As the nation gains momentum in rolling back the coronavirus, now there's news that states with harsh lockdowns haven't fared any better than states that allowed freedom and helped businesses to survive the pandemic.
New data shows that California and Florida have almost identical COVID-19 case rates, despite their opposite approaches. This is leading some to wonder if the different state strategies around the nation made a difference at all.
"This is going to be an important question that we have to ask ourselves: What public health measures actually were the most impactful, and which ones had negligible effect or backfired by driving behavior underground?" said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The CDC says that since the pandemic began, both California and Florida have had the same case rates of around 8,900 per 100,000 residents.
And both rank in the middle states among COVID death rates with Florida listed at 27th and California at 28th.
But the states have instituted opposite COVID-19 policies.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered the nation's first statewide shutdown, including churches. He continues to maintain a mask mandate, and largely limits indoor dining along with other activities.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had no statewide restrictions and is not allowing cities to fine people who don't wear masks.
More than 32,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19, but that number is no worse than the average death rate throughout the country and it's better than some states with more severe restrictions, Axios reports.
Economy-wise, the two states have experienced opposite outcomes. Florida's freedom-friendly approach kept the unemployment rate down to 5.1 percent while California's severe restrictions on businesses raised unemployment to 9.3 percent.
"While so many other states kept locking people down over these many months, Florida lifted people up," DeSantis said during his State of the State address. "Florida's schools are open - and we are one of only a handful of states in which every parent has a right to send their child to school in-person. All Floridians have a right to earn a living - and our citizens are employed at higher rates than those in the nation as a whole. Every job is essential."
During his State of the State address, Newsom said, "People are alive today because of the public health decisions we made - lives saved because of your sacrifice."
Meanwhile, more than 11 percent of Americans are now fully vaccinated and the number of states lifting their restrictions is increasing - now up to half the country.
And Dr. Anthony Fauci is suggesting that schools might cut social distancing down to three feet instead of six.
Still, officials warn it's too early to top wearing masks or attend large gatherings.
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