If you found yourself in Florida at any point in the last 12 months and change, you might have felt like you stepped into a portal to an alternative universe. Last spring, when other parts of the country were already in full-fledged lockdowns, the Sunshine State resisted such measures, not issuing stay-at-home orders until weeks after the World Health Organization had officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. At no point did Florida impose a statewide mask mandate, and in September, Governor Ron DeSantis banned local officials from enforcing their own orders. The state reopened well before most of the nation and, earlier this month, DeSantis “rolled out the red carpet for visitors,” in particular the millions of spring breakers who descended on the area.
All of that might lead one to believe that things are just peachy down South, and that somehow Florida had avoided the virus entirely. Of course, that’s not actually the case at all. After California and Texas, Florida has had the most coronavirus cases since the pandemic began last year, and earlier this month crossed the 2 million mark. In the last week, the number of variant cases doubled to 2,330, while the overall number of new cases has been rising steadily and averaged nearly 5,000 per day. As of March 29, 2021, more than 33,000 people have died in the state. And, according to a new report from Yahoo News, the number may actually be closer to 40,000.
“I am sure that COVID-19 is responsible for most of these excess deaths,” Moosa Tatar, a public health economist at the University of Utah who led the research examining Florida’s excess deaths, told reporter Alexander Nazaryan. (Not everyone agrees: Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, told Yahoo News that it would be incorrect to assume that all excess deaths during the period in question can be attributed to COVID-19. “You could’ve never gotten the coronavirus, delayed needed health care, and died from diabetes-related complications. That’s still indirectly tied to the pandemic,” Salemi said.)
Coincidentally, last year, Florida agents raided the home of former state data scientist Rebekah Jones, who helped to create the state’s COVID-19 dashboard before she was fired. According to Jones, who filed a whistleblower complaint against the Department of Health several months prior, she had refused to comply with requests to manipulate data to bolster the claim that Florida had a handle on the pandemic. Law enforcement entered her home with guns drawn and, Jones said at the time, pointed them at her and her children.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office claimed that Jones was fired for “exhibit[ing] a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department.” A search warrant to enter her home was authorized on the basis of a complaint by the Department of Health that a person had “hacked” into their emergency alert system to urge people to speak out about Florida’s coronavirus strategies, though in reality staffers at the Florida Department of Health all used the same username and password to log into the system, information that was available on the department’s public website. (Jones, who launched her own online dashboard of Florida coronavirus data after being fired, told CNN she hadn’t improperly accessed any state messaging system.) “They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country,” she said after the raid. “They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach. This was DeSantis. He sent the gestapo.”
Of course, DeSantis isn’t the only one who may have done some significant undercounting when it comes to coronavirus deaths. New York governor Andrew Cuomo‘s office is currently being investigated by the FBI for undercounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths, a situation he reportedly threatened to ruin a local lawmaker’s life for highlighting. So it’s a bipartisan issue!
Matt Gaetz is under investigation for an alleged sexual relationship with a 17 year-old, says Matt Gaetz
The congressman swore to Axios that the allegations against him are false, while also saying he’s not totally sure what the allegations are:
“The allegations of sexual misconduct against me are false,” Gaetz told Axios. “They are rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million…in exchange for making this case go away.”
This Capitol rioter wanted to make it extremely clear he’d participated in the attack on the Capitol
Garrett Miller didn‘t want there to be any ambiguity re: what he was up to on January 6:
Miller’s lawyer is currently trying to get his client released from custody, claiming he has expressed regret for his actions and “did not engage in any acts of violence in connection with the charged offenses, unlike many others who have previously been released.” On a recorded call shortly after his arrest, prosectors say Miller told his mother, “I don’t feel that I’ve done anything wrong and now I’m being locked up.”
Major Biden embroiled in another scandal
Psaki said Major was “surprised by an unfamiliar person.”
Following the first incident, Major and his brother, Champ Biden, were almost immediately sent home to Delaware, though Psaki insisted that trip was pre-planned. In an interview with ABC earlier this month, the president told George Stephanopoulos that Major has been the victim of a character assassination, and that he’s a “sweet dog” who “eighty-five percent of the people” at the White House love.
Biden’s infrastructure and climate plan emerges as congressional wrangling begins (Washington Post)
U.S. Covid Deaths Expected to Rise Soon With New Wave Emerging (Bloomberg)
Georgia sued for third time over voting restrictions as Delta, Coke face boycott calls (Reuters)
‘Begging for his life’: Teen who took viral Floyd video cries at ex-officer’s trial (Reuters)
JPMorgan Says Banks’ Archegos Hit May Be Up to $10 Billion (Bloomberg)
WHO chief, U.S. and other world leaders criticize China for limiting access of team researching coronavirus origins (Washington Post)
Florida man breaks Guinness World Record by seeing ‘Avengers’ 191 times (NYP)
California Girl Scout sells record 32,484 boxes of cookies in one season (UPI)
— Wyoming Tells Donald Trump Jr. to Sit Down and STFU
— A Wave of Displaced New Yorkers Is Upending the Hamptons Social Order
— How a Group of Rich Memphians Acted on Trump’s Big Lie During Capitol Attack
— Prosecutors Are Lining Up Witnesses in Trump Investigations
— Republicans Brave Plan to Stop Mass Shootings: Do Nothing
— Next-Level Harassment of Female Journalists Puts News Outlets to the Test
— Six Photographers Share Images From Their COVID Year
— From the Archive: American Nightmare, the Ballad of Richard Jewell
— Serena Williams, Michael B. Jordan, Gal Gadot, and more are coming to your favorite screen April 13–15. Get your tickets to Vanity Fair’s Cocktail Hour, Live! here.