before. Hospitalizations followed. So did deaths, which are considerably higher than the numbers currently reached anywhere else in the country…

The Florida story is a cautionary tale for dealing with the current incarnation of the coronavirus. The United States has used the vaccines as its primary pandemic weapon. But Florida shows that even a state that made a major push for vaccinations — Florida ranks 21st among states and Washington, D.C., in giving people of all ages at least one shot — can be crushed by the Delta variant, reaching frightening levels of hospitalizations and deaths.

“Clearly the vaccines are keeping most of these people out of the hospital, but we’re not building the herd immunity that people hoped,” Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference this past week. “You’ve got a huge percentage of people — adults — that have gotten shots, and yet you’ve still seen a wave.”

Leaving aside errors such as one shot does very little to protect against the Delta variant, or that Florida’s high over-65 population means that its under-65 population is disproportionately undervaccinated, or that herd immunity doesn’t have a chance to kick in until about eighty percent fully vaccinated (if we’re lucky), it is the portrayal of DeSantis that is awful. What this story ignores is that Gov. DeSantis is a Great Barrington Declaration ideologue. He is of the school that we should protect the elderly with vaccination and then let ‘er rip. If other people want to get vaccinated, that’s fine, but herd immunity is the way to go.

Did most Floridians realize he was ‘hoping for herd immunity’? That’s a tell, if there ever were one.

Unfortunately, DeSantis isn’t the governor of Idaho, but of Florida, an international tourist destination and transportation hub, with a population larger than many countries.

While some other Republicans also might believe this (Rand Paul comes to mind)–and the outcome of Republican pandering to the ‘MAH FREEDOMZ!’ twaddle pretty much leads to the same outcome regardless of ideological motivation–that the New York Times completely missed the radicalism of DeSantis is a failure, though at this point, given the sorry state of our political press corps, an expected one.

To put it bluntly, with DeSantis, there is a compelling argument to be made that he views the current outcome as a feature, not a bug–or at least, until the current failure, he did.

That the NYT doesn’t even mention this ideological foundation is a massive failure of political journalism.

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1 Response to When the New York Times Misses the Story About Gov. DeSantis and COVID

  1. JDM says:

    I also think that if you describe something as “a major push” and it leaves the state 21st out of 50 you are obligated to describe that “major push” as a “major failure”.

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