Part One Of The Misinformation Trifecta
Even when we can agree on the data, we only know part of the picture. CA locked down, FL didn't and they have similar COVID outcomes. What we don't know is this: if CA did not lock down, would things have been better, worse or about the same in terms of COVID outcomes? If FL did lock down, would things have been better, worse or about the same in terms of COVID outcomes? We can only make judgments on the data we have.
Also in terms of FL, they are in the middle of the pack in terms of COVID outcomes for state residents. But, they have also hosted a number of people (such as the most recent spring breaks) who haven't engaged in mitigation strategies (such as mask-wearing), who then left for other states. How many of those people become infected with COVID and spread it to folks in other states? Again, we don't know.
The problem with information voids is that there are people who try to fill them up -- which is one source of misinformation.
I live in Michigan, and have been vaccinated, so I generally feel I'm personally safe, as are most of my friends. But Michigan is doing very badly right now--it leads the nation in new infections (that's not exactly the right measure, but it's something along those lines). People are blaming their neighbors for being too lax, and for the restaurants opening up too early (they were shifted up to a 50% limit March 1). Clearly that's not the reason, since most states are now at 50%, and besides, not that many people eat in restaurants, and most states are equally opened up now. Others have blamed opening up high school and college sports, which may be closer to the mark, since that's where a lot of the outbreaks are. But all of my friends are still laughing at Florida, which is doing way better than Michigan. And it's all about the tribes (I'm a libertarian, but all my friends are progressives). You are absolutely right about this being one of the brain-eaters.
I so appreciate this article. It is important that we hold all governors and all states to the same standards- while also appreciating particular difficulties presented. Ever since Cuomo refused initially to close down NYC, despite the request of DeBlasio, I have wondered why the press has treated him so lightly while trashing other governors- particularly republican ones. Despite Cuomo's assertion of his own leadership in his book, NY remains the state which has had the second highest death rate in the country.
For many - of both political colors - correctness is a low priority whether you're looking at internal values or external reputational and financial rewards. Thank you for highlighting the consequences so clearly.
I'm interested in how Florida in particular became this scapegoat symbol, more so than Georgia, Mississippi, Iowa, or other states that either have partisan symbolism or have had notable policy or outcome issues. I think South Dakota has a little bit of this symbolic role, and perhaps Texas (though it's hard for me to tell, as someone who lives in Texas and therefore thinks about Texas news more directly rather than as a symbol). I assume it has some connection to the early usage of beaches as the visual symbol of "people being bad", and perhaps some connection to the "Florida Man" phenomenon.
I think it's also interesting that I have seen so very few news or opinion stories asking us to look at states or localities that have had persistently low case counts to see what they're doing right (for much of the pandemic that would have been Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Maine, though I haven't looked recently to see if they've held up). I don't know that these stories would have been more justified, but it seems notable that they just didn't exist as a major phenomenon the way the scolding and shaming articles did.
Despite the continued clarity of your writing on this, there seems to be so little momentum for or interest in examining these rather consequential failures. As you say, they haven't wreaked as much havoc as the deniers have, but in what world could we tolerate a standard as low as that?! I don't know whether the massive loss of public trust that's accelerated during the pandemic will fade as real life offers more opportunities for distraction and engagement, but given that you and others have described this as a starter pandemic, it seems imperative to reckon in more depth with everything that's gone wrong.
One thing I'm really curious about is the effects of school closures. My own priors incline me to think that they've been close to disastrous for kids in most cases, but I also know that kids like I was often learn very little in school, and much more at home. In e.g. California, the answers would be a significant contribution to assessing Newsom et al's role in the crisis.
We need 21st century health guidelines on partisan news (but of course that would be politicized)
About a year ago, I stopped watching Rachel Maddow (yes, it was actually hard) and I quickly regained so much perspective. I can only control my own actions, and I don’t have to hate others who are so often just LARPing in this ridiculous game we’ve all been pulled into.
Another symbol of polarization eating our brains were the number of red state vs blue states takes during the very early weeks of vaccinations. And local pharmacy vs chain pharmacy. And socialized medicine vs privatized medicine. And and. Mostly because West Virginia (and Israel) had a good first couple of weeks. Which were not really that meaningful now that we are way deep into the vaccination process (blue states actually appear better but that may be due to reluctance in red states rather than govt).
I agree with the point of the article. However you can also see different types of biases in the various tribes, and polarization only increases that.
I think New Zealand’s pandemic performance - and specifically that of Jacinda Ardern - is another red vs blue tribal test. It will be interesting to track NZ’s performance going forward, since they have showed signs of regressing after their early ‘star’ showing.
It's pretty horrible that anyone would ever report 19,241 excess deaths. Excess deaths only have the precision of expected death models, and that's definitely not to the individual 1 death.