Florida Man wonders: Why does Cuomo get better COVID-19 press than DeSantis, when Florida has done so much better?

Er … three guesses, and the first two don’t count. This question doesn’t come from just any Florida Man either, but Politico’s Marc Caputo, who argues that the New York-based media made a villain out of Ron DeSantis out of political and regional bias. In a pointed, almost angry dispatch last night from the Sunshine State, Caputo starts off with that theme and backs it up with outcomes:

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.

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. (Check out POLITICO’s coronavirus tracker for more.) More people reportedly died in New York nursing homes than in all of Florida.

The spring-breakers event was still stupid, though, and likely provided unnecessary vectors for spreading COVID-19. That wouldn’t have been from “swarming the beaches” as much as crowding the bars and restaurants, as we now know, but the restaurants and bars were still open because DeSantis hadn’t ordered them closed. (Caputo acknowledges that error, too.) That order wouldn’t come until April 1, after spring-break season had effectively ended — and few people were traveling any more anyway.

Still, even with that, there’s no doubt that the doomsday scenarios for Florida haven’t played out. They certainly have in New York, which has driven much of the national death numbers. Some of which is due to urban density in New York City that is greater than anywhere in Florida, even Miami, a point raised by Cuomo’s defenders, but it’s not the entire answer either. Some of it’s also true because of colossally stupid decisions by Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, such as keeping the subways in operation and putting COVID-19-positive patients and nurses back into nursing homes. So why does the national media portray DeSantis as a rube while elevating Cuomo to the status of hero?

Caputo has a couple of notions as to what’s in play:

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.

The beach closings have become harder and harder to justify. The data has shown for some time that outdoor venues are not particularly conducive to transmission of the virus, and that’s probably more true the sunnier and warmer outdoor venues get. Floridians (and everyone else) are likely safer on the beach with basic social-distancing protocols than they are in supermarkets. And they’re certainly a lot safer on the beaches than they would be in New York City’s subways, which continue operating even with evidence that they are providing new vectors for disease on every run.

The political bias that Caputo explicitly cites is traditional partisanship. Another component, one has to suspect, is the regional bias through which New York-based media covers the rest of the country. We see it when writers call Minneapolis “the middle of nowhere” for having the temerity to host a Super Bowl, references to “flyover country,” and a general tone of sneering indifference to valid regional concerns and interests.

Whatever it is, Caputo’s correct to call it out in this instance. We should be learning from Florida’s successes (and missteps too), not mischaracterizing outcomes to suit the personal taste of media editors. Some of us are very, very used to that from the national media, of course, but we’re always happy to welcome the more recently enlightened.

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