NY, Florida trade hot spots, in­sults

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Nation & World - By J. David Good­man and Pa­tri­cia Mazzei The New York Times

Ta­bles have turned in states’ out­look dur­ing pan­demic

In late April, as new coro­n­avirus cases in Florida were steadily de­creas­ing, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis be­gan crow­ing how his state had tamed the pan­demic.

He cred­ited his de­ci­sion to im­pose a state-spe­cific quar­an­tine on New York, then the epi­cen­ter of the na­tion’s out­break. The move earned him praise in the White House and the ire of Gov. An­drew Cuomo of New York.

Months later, Cuomo has clearly not for­got­ten.

“You played pol­i­tics with this virus and you lost,” Cuomo said Thurs­day when asked in an in­ter­view about DeSan­tis’ ear­lier boasts.

With in­fec­tions now rapidly spread­ing in Florida while they re­treat in New York, the two states have come to re­flect the rapidly shift­ing course of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

New York still has the coun­try’s high­est num­ber of coro­n­avirus cases and deaths, but the day-to-day num­bers have been steadily fall­ing: At its peak, the virus claimed 1,000 deaths a day in the state; on Thurs­day, the state recorded 17 deaths. Florida, among the states not man­dat­ing masks, rushed to re­open and on Fri­day re­ported its high­est num­ber of new cases in one day, with close to 9,000.

And in their di­ver­gent po­lit­i­cal re­sponses to the out­break, Cuomo, a Demo­crat, and DeSan­tis, a Repub­li­can, also mir­ror the di­vide over the virus among states and re­gions around the coun­try.

The two brash, tele­genic gov­er­nors both em­braced the in­creased vis­i­bil­ity that the virus pro­vided. Cuomo de­liv­ered daily sober up­dates on the virus, the state’s ag­gres­sive lock­down strat­egy and its cau­tious ap­proach to re­open­ing. DeSan­tis ea­gerly ad­vanced a nar­ra­tive pushed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, see­ing the eco­nomic dam­age as a greater risk than a virus that had, for months, largely spared his state.

The strain of the pan­demic has frayed the ties be­tween New York and Florida, two states that nor­mally en­joy a more sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship, even al­low­ing for the oc­ca­sional hints of schaden­freude.

On Wed­nes­day, Cuomo or­dered his own quar­an­tine on trav­el­ers from states with high-in­fec­tion rates — a group of eight that in­cluded Florida — to pro­tect New York­ers who now have low in­fec­tion rates. The re­ver­sal of for­tune was too much to pass up.

“Your hos­pi­tal beds are fill­ing up,” Cuomo said Thurs­day. “It means more peo­ple are get­ting sick. That’s what’s hap­pen­ing. And it’s now un­de­ni­able.”

DeSan­tis ac­knowl­edged that the trend in in­fec­tions had shifted. “Our peak be­fore was much lower than a lot of the other states — in the North­east, for ex­am­ple,” he said on Thurs­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Tampa. “Re­ally, the whole Sun Belt is see­ing this.”

DeSan­tis said the state was pre­pared for the rise in cases. He did not address Cuomo’s re­marks or the quar­an­tine of Florid­i­ans trav­el­ing to New York. A spokes­woman for DeSan­tis, He­len Aguirre Ferré, said Cuomo was “sadly mis­taken if he thinks this pan­demic is a po­lit­i­cal con­test.”

Even be­fore the pan­demic, New York and Florida en­gaged in some in­ter­state ri­valry, com­pet­ing for res­i­dents and busi­nesses. Florida has over­taken New York in pop­u­la­tion in re­cent years, a trend driven in part by the mi­gra­tion to the state of New York­ers, cen­sus fig­ures show.

But in their re­sponses to the coro­n­avirus, the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two states have never been clearer.

Cuomo in April man­dated all New York­ers to wear masks when they could not stay 6 feet apart. DeSan­tis has de­clined to do the same, even after his own state sur­geon gen­eral is­sued an ad­vi­sory rec­om­mend­ing masks in any set­ting where so­cial dis­tanc­ing is not pos­si­ble.

New York lead­ers, after a halt­ing early re­sponse to the pan­demic in March, mostly fol­lowed the rec­om­men­da­tions of state pub­lic health of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing re­quire­ments for wide­spread test­ing and con­tact trac­ing be­fore re­open­ing. Florida has moved to open its busi­nesses faster, and without the same in­fra­struc­ture for track­ing down the close con­tacts of the in­fected.

DeSan­tis re­ceived praise for the state’s more lim­ited re­sponse to the pan­demic, in­clud­ing from Trump, who urged the quar­an­tine of New York­ers go­ing to Florida. DeSan­tis be­lieved harsh re­stric­tions would re­sult in cit­i­zens re­fus­ing to fol­low the rules.

He has also at­tacked the news me­dia, which he said has been overly con­cerned about con­ta­gion in Florida’s re­opened beaches and not wor­ried enough about virus spread in the New York sub­way.

In early May, Florida be­gan re­open­ing busi­ness, and quickly: The state’s first phase of re­open­ing in­cluded restau­rants, gyms, bar­ber­shops and large spec­ta­tor sport­ing events, with re­stricted oc­cu­pancy. In New York, re­open­ing be­gan more halt­ingly, with man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion busi­nesses.

And when the White House called, DeSan­tis trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton to high­light the state’s progress next to Trump.

“When you look at some of the most dra­co­nian or­ders that have been is­sued in some of these states and com­pare Florida,” DeSan­tis said from the Oval Of­fice in late April, in­clud­ing New York in a litany of sev­eral states, “Florida has done bet­ter.”

While Cuomo did not ex­plic­itly tar­get his quar­an­tine or­der to ap­ply to Florida, he sig­naled in the days be­fore mak­ing the an­nounce­ment that the state’s re­cent treat­ment of New York­ers was very much on his mind.

“Well, wouldn’t that be karma?” Cuomo said when asked about a quar­an­tine in New York on MSNBC.

Florida’s quar­an­tine af­fect­ing New York­ers is still in ef­fect: New York­ers ar­riv­ing at Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port were still be­ing met by the Na­tional Guard and state health of­fi­cials, told to head straight for their lodg­ings and or­dered to quar­an­tine there for two weeks.

WIL­FREDO LEE/AP

Peo­ple wait at a mask dis­tri­bu­tion site in Mi­ami on Fri­day, when Florida re­ported its high­est num­ber of new coro­n­avirus cases in one day.

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