Why aren’t critics of pandemic reopenings talking about California in the same breath as some other states? And what does that say about combating Covid-19?

The pundits always single out Florida. Or Texas. Or Arizona. Or all three. Consider Paul Krugman’s column on Monday. Krugman, one of the liberal stalwarts on the New York Times’s op-ed page, believes that the reason the U.S. is “losing its war against the coronavirus” is Republican politics. He pointed to President Donald Trump’s mid-April tweets calling for states to end their lockdowns and then wrote:

Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, Texas and elsewhere soon lifted stay-at-home orders and ended many restrictions on business operations. They also, following Trump’s lead, refused to require that people wear masks, and Texas and Arizona denied local governments the right to impose such requirements. They waved away warnings from health experts that premature and careless reopening could lead to a new wave of infections.

Krugman is hardly alone. “Amid escalating infections, Florida, once held up by President Trump as a model for how to manage the novel coronavirus, is faring poorly,” the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday.

“How Arizona ‘lost control of the epidemic,’” a Post headline read over an article that described the state as “an epicenter of the early summer coronavirus crisis.” 

Texas? “Here we are,” wrote Houston resident Mimi Swartz in the Times in late June, “with a jittery populace and the Texas Medical Center’s coronavirus website competing with TikTok. ICUs in Houston are at 97% capacity, with ‘unsustainable surge capacity’ predicted for hospital beds in late July.”

No question about it: Things have gone badly for the three states since early June. The number of new cases being recorded by each is staggering, and they threaten to overwhelm hospitals in Houston, Miami and Phoenix. Texas and Florida both have more than 200,000 recorded cases of Covid-19, twice what they had less than three weeks ago. Arizona, a much smaller state, passed the 100,000 mark on Monday.

There is also no getting around that the Republican governors—Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona—have made plenty of mistakes, which the media has pounced on. As Krugman noted, Abbott and Ducey not only refused to issue statewide mask mandates, they wouldn’t let local governments do so, either. They all began the reopening process ahead of their own state guidelines. A particularly egregious error, it’s clear now, was allowing bars to reopen, which attracted young people who wanted to party. The vast majority of new Covid-19 victims are in their 20s and 30s.

But I repeat: What about California?

Virtually everything you can say about Texas, Florida and Arizona can also be said about California, starting with the shape of its Covid curve, which climbs gradually until mid-June and then explodes. It took almost two months for California to record its first 100,000 positive cases; it took less than three weeks to record its most recent 100,000. As of July 7, California was second only to New York with 277,000 positive cases. Los Angeles is said to be close to running out of available hospital beds.

Another similarity is that the number of people who have died of Covid-19 in California is remarkably low—just more than 6,500 in a state of almost 40 million people. In Arizona, the number of deaths just crossed 2,000. In Florida, 4,009 deaths have been recorded, and in Texas, the number is 2,813. New Jersey has recorded more deaths than all four states combined.

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