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The Florida Roundup
The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our hosts, veteran journalists from our partner public radio stations: WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami and WJCT’s Melissa Ross, broadcasting from Jacksonville.

Infectious Disease Expert Says Comparing State Covid Responses Doesn't Tell The Complete Picture

Florida Legislature
Phil Sears/AP
FR170567 AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks Tuesday, March 2, 2021 during his State of the State address at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

From the first few days of the pandemic, Florida took a decidedly different path in responding to the crisis than the rest of the country. States like New York and California locked down, imposing harsh restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, while Florida did not.

Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected mask mandates from the start. He was among the first to lift his state’s lockdown while keeping schools and businesses open. And for months, DeSantis has been running a victory lap, claiming Florida weathered the COVID-19 storm better than other states, most notably New York and California, which remained locked down longer.

On the Florida Roundup, hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross were joined by Dr. Ali Mokdad, he’s the chief strategy officer of Population Health at the University of Washington. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation.

MELISSA ROSS: The governor has really been touting his performance and drawing sharp comparisons between Florida and other states. As you look at the data, what do you see in the numbers?

ALI MOKDAD: Comparing Florida to other states is not fair. So, for example, if you look at Florida and California, it's totally different. Florida has its own unique conditions, one of which is not as much mass transit. A large percentage of the people in Florida are retired and can stay at home. Other states don't have that luxury. So it's not fair to compare yourself to other states.

TOM HUDSON: Dr. Mokdad, just wondering your thoughts on the governor's use of the senior mortality per capita rate. Is that an appropriate measurement of how the pandemic has been handled?

A good measurement for the elderly population, for senior citizens, of course, of comparing senior citizens to others. That's fair. But if you ignore the rest of the population of Florida, that's a big problem.

The past week, for example, Florida cases have been increasing — given that you have vaccinated a lot of the senior population. So this is against the backdrop of their success in immunizing the elderly in Florida. We're seeing a rise of cases. So that's telling us that the cases among the younger population are increasing.
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Denise Royal