Florida vs. Massachusetts: The Handling of Covid-19


Photo by Alex Arabadzhiev

Many vacationers enjoy dining with less strict protocols.

Alex Arabadzhiev, Staff Writer

When Gov. Ron DeSantis first approved reopening in May 2020, Florida became one of the first states to try to resume normalcy after the lockdown. Despite a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the country and around the world, Florida remains open and working, and death rates are gradually declining.


When I went to Florida this past vacation, I almost felt like I had transported myself prior to pre-Covid times. The first store I visited, Publix, masks were optional to wear. You could see people’s faces. No one was in their own world as a result of these isolated masks. The differences were stark.


In July 2020, two months after reopening, the number of new cases in Florida exploded. Within a seven-day span, the state set records for the number of new cases filed in a single day.


One of those record breaking days, Disney World was slated to reopen. But it didn’t stop the “Happiest Place on Earth” from breaking yet another record on its first day back, with almost 15,000 new cases. No one was convinced by DeSantis’ approach after that.


Despite this, the governor suddenly signed an executive order eliminating all state restrictions and reopening restaurants and bars to full capacity at the end of September 2020. But guess what happened? The death rate has continued to fall. 


The tide appears to have shifted. The daily death rate in Florida continues to decline, while hospitalizations remain steady.


Massachusetts, however, had more than more COVID deaths per capita than Florida, despite enforcing tight, long-term lockout restrictions. Lockdowns and extensive restrictions don’t appear to be the correct solution for COVID-19.


DeSantis targeted the at-risk group from the start, which drew a lot of criticism at the time. He was famous for excusing reckless college students, instead focusing resources on preserving the elderly and allowing the young and healthy to resume their lives.


Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York took a nearly diametrically opposed strategy. Instead of focusing on protecting the elderly, he forced nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients, putting them at greater risk.


Despite having a greater population, Florida has had approximately a fourth of the number of nursing-home deaths as New York. And in Florida, when the surge arrived in July, it largely hit young people, making it less deadly than in New York. 


Today, Floridians are adjusting to their new normal, which hasn’t been as horrific as some had predicted. Thanks to the governor’s emergency order in August of 2020 requiring public schools to offer in-person, parents and stir-crazy kids seem to be managing fine.


Miami still has some rather tough rules in place, as given the recent spike. However, each county has the authority to regulate itself, and people, for the most part, make their own decisions about how to continue in a safe manner. The aged and immunocompromised continue to take precautions. People shake hands on a case-by-case basis. People know what is best for them and what is required to resume normal life.


In Palm Beach, Florida where I visited, there were no Covid restrictions or regulations in place. People are allowed to live freely and have the freedom of choice if they want to wear a mask or go into a highly crowded area. Businesses around Palm Beach are booming with business, with people escaping the East Coast to feel the sense of freedom. 


Florida has not handled the situation flawlessly, and the issue is far from over. However, Florida is a long way further ahead with a livable “normal” and a stronger economy than Massachusetts.