California is now seeing about half as many new COVID-19 cases a day compared to Florida, a Financial Times analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
On Wednesday, California saw 5,750 new cases – or about 14 per 100,000 people in the population – and 1,084 deaths, with a test positivity rate of 3.45 percent.
In Florida, the test positivity rate was nearly twice that, at 6.76 percent, according to COVID Tracking Project data. The state saw 7,128 new cases – nearly 27 per capita – and 127 additional deaths.
Parallel trends between the two states last month left public health experts like Biden adviser Jeff Zients scratching their heads over how a state that implemented some of the strictest and longest lasting measures in the nation (California) could be faring no better than Florida, which never imposed mask mandate.
Experts say that lockdowns are probably not as useful now as at the beginning of the pandemic, but the new data suggests that California does have an edge over Florida.
New COVID-19 cases in California (blue) started declining more sharply than in Florida (green) in late-January. The West Coast state saw about 14 new infections per capita on Wednesday, compared to 27 per capita in Florida
On January 1, with the post-Thanksgiving Covid surge in cases still inundating the US and the second post-holiday wave just beginning to crash, California was seeing nearly twice as many cases as Florida.
As of the first day of 2021, California was seeing about 90 new coronavirus infections a day per capita, compared to Florida’s 49.
California’s stay-at-home orders had just been renewed ‘indefinitely’ on December 29, effectively locking down millions of people in Southern California.
Meanwhile, Florida was more or less doing business as usual. In fact, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis extended an executive order that blocked local governments in his state from implementing any restrictions that might put residents out of work or close down businesses
According to a Wallethub analysis, Florida has the sixth most lax COVID-19 restrictions in the nation. By its metrics Oklahoma, South Dakota, Iowa and Arkansas have fewer restrictions of things like dining and mask-wearing.
Yet it was faring better than California – for a moment.
New cases in both California and Florida continue to decline, as they have since early January, but the decrease in the West Coast state is far outpacing the Sunshine State’s.
Since February 10, per capita new cases in California have fallen by half, from 29 per 100,000 people to 14, as of Wednesday.
Florida has been slower to curb COVID-19.
Yesterday the state recorded 27 new cases per capita, down from 35 on February 10.
That’s still a considerable drop – of 23 percent – but is certainly not as precipitous.
The switch came at the very end of last month. Per capita cases had been consistently lower and falling in Florida, but California’s were in a veritable free-fall (although the decline has smoothed out a bit there too).
Suddenly daily case rates in California fell below those in Florida, and the gap is widening.
On January 25, Governor Newsom lifted the stay-at-home orders that had been in place for Southern California.
For now, the decline in cases is still steep there, and sustained. Cases continue to fall in Florida as well.
But both states face a potential reversal.
Florida has more cases of the the UK’s B117 ‘super-covid’ variant than any other state in the nation, with 489.
California has fewer than half that many, but has the second greatest number of B117 cases in the US, with 204.
Renowned Fred Hutchinson researcher Dr Trevor Bedford said last week that the two states would be the ones to watch as predictors of how variants might affect the trajectory of the pandemic in the US more broadly.
And California has a new problem: A homegrown variant that experts say will account for 90 percent of cases in the state next month, and which a small set of data suggest could be more deadly.