There are lies, damned lies, and then there are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' COVID statistics.
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Ron DeSantis is cooking the books. Again.
Every citizen needs honest data in order to assess the day-to-day risks COVID-19 presents to themselves and their families. And in August 2021, that’s especially true for anxious Florida parents concerned about their Governor’s reckless statewide ban on school mask mandates.
As cases ballooned in August… the Florida Department of Health changed the way it reported death data to the CDC, giving the appearance of a pandemic in decline… (For example:) on Monday, Florida death data would have shown an average of 262 daily deaths reported to the CDC over the previous week had the health department used its former reporting system, the Herald analysis showed. Instead, the Monday update from Florida showed just 46 ‘new deaths’ per day over the previous seven days.
Put simply, DeSantis made a change to how Florida reports COVID deaths in a way that made it look like deaths were declining when they were actually rising at a terrifying rate.
An “artificial decline” in deaths reported—even as deaths skyrocketed
By engaging in such blatant manipulation of data, “Mini-Trump” DeSantis is once again emulating the failed one-term President who told Bob Woodward in March 2020: “I wanted to always play it down, I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
But whereas Trump wanted to slow the testing down, DeSantis wants to slow the dead-body-counting down.
As the Herald explains:
Until three weeks ago, data collected by DOH and published on the CDC website counted deaths by the date they were recorded — a common method for producing daily stats used by most states. On Aug. 10, Florida switched its methodology and… began to tally new deaths by the date the person died.
If you chart deaths by Florida’s new method, based on date of death, it will generally appear — even during a spike like the present — that deaths are on a recent downslope. That’s because it takes time for deaths to be evaluated and death certificates processed. When those deaths finally are tallied, they are assigned to the actual date of death — creating a spike where there once existed a downslope and moving the downslope forward in time.
Shivani Patel, a social epidemiologist and assistant professor at Emory University called the move “extremely problematic,” especially since it came without warning or explanation during a rise in cases.
Patel said Florida death data now show an “artificial decline” in recent deaths and without an explanation or context.
And this is not the first time DeSantis has been caught falsifying data, potentially leading Floridians to take unnecessary, potentially deadly risks.
DeSantis has a history of “dispensing dangerous misinformation.”
As I wrote in June this year, the Florida Governor was, back in 2020, caught red-handed falsifying his state’s Covid data.
Mary Ellen Klas, the Tallahassee bureau chief for the Miami Herald, told Slate in December 2020:
(In June) he was saying the state’s numbers were on the decline and that meant that it was time to reopen the state. But in fact, the numbers were rising. Just days before his announcement date, they started to see numbers rise because it was a couple of weeks after the Easter holiday and people had gathered. So instead of telling the public that that’s what his numbers were showing, he said that things are on the decline.
Also in December 2020, a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation discovered that DeSantis had: “suppressed unfavorable facts, dispensed dangerous misinformation, dismissed public health professionals, and promoted the views of scientific dissenters” who supported the governor’s own reckless (i.e. Trump-like) response to the pandemic.
Now it’s August 2021. And, as Floridians keep dying, DeSantis keeps lying.
Meanwhile, The New York Times is still being deluded by DeSantis.
As readers of this newsletter know, DeSantis’ arrogance, poor decision-making and refusal to admit mistakes has turned the Florida summer of 2021 into a deadly nightmare.
DeSantis was clearly to blame as his failure to vaccinate and lax public safety enforcement made Florida the first state to see COVID-19 deaths soar to their highest level ever this summer.
And by now, a large majority of Floridians know exactly who caused the disaster. In one recent survey, 61% of Floridians agreed that the current Covid surge was preventable.
But try telling that to The New York Times.
In a ridiculous article published on Saturday August 28, three reporters—Patricia Mazzei, Benjamin Mueller and Robert Gebeloff—combined to come up with this The Onion-worthy nugget:
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.
Just on the face of it, for America’s 3rd most populous and 8th most densely populated state to rank only 21st in vaccinations should be alarming.
And three days before the Times article came out, Vox had made clear: “the state’s policies, which have signaled to the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike that it’s okay to go about their normal lives, are making it easier for the virus to spread.”
Vox also quoted Joshua Michaud, associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who said: “There are still a large absolute number of unvaccinated people, relatively few people practicing social distancing or masking, by choice and also due to the absence of policies requiring them,”
Serious question, New York Times: “Are you high?”
Reaction to the Times on Twitter was, of course, immediate. Among the 8,800 replies to a tweet on the @NYTNational account:
@NancyLeeGrahn: “Are you high?”
@NstyWmnWendy: “This is not even close to the truth. Shame on you.”
@EdgeOfForever sent the Times an August 1 front page from the Orlando Sentinel:
@NicoleSandler: “Really? When did FL every make a strong push to vaccinate people? As a Floridian, I can tell you NEVER. Our governor MoRon Death Sentence did nothing relatively close to your statement. I expect a correction/retraction immediately. Thank you.”
@grumppyme summed it up with a meme:
And, with today’s news from the Miami Herald, @hahnalytics tweeted: “This piece gets more humiliating for the NYT with each passing day.”
Meanwhile, even as he hides the truth, the death toll caused by DeSantis’ recklessness and dishonesty continues to grow each day.