Dr. Andy Slavitt, a White House COVID-19 adviser, had no direct answer to a question Wednesday from MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle about why California’s numbers “aren’t that different” from Florida.
“I want to start with what we just saw, contrast states like Florida and California, California basically in lockdown and their numbers aren’t that different from Florida,” Ruhle asked Slavitt during a Wednesday morning “MSNBC Live” interview.
“Look, there’s so much of this virus that we think we understand, that we think we can predict, that’s just beyond — a little beyond our explanation,” Slavitt responded. “What we do know is the more careful people are, the more they mask and social distance. And the quicker we vaccinate, the quicker it goes away and the less its spreads.”
After bringing up the need to get “better visibility into variants,” Slavitt called the virus “hard to predict.”
“And as we all have learned by this time, this is a virus that continues to surprise us,” he continued. “It’s very hard to predict. And all around the country, we’ve got to continue to do a better job, and I think we are, but we’re not done yet.”
California’s approach to COVID-19 has centered around lockdowns, indoor and outdoor mask mandates and school closures, while Florida has by-and-large remained open since an initial shutdown last spring. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis remains one of the nation’s few governors to avoid enacting a statewide mask mandate, and while several localities require masks, they aren’t allowed to fine citizens for non-compliance. (RELATED: ‘It Is A Big Concern For Educators’: California High School Principal On Student Mental Health Amid School Closures)
While California’s numbers trended below Florida’s for most of the pandemic, the fall surge hit the Golden State particularly hard. California has had 88,379 cases per million, around 2,500 cases more than Florida’s 85,886. Florida does lead California in deaths per million, at 1,213 to 1,365, but over 20 percent of Florida’s population is 65 years of age or older, the second-highest such percentage in the U.S.
Governor approval ratings have reflected the fortunes of the two states. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval rating has tanked to 46% as he faces a recall election, while DeSantis’ rating stood at 54% late last month.