If Illinois restaurant owner Jeff Buckler wanted to keep Lil Buford's Bar & Grill open during the COVIDI-19 pandemic, he would be more than welcome to open it here in Jacksonville, Florida.
Instead, Illinois’ strict lockdown dictates demand that he close in-door dining, an option that that would destroy his Champaign County, Illinois restaurant and throw his employees out of work. So, in defiance, he has vowed to keep the restaurant open until he receives a court order to shut it down.
So, c'mon down, Jeff. Here inner dining--with proper protections--is humming. Not only are restaurants are open in Jacksonville. Schools are too. Disney World is. The NFL Jacksonville Jaguars play before fans. The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra is live in front of an audience. Uncounted small businesses have not gone bankrupt.
Yet, Florida and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continue to be maligned from out-of-state know-it-alls for supposedly putting us poor Floridians in mortal danger. I've heard DiSantis called "criminal" and worse.
Therefore, I return to comparing the deaths rate in Florida and Illinois. And the results are the same when I began digging up the facts last spring in response to the tsk-tsking of Florida by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other scolds. That fact was that us-uns in Florida are better off than you-uns in Illinois.*
I'll start with the COVID-19 death rate--the most reliable and relevant of the flood of statistics that are drowning us.
The COVID-19 cumulative death rate in Florida is 99 per 100,000 population. In Illinois, it is 137 per 100,000 population. That’s about a third more deaths in Illinois per 100,00 than in Florida. In the past week or so, the average death rate per 100,000 in Florida was 0.4 percent. In Illinois, it is 1.1 percent. In absolute numbers, Florida has more deaths (21,308) than Illinois (17,470), but that’s because Florida’s population (21.7 million) is almost double Illinois’ (12.7 and shrinking).
Hospitalizations and more serious infections of course are grave matters, yet--unfortunately--comparable figures are unavailable for the two states. The least important statistic, but the one that gets the most attention, is the number of cases. The number from state to state is so squishy as to be useless. Yet, they continue to be the almost singular focus of the media.
While the comparisons between Florida and Illinois are interesting in themselves, they take on more importance in the continuing debate over the most effective method of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
To open or close the economy? Strict sheltering at home or more of the blessings of liberty. Governors and mayors who demand rigid restrictions on occupations, schools and travel should have another think coming if they would examine how shut states such as Illinois compare with more open ones like Florida's.
Florida does better than the given wisdom; it was supposed to do worse than restrictive states like Illinois--much worse if you listen to the most vocal critics. Obviously staying open is not in itself an explanation for the better health of Florida; it only addresses the claim that staying open is a death warrant.
But one thing for sure: Florida is the more livable state, one in which children are getting better education by attending schools, small business are on a more solid footing and, dare I say it, people are living healthier and happier lives.
Note: I didn't start this competition. It began last spring as a response Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot butted into Florida's business with heavy criticism. Here are my responses:
- Lightfoot, stay out of Florida's coronavirus business.
- Revisiting how Florida is doing in the pandemic in comparison to Illinois.A footnote: Florida becomes first state to vaccinate people 65 and older
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