Florida accounts for nearly a quarter of new U.S. COVID-19 deaths

August was Florida's deadliest month of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a new batch of delayed COVID-19 deaths reported Monday, Florida lost more than 6,600 people to the coronavirus in August, an average of 213 deaths a day. The newest seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths in Florida, 346, amounts to 23 percent of the 1,498 deaths recorded in the entire U.S. each day, according COVID-19 data compiled by The Washington Post.

"While Florida's vaccination rate is slightly higher than the national average, the Sunshine State has an outsize population of elderly people, who are especially vulnerable to the virus; a vibrant party scene; and a Republican governor who has taken a hard line against mask requirements, vaccine passports and business shutdowns," The Associated Press reports. Florida's seven-day average of 1.61 deaths per 100,000 residents is the highest in the U.S., where the seven-day average is 0.45 deaths per 100,000 people, the Post reports.

Heath Mayo, a conservative lawyer and writer, compared Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) pandemic management with that of another Republican governor of a populous state, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts. Baker "has put his head down and made tough calls to keep his state safe," Mayo tweeted. "He hasn't been on Fox News, he hasn't been fundraising in Texas, he hasn't been spouting off anti-Fauci quips. He's just been succeeding." He included two charts to highlight his point.

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Thankfully, Florida appears to be turning a corner, with new infections and hospitalizations dropping, trends that usually precede a drop in fatalities by a few weeks. Still, the Post notes, "recovery could prove fleeting: Holiday weekends such as Labor Day have acted as a tinderbox for earlier outbreaks, and late summer marks the return of students to college campuses." Grade schools reopened in August, with masks required only in districts that defied a DeSantis ban; two districts announced temporary closures last week because COVID-19 illnesses had sidelined so many teachers and staff.

"Every time in Florida, we are a warning for everyone else," Cindy A. Prins, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Florida, told the Post. If a state or local government ends mitigation measures, "I would have a very low threshold before deciding to put them back in. If you wait two or three weeks, it's too late."

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