Florida Smirked at New York’s Virus Crisis. Now It Has Its Own.

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In late April, as new coronavirus cases in Florida were steadily decreasing, Gov. Ron DeSantis began crowing how his state had tamed the pandemic.

He credited his decision to impose a state-specific quarantine on New York, then the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak. The move earned him praise in the White House and the ire of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York.

Months later, Mr. Cuomo has clearly not forgotten.

“You played politics with this virus and you lost,” Mr. Cuomo said on Thursday when asked in an interview about Mr. DeSantis’s earlier boasts.

With infections now rapidly spreading in Florida while they retreat in New York, the two states have come to reflect the rapidly shifting course of the coronavirus pandemic.

New York still has the country’s highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths, but the numbers have been steadily falling: At its peak, the virus claimed 1,000 deaths a day in the state; on Thursday, the state recorded 17 deaths. Florida, among the states not mandating masks, rushed to reopen and is now seeing 5,000 new cases a day and 46 deaths on Thursday.

And in their divergent political responses to the outbreak, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, and Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, also mirror the divide over the virus among states and regions around the country.

The two brash, telegenic governors both embraced the increased visibility that the virus provided. Mr. Cuomo delivered daily sober updates on the virus, the state’s aggressive lockdown strategy and its cautious approach to reopening. Mr. DeSantis eagerly advanced a narrative pushed by President Trump, seeing the economic damage as a greater risk than a virus that had, for months, largely spared his state.

The strain of the pandemic has frayed the ties between New York and Florida, two states that normally enjoy a more symbiotic relationship, even allowing for the occasional hints of schadenfreude.

On Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo ordered his own quarantine on travelers from states with high-infection rates — a group of eight that included Florida — to protect New Yorkers who now have low infection rates. The reversal of fortune was too much to pass up.

“Your hospital beds are filling up,” Mr. Cuomo said on Thursday. “It means more people are getting sick. That’s what’s happening. And it’s now undeniable.”

Despite the virus’s spread, Mr. DeSantis gave no indication that he would order the shutdown of any of the businesses already opened. At the same time, he said he had no intention of advancing the state to its next reopening phase, which would include concert halls and other large venues at full capacity and theme parks at normal operations.

He acknowledged that the trend in infections had shifted. “Our peak before was much lower than a lot of the other states, in the Northeast for example,” he said on Thursday during a news conference in Tampa. “Really, the whole Sun Belt is seeing this.”

Mr. DeSantis said the state, which has lost 3,327 lives to the virus, was prepared for the rise in cases. He did not address Mr. Cuomo’s remarks or the quarantine of Floridians traveling to New York. A spokeswoman for Mr. DeSantis, Helen Aguirre Ferré, said Mr. Cuomo was “sadly mistaken if he thinks this pandemic is a political contest.”

Even before the pandemic, New York and Florida engaged in some interstate rivalry, competing for residents and businesses. Florida has overtaken New York in population in recent years, a trend driven in part by the migration to the state of New Yorkers, census figures show.

But in their responses to the coronavirus, the differences between the two states have never been more clear.

Mr. Cuomo in April mandated all New Yorkers to wear masks when they could not stay six feet apart. Mr. DeSantis has declined to do the same, even after his own state surgeon general issued an advisory recommending masks in any setting where social distancing is not possible.

New York leaders, after a halting early response to the pandemic in March, mostly followed the recommendations of state public health officials, including requirements for widespread testing and contact tracing ahead of reopening. Florida has moved to open its businesses faster, and without the same infrastructure for tracking down the close contacts of the infected.

In large part, the different approaches reflect the different experiences with the virus. New York State saw over 18,000 hospitalizations a day during the worst period of the outbreak, back in April.

The state’s nursing homes were particularly hard hit: 6,200 residents have died, and Mr. Cuomo has been criticized by Mr. DeSantis and others for an executive order that forbade nursing homes from turning away patients arriving from hospitals solely because they had the coronavirus. A Cuomo spokesman recently responded by saying Mr. DeSantis does not know how to wear a mask properly.

Mr. DeSantis received praise for the state’s more limited response to the pandemic, including from Mr. Trump, who urged the quarantine of New Yorkers going to Florida. Mr. DeSantis believed harsh restrictions would result in citizens refusing to follow the rules.

He has also attacked the news media, which he said has been overly concerned about contagion in Florida’s reopened beaches and not worried enough about virus spread in the New York subway.

In early May, Florida began reopening business, and quickly: The state’s first phase of reopening included restaurants, gyms, barbershops and large spectator sporting events, with restricted occupancy. In New York, reopening began more haltingly, with manufacturing and construction businesses.

And when the White House called, Mr. DeSantis traveled to Washington to highlight the state’s progress next to Mr. Trump.

“When you look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida,” Mr. DeSantis said from the Oval Office in late April, including New York in a litany of several states, “Florida has done better.”

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

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      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

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      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

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      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

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      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

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      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


And so the National Basketball Association said it would hold the rest of its season at Walt Disney World. The Republican National Convention relocated its big speeches to Jacksonville. NASCAR raced at the Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this month, with Mr. DeSantis as its honorary starter.

Mr. Cuomo has made his own bid for sports, coaxing the Mets and the Yankees to return to New York from their spring training camps by suggesting Florida was no longer safe. (He exempted the teams from the new quarantine, saying they had their own health protocols.)

While Mr. Cuomo did not explicitly target his quarantine order to apply to Florida, he signaled in the days before making the announcement that the state’s recent treatment of New Yorkers was very much on his mind.

“Well, wouldn’t that be karma?” Mr. Cuomo said when asked about a quarantine in New York on MSNBC.

ImagePassengers arriving at the airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., on March 24, a day after the state required a 14-day quarantine for travelers from the New York area.
Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Florida’s quarantine affecting New Yorkers is still in effect: As of Tuesday, New Yorkers arriving at Miami International Airport were still being met by the National Guard and state health officials, told to head straight for their lodgings and ordered to quarantine there for two weeks.

But as the course of the coronavirus outbreak has turned in recent weeks, the flow of travelers has reversed: People are now jetting out of Florida and back to the relative safety of New York. Such an exodus would have been unimaginable three months earlier.

Epidemiologists said Florida’s quarantine of New Yorkers made sense at the time, just as New York’s for Floridians does now. “There is more virus in that environment,” said Dr. Amanda D. Castel, a professor of epidemiology at George Washington University.

Right now, New York was looking like a safer bet to Evan Friedman, a White Plains, N.Y., resident who had been staying in his second home in Boca Raton since March.

Credit…Evan Friedman

In recent weeks, Mr. Friedman, 58, had begun to worry that Florida residents were not taking the virus seriously enough. A barber not wearing a mask rattled him. So did the man in the bagel shop who prepared a platter without a mask or gloves.

Many New Yorkers he knew in Florida had gone back north, and he planned to go early next month.

But when Mr. Cuomo announced that the new quarantine would take effect at midnight Wednesday, Mr. Friedman rushed to pack his bags. He found the flights to New York were all booked, so he got a ticket to Connecticut and rented a car to get back to New York.

“I have the luxury of being able to be up North or in the South,” he said. “I want to be where there are the smallest amount of cases.”

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