On Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced at a press conference that all previously implemented COVID-19 restrictions for his state were to be removed.
That means all state-level social distancing requirements and capacity limits for businesses are no more. This means that all functions are back to normal within the state.
It’s a pretty bold move, considering Florida has currently recorded more than 100 deaths from COVID-19 per day. New York, on the other hand, remains under a tight lockdown despite having an average of five deaths due to COVID-19 per day.
During his announcement, he referred to a roundtable that he had hosted on Thursday. He had met with a group of highly respected doctors from the top institutions in America to gather information about the virus.
The group included Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of Medicine at Stanford University; Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a professor at Harvard University Medical School; and Dr. Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor of Structural Biology and a Nobel Laureate.
During the discussion, they talked about every major COVID-19 issue. DeSantis asked the professors whether they believed that the general lockdowns should be off the table. Each expert answered with a confident “yes.”
Kulldorff said that lockdowns slow the progression of the disease. According to him, “It will be much harder to protect the elderly because they can’t self-isolate forever.” On the other hand, Levitt stated that lockdowns are “a treatment that can often kill the patient.”
Bhattacharya did not hold back his opinion. “Another lockdown would be disastrous.” He noted that aside from basic education, many students also receive nutrition and counseling in their schools. He added that schools also often serve as a location where abuse can be seen.
He also talked about how the lockdowns scare people away from hospitals and prevent children from getting immunizations. He followed up with, “Lockdown costs are absolutely catastrophic.” More than the costs, Bhattacharya also noted how lockdowns are ineffective. He stated, “Argentina and Spain famously locked down very sharply, and yet they’re still seeing a sharp rise in cases.”
DeSantis further justified his decision to open Florida by citing the original goal for the lockdowns as a response to COVID-19: to flatten the curve to avoid hospitals from being full. When they were asked if they thought opening up Florida would be too much for the medical system, DeSantis recalled, “They all said no, no and no.”
At the news conference, DeSantis also announced that there would be no more lockdown-related fines and penalties for individuals. Also, local governments can no longer limit restaurant capacities to below 50 percent
Of course, opening Florida is a huge gamble. If it should fail, we stand to see a surge of new cases, hospitalizations, or deaths — which could all potentially end DeSantis’ political career.
On the other hand, if things go well in Florida, DeSantis could be seen as the man who led the country out of the COVID-19 panic, and as the man who took away the fear from the virus.
It was a bold move that he made, but he has proven himself knowledgeable about the coronavirus both on a scientific and policy level. Should this succeed, he, Florida, and the country all stand to gain great things.