JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis made some claims during a news conference Friday morning in West Palm Beach. He continues to say Florida is handling the pandemic way better than Democratic-run states like New York, California and Illinois.
Speaking to dozens of mostly mask-less supporters, he received a standing ovation and cheers as he said the state was on the path to bringing back major events. He also said Florida’s election process in November was the best in the nation. With many people skeptical of his statements, the News4Jax Trust Index team looked into his claims.
Claim No 1: Lockdowns don’t work
“Florida, we’ve shown that these lockdowns don’t work,” the first-term Republican governor said. “If you look at places like Illinois, New York, California, they have the COVID -- some of it is way worse than Florida per capita.”
We looked at the number of daily cases tracked by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Through Thursday, Florida had 29 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people. New York is higher, with 40 cases per 100,000, but California and Illinois are both lower, with 18 and 14 cases per 100,000 residents. A WBUR-FM analysis, citing the Harvard Global Health Institute shows Floridians are more at risk to catch the virus than at least 36 other states.
Tracking deaths, using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the beginning of the pandemic, Florida has had 137 deaths per 100,000 people. California registers lower at 122. New York and Illinois are both higher, with 238 and 176 fatalities per 100,000 attributed to the disease.
Numbers continue to fluctuate and some data sets are worse than Florida’s, but we don’t see black or white data that proves lockdowns have helped or hurt states. Plus, the spread could be affected by weather and population density.
So for the first claim, we’ll classify it as Be Careful.
Claim No. 2: President Biden is going to quarantine Floridians or ban travel to and from the Sunshine State
“We’re also not gonna let Joe Biden quarantine Florida or ban any travel for Florida,” DeSantis said Friday. “Not gonna happen. Sorry.”
DeSantis has continued to bring up a possible travel ban which he has called unconstitutional. We should note that last year, he put a quarantine on travelers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut coming into Florida.
News4Jax requested more information from the White House’s team, which sent us an email this week:
“To be clear, there have been no decisions made around additional public health measures for domestic travel safety,” a White House spokesperson replied. “The administration is continuing to discuss recommendations across the travel space, but no specific decisions are under consideration.”
So as of now, the Biden administration has not -- at least publicly -- announced any plans to quarantine Floridians or close the border. So the governor’s claim appears to be Not True.
Claim No. 3: Florida ran ‘the most transparent and efficient election’
DeSantis centered his remarks on Friday around election integrity as he promoted legislation to get rid of so-called ballot harvesting and fraud while applauding Florida’s work in the 2020 election.
“The result of 2020 from an administrative perspective was that Florida had the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country,” he said.
JU’s Public Policy Center director and News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney told us that Florida has made great strides in the election process, after being criticized in 2000, 2004 and 2008. The governor pointed out that Florida results came in by the end of the night while a lot of other states took days, even weeks to get near-complete results.
DeSantis, however, did not point out that other states operate under different rules where mail-in ballots can’t be opened or counted until the polls close on Election Day.
While there’s no metric to say which state is actually the most efficient, Mullaney agrees that the 2020 election, at least in Florida, appeared to be handled well. So that part of the claim is mostly True.