Gavin Newsom: Florida has had 53% more deaths from COVID than my state has, you know

Is this guy running for president?

It’s curious to me that he had comparative stats for California and Florida on COVID and the economy at his fingertips this morning when he appeared on “The View.” There is a presidential vacuum looming for Democrats in 2024 right now. And it wouldn’t be crazy for the governor of the country’s biggest state, who just beat back a recall effort in a landslide, to think he might have an angle on his party’s nomination.

Maybe Newsom is calculating that jabbing at Ron DeSantis, Democrats’ second-least favorite Republican, over his handling of the pandemic is a way to earn some cheap brownie points ahead of the next national primary. Watch a minute or so here.

I’m not sure what he’s referring to when he says California did better than Florida and Texas economically. California has the highest unemployment rate among the three at 7.5 percent, with Florida down at 4.9 and Texas at 5.6. Maybe he’s measuring by the rate of improvement, as California began the year at 9.0 percent unemployment and shaved off a point and a half in the ensuing months, more than either FL or TX did. If he’s measuring by real GDP, California did see a higher rate of growth between Q4 in 2020 and Q2 in 2021 than Texas, 6.3 percent to 4.6 percent. But Florida topped them both at 7.0 percent.

He’s right about Florida’s COVID death rate being around 50 percent higher than California’s, though. They’re at 2,877 deaths per one million residents, good for 10th overall in the U.S., while California is 35th with 1,905 per million. Texas is in between at 2,579 per million, in 23rd place. A major complicating factor, however, is that Florida has a bigger percentage of senior citizens as a share of its population than California does, 20.9 percent versus 14.8 percent. There’s more dry tinder in DeSantis’s state for the virus to burn through.

The clip above wasn’t the only jab Newsom took at certain unnamed freedom-preaching Republican governors today. There was also this:

It’s not crazy for parents and public officials to be leery of vaccinating kids, who almost never have difficulty with COVID, while supporting vaccinations for other childhood diseases. But Newsom’s one thousand percent right that GOP politicians have done an atrocious job of explaining why this vaccine shouldn’t be mandated in schools while others should. And it’s had a predictable effect on Republican opinion about childhood vaccinations generally.

COVID comparisons between U.S. states are boring since no state has done freakishly, horribly bad relative to others. If you want to see a jurisdiction that’s done freakishly, horribly bad compared to the competition, let me direct your attention to our friends in Russia, which continues to be besieged by the virus. I’ve written about the horrendous death toll from COVID there before but this graph will help put in perspective just how bad it’s been lately:

According to the Moscow Times, Russia’s total excess death toll during the pandemic now exceeds 810,000, which is higher than the official number of COVID deaths in the U.S. — despite the fact that our population is more than twice the size of theirs. Before the pandemic, the last time Russia had more than 200,000 deaths in a month was 2008. This year, they’ve topped 200,000 every month for the past four months.

Why? One Russian journalist says hardcore anti-vaxxism is widespread:

The anti-vaccine movement uses lines first delivered by the authorities. In March 2020, a leading Russian physician, Leonid Roshal, claimed that the new coronavirus was no more dangerous than ordinary flu and even demanded prosecution for those who said otherwise. As the true scope of the pandemic became apparent and European capitals went into lockdowns, state media and officials downplayed or ignored reports of disastrous outbreaks in several regions, lauding Moscow’s “openness.”

Over the months that followed, state TV happily spread conspiracy theories about Western vaccines, casting doubt on the efficacy of vaccination. Russia Today, which fed its Western audiences a steady diet of conspiracies, even seems to have actively bolstered vaccine opponents at home. By the time the government and the media changed their tune, enforcing mandatory vaccination in the summer of 2021 and cracking down on anti-vaccine conspiracies, it was too late.

Just 41 percent of Russians are vaccinated despite the government having rolled out its vaccine nearly a year ago. The regime has gotten more heavy-handed lately about requiring vaccination to try to put out the fire but the popular pushback has been surprisingly energetic by Russian standards. One wonders if Putin’s recent designs on Ukraine are partly motivated by wanting to refocus public passions elsewhere, towards a nationalist cause and away from the COVID death toll and vaccine mandates.

Exit question: If Gavin Newsom is serious about running for president, does he really think running on a risk-averse precaution-heavy COVID platform contra DeSantis is the way to do it? That worked for him in California’s recall, admittedly. How did it work out for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, a state much closer in partisan terms to the national electorate?