Friday, May 15, 2020


I'm detecting a new tone in some mainstream media stories about the coronavirus. Polls suggest that the "Reopen" campaign has won over only a small minority of American citizens -- but it might be winning over a few journalists.

This is from a New York Times story about Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, where Democratic governors are trying to be cautious about reopening, while Republican legislators (and, in Wisconsin, a right-leaning state Supreme Court) demand an end to restrictions.
Wisconsin has been showing signs of improvement over the past week, including in the Green Bay area, which had three meatpacking outbreaks and the state’s highest per-capita case numbers.

Michigan, which had perhaps the country’s most alarming spike in cases outside of New York, has seen steady improvement for more than a month. The state had about 50,000 known cases and about 4,800 deaths as of Thursday night. Michigan officials have been reporting about 400 new cases each day, down from more than 1,700 on some days in early April.
(Yes, but Michigan reported 1,173 new cases and 73 new deaths yesterday.)
In Pennsylvania, reports of new cases have largely followed the national curve, with an extended downward-slanted plateau. More than 63,000 cases had been identified there as of Thursday night, along with about 4,300 deaths. The state’s drop in new case reports has accelerated in recent days....
The story acknowledges "concerning rates of growth continue in some rural counties." "Concerning" is right:
In Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—Democrats’ so-called “Blue Wall”—19 counties report coronavirus cases doubling in less than 14 days.
But the Times story strongly implies that the worst is over in these states. Meanwhile, Politico Playbook gloats on behalf of Florida governor Ron DeSantis:
Good evening, and greetings from Florida, where we feel the need to inform you that it’s not a post-apocalyptic hellscape of coronavirus infection and cadavers stacked like cordwood. That is, Florida just doesn’t look nearly as bad as the national news media and sky-is-falling critics have been predicting for about two months now. But then, the national news media is mostly based in New York and loves to love its Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, about as much as it loves to hate on Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
(Cuomo was nearly invisible in the national media until the coronavirus crisis, but whatever.)
First, let’s just come out and say it: DeSantis looks more right than those who criticized the Sunshine State’s coronavirus response. According to the latest Florida figures, fewer than 2,000 have died, and around 43,000 have been infected. That’s a fraction of the dire predictions made for Florida when spring breakers swarmed the beaches, and those numbers are dwarfed by similarly sized New York, which has seen 12 times more deaths and nearly eight times more infections.... More people reportedly died in New York nursing homes than in all of Florida.
The initial response in New York was terrible. The response since then has been admirable.
The polling disparity: DeSantis is actually polling worse than Cuomo in their respective states, and the Florida press is wondering why. Part of that is style. Cuomo has a smooth delivery, a deep and calming voice and an attitude that projects he can answer any question. DeSantis sometimes comes across as peevish and defensive, has made a misstatement or two and was mocked for struggling to put on a mask. But most of the difference between DeSantis and Cuomo is due to politics. DeSantis governs a politically divided state. Cuomo is a scion of Democratic royalty in a deeply Democratic state.

Yes, there’s media bias, too. Cuomo also has something else DeSantis doesn’t: a press that defers to him, one that preferred to cover “Florida Morons” at the beach (where it’s relatively hard to get infected) over New Yorkers riding cramped subway cars (where it’s easy to get infected). In fact, people can still ride the subways for most hours of the day in New York, but Miami Beach’s sands remain closed. Maybe things would be different if DeSantis had a brother who worked in cable news and interviewed him for a “sweet moment” in primetime.
A few things.

First, New York is a Democratic state, but Andrew Cuomo hasn't been universally regarded as a beloved Democratic royal here. His recent numbers, until the crisis, were middling:

Cuomo has "a deep and calming voice"? Pre-coronavirus New Yorkers would have found that absurd -- we thought he regularly came off as kind of an asshole.

Yes, the subways in New York City are still running, but subway ridership dropped 92% as a result of the crisis -- and as a result of the shutdown in most of the state, which has been extended to June 13.

Florida's beaches may have been safer than we realized -- the virus appears to be much less communicable outdoors -- but the state's overall caseload seems to have plateaued in May, although admittedly at a lower level than in early April. The numbers don't seem to be going down. The state recorded another 808 cases yesterday, and 48 new deaths. The numbers in New York are still awful, but the decline has been far more significant.

I hope the Times and Politico pieces aren't part of a trend. There's much more work to be done. It's too soon to declare victory.


UPDATE: Declare victory in Florida? Not so fast.
Federal officials responding to the coronavirus pandemic are concerned about the rapidly rising number of cases in Palm Beach County, Fla., according to an internal Trump administration document reviewed by Yahoo News.

The document, a May 15 daily interagency update on the nation’s coronavirus response circulated by the Department of Homeland Security, notes new areas of concern for coronavirus....

“Palm Beach County, FL reported a 71% increase in new cases the last 7 days compared to the previous 7 days,” the document explains....

President Trump recently changed his primary residence from Manhattan to his Mar-a-Lago golf resort, which is located in Palm Beach County.

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