- The Washington Times
Thursday, February 18, 2021

MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday pressed Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for the White House’s COVID-19 response, on why Florida appears to be faring the same or better than lockdown states like California when it has remained largely open for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Contrast states like Florida and California, California basically in lockdown, and their numbers aren’t that different from Florida,” Ms. Ruhle said.

Mr. Slavitt admitted he couldn’t answer the question. 

“Look, there’s so much of this virus that we think we understand, that we think we can predict, that’s just a little beyond our explanation,” he said. “What we do know is the more careful people are, the more they mask and social distance, and the quicker we vaccinate, the quicker it goes away and the less it spreads, but we have got to get better visibility into variants. We don’t know what role they play [in] large events, et cetera. 

“As we all have learned by this time, this is a virus that continues to surprise us,” he continued. “It’s very hard to predict. All around the country, we’ve got to continue to do a better job. And I think we are, but we’re not done yet.”

“But what does that look like?” Ms. Ruhle responded. “Because people are fatigued by this. They want to send their kids back to school, they want to go back to work, they don’t want to lose their businesses, and they’re saying they simply aren’t getting clear guidance.”

Mr. Slavitt said part of the problem with the fatigue Americans are feeling was due to the Trump administration’s messaging that the return to normality was “just around the corner.”

“I think what President Biden is communicating is, it’s still a marathon, there are still challenges, we all wish it was over, and so we need to orchestrate this together,” Mr. Slavitt said.

“We need Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan,” he added. “We can’t get through this and Americans can’t get through this without the support of their country.”

The comments came amid revelations that hospitalizations are on the decline in both California and Florida, despite both states’ vastly different approaches to the pandemic. California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, has kept his state under strict lockdown orders, closing schools and many businesses for the majority of the pandemic, while his Republican counterpart, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, only locked down his state for one month at the start of the pandemic last year and has refused to institute a mask mandate.

Despite’s California’s extreme measures, the state is just 33rd in the country for its COVID-19 death rate, six places ahead of Florida, which stands at 27th place. The rate of cases is also similar in both states, with 8,635 per 100,000 in California and 8,399 per 100,000 in Florida.

New Jersey and New York, which have also been under lockdown orders for the majority of the pandemic, remain in first and second place, respectively, in terms of death rate. Their case rates are similar to California and Florida.

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