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LETTER: A deep dive on COVID stats

I echo John Burke’s letter of Jan. 22 disagreeing with John Stossel’s Jan. 16 commentary critical of COVID shutdowns. Mr. Stossel and others, such as Bill Maher, question lockdowns and vindicate Gov. Ron DeSantis by quoting an accurate fact: Adjusted for population, Florida and New York had about the same number of deaths related to COVID. Mr. Burke provides contrasting insight that not only do lockdowns work, but if the United States followed Australia’s lead, 860,000 Americans might still be alive.

The problem with Mr. Stossel’s “truthiness” is that his fact does not support his conclusion. COVID has been an evolution. It was first detected in the United States in January 2020 as “novel COVID-19.” It quickly spread to high population density hot spots in the Northeast, including New York, a testimony to its contagiousness. Many people, mainly elderly, contracted it and died. This led to state-by-state lockdowns in spring 2020 and included social distancing, mask mandates, business closures and travel restrictions until vaccines were developed.

Finally, as vaccination levels grew and more was known, we gradually went back to near-normal.

Thanks to this early action, most states, including Florida, avoided that initial wave of cases. However, 42 percent of COVID-related deaths in New York occurred during that first wave prior to July 1, 2020. That number is 4 percent in Florida. We learned, reacted and acted. New York cut its death rate substantially since then. Florida’s death rate increased 1.7 times (48,000 Floridians) more than New York.

Maybe Gov. DeSantis relaxed restrictions irresponsibly? Mr. Stossel misinterprets a fact and trades 48,000 lives for 400,000 jobs. Would you?

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