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California proves tighter mask regulation DOESN’T HELP!

California led the country in imposing COVID-19 lockdowns last spring, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) kept broad restrictions in place longer than many other governors, lifted them more gradually, and repeatedly re-imposed them. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), by contrast, was widely criticized for belatedly ordering a less sweeping lockdown, lifting it too early, and allowing social, educational, and economic activity to continue with modest restrictions even as cases surged in the summer and winter. Yet California’s per capita COVID-19 death rate, according to Worldometer’s numbers, is just 7 percent lower than Florida’s, despite Florida’s substantially older population, which should have made the state more vulnerable to the disease.

That comparison presents a puzzle for people who believe broad government-imposed restrictions have played a crucial role in controlling the pandemic. A Los Angeles Times story published yesterday tries to solve the puzzle without abandoning the conviction that Newsom’s strict policies were both necessary and cost-effective. The result is a hodgepodge of straw-grasping arguments that reveal how impervious that conviction is to evidence.

Florida currently ranks 27th on Worldometer’s list of states with the highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths per capita, just a few notches above California. The top four states—New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts—all imposed strict controls similar to California’s, as did half of the top 10 states.

In 2019, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 21 percent of Floridians were 65 or older, compared to 15 percent of Californians. The median age is 42.2 in Florida, compared to 36.8 in California. Based on those differences, it was reasonable to expect a higher death toll than Florida actually has seen, since COVID-19 risk rises sharply with age.

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