VICTOR JOECKS: Why Nevada’s coronavirus response should mirror Florida, not New York

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The policies of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were likely responsible for thousands of coronavirus deaths. You wouldn’t know it from the media’s coverage of his response.

Over the past two months, the media have essentially deified Cuomo for his supposedly heroic actions to save New York. On the other hand, according to this view, Republican governors who resisted lockdown orders and are now reopening, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, are threats to public health.

Except that’s not what the data shows.

New York and specifically New York City have suffered the nation’s worst outbreak of coronavirus. Across the country, about 70,000 people have died from coronavirus. More than 28 percent of them have been in New York. On Tuesday, NYC Health reported a total of 13,700 deaths just in New York City. New York state has 100 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. In New York City, it’s a staggering 165 per 100,000 people.

Surely, the outbreak in Florida must be worse. There were weeks of stories slamming DeSantis for his delay in shutting down Florida. In March, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation out of the University of Washington predicted Florida would see 6,800 deaths.

In late March, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden praised Cuomo, while blasting DeSantis. “While other large states continue to take strong, urgent and sweeping action to stop the spread of COVID-19, Florida has not,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden got it wrong. At least so far. In Florida, 1,400 people have died from coronavirus. That’s 6.6 deaths per 100,000. Florida’s results were 15 times better than New York’s outcomes. For reference, Nevada’s death rate is 8.5 per 100,000.

What happened in Florida wasn’t just luck, even if a warmer climate and lower population density played a role. While the media obsessed in mid-March over 20-year-olds partying on Florida’s beaches, DeSantis barred outside visitors from senior-care facilities. In mid-April, he ramped up testing for nursing home staff and patients.

While Florida worked to keep the virus away from the elderly, New York’s Health Department ordered nursing homes to take back patients who had coronavirus. Read that again. Under Cuomo’s leadership, nursing homes had to bring people into their facilities who had coronavirus. He didn’t change this policy until the press asked him about it in late April. As a result, 4,800 New Yorkers in nursing homes died from coronavirus. In Florida, that number is 388, as of last Friday.

Another glaring failure: NYC didn’t start disinfecting subway cars daily until last week. An MIT economist called subways “a major disseminator” of the virus. If Cuomo were a Republican, the media would be demanding his resignation.

There are lessons here for Nevada, especially given that Gov. Steve Sisolak is still looking for a plan. The most obvious is that one-size-fits-all mandates aren’t as effective as targeted efforts to protect vulnerable populations.

As Sisolak decides how he’s going to reopen Nevada, he should follow Florida, not New York.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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