DeSantis’s critics, who tend to lump him together with Trump, say the governor doesn’t deserve any credit at all. They credit Florida’s big-city mayors, who imposed relatively strict sheltering-in-place rules even as the governor resisted doing so statewide. I spoke to two friends, one in Miami and another in Orlando, who both praised their city’s mayor for taking aggressive action; they also noted that those Jacksonville photos notwithstanding, most Floridians have been compliant.

But this doesn’t seem likely to be the whole answer either. Citizens of Boston and Detroit — and, yes, New York — have been just as compliant if not more so. Yet each of those cities has suffered more deaths than Miami. Some 20,000 New York City residents have died of Covid-19 (New York City’s health department includes a little more than 5,000 “probable deaths” that are not included in the state’s totals.); the number in Miami-Dade County, which has a population of 2.7 million, is fewer than 500.

“When you look at our demographics, we should have been the most devastated state of all,” said Charles Lockwood, a scientist who heads the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida. “The median age nationally is 38; it’s 42 in Florida. We have three times the national average in population over 65.” There are other oddities, too: in most of the country, more men than women get infected. In Florida, it’s 50-50. In many parts of the U.S., minorities are more vulnerable than white people; in Florida, white people account for at least 54% of the cases and 67% of the deaths. Hispanic people account for 21% of the deaths, compared with 70% for non-Hispanics.

Lockwood gave credit both to DeSantis and to Florida’s mayors for the actions they had taken. He praised the state for doing a better job ramping up testing than many other states. (He also dropped in the fact that his institution had developed a way to make swabs with a 3D printer.)

But he also had another thought. Maybe there was something to the notion that heat and humidity slowed the spread of this coronavirus. Maybe that was a way to explain the inexplicable. “There is not great data, but there is some data,” Lockwood said. Yes, it’s true that Trump mentioned this possibility several months ago. But that doesn’t automatically mean it’s wrong.

As Florida gradually reopens over the next several weeks, everyone is going to be watching to see whether cases and deaths surge there. To be blunt, the partisans in this polarized country will be hoping to be vindicated by the numbers. 

But that’s such a mindless way of looking at this. If Florida’s death toll continues to fall, it doesn’t necessarily mean that DeSantis took the right approach; it might simply mean that he was more lucky than good, that unbeknownst to him the virus was simply less virulent in Florida than in New York or New Jersey. It’s a medical mystery, not a political one, and the most helpful approach is to stand back and see what the scientists can learn from Florida’s experience.

And if the numbers start to rise? That doesn’t necessarily mean that DeSantis’s approach was wrong. With the state’s economy at stake, he would be foolish not to attempt a reopening with the death toll so low. Higher numbers will mean that he has to reimpose his shelter-in-place rules, having learned that the virus wasn’t yet ready to release Florida from its grip.

“DeSantis is extremely data-driven,” Lockwood told me. “He is very focused now on testing and tracing. He sees this process like it’s a dial. He’s going to dial up or dial down the restrictions, depending on what the data is showing him.”

I’m as anti-Trump as the next guy. But I also know that the notion that there is a blue-state and a red-state way of attacking the virus is absurd. The point is to beat it back enough so that something resembling normal life can resume. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is relying on strict lockdown conditions because that’s what a state with nearly 27,000 deaths in two months demands. In Florida, the steps DeSantis is taking seem appropriate for a state that hasn’t yet hit 1,800.

What we should all be doing is rooting for them both to succeed. Is that really so hard?

This column was provided by Bloomberg News.

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