On Feb 13, 2021, The Daly Beast ran with a story with the headline “Florida Is a COVID Nightmare—Even for Vaccinated People.” Wow! Things must be awful in Florida, right? And even the vaccine is not working!!! Run! Panic! Hide! But first click the link so you can see the advertising on the website, allowing them to cash in on your fear. Heck, you might even share it since you are so concerned. Cha-Ching!
After the article was published, it was picked up by many other outlets and spread like wildfire. Forums, Facebook, Twitter all lit up with links to this article. So much so, that just a couple of weeks after it first being published, a search for the headline in quotes on Google comes up with 198,000 results. Cha-Ching, again and again. It has been picked up across the world, and people often post comments citing out it confirmed how bad things are in Florida, how Governor Ron “DeathSantis” needs to be dealt with, and how we need a travel ban for Florida.
Yet there is not one single piece fact-checking this article. Not even a little.
That is odd. Aren’t the censors and fact-checkers out there making sure we only get the truth? Of course, so this might be true! Not so fast. Let’s do a little fact-checking. To start off, the article is written by a journalist named Francisco Alvarado. His bio cites that he is a freelance journalist based in Miami with more than 20 years experience reporting and writing true crime yarns and public corruption exposés. His articles have been picked up regularly by The Daily Beast, most of which are hit pieces on Florida throughout the pandemic, and most of which are based entirely on assumptions, on fears, and have proven false. Naturally, Super Bowl in Florida was a dream come true for someone with this kind of agenda, but what was found?
I will re-post each assertion made in the article. The article is quoted verbatim with my commentary after each assertion, so there is absolutely nothing that can be taken out of context. What a novel idea, right?
In a state defined by pandemic recklessness, getting a shot is no silver bullet.
OK, here we go. Defined by facts or political narrative? Let’s see.
By the end of next week, Nancy Krinick expects to get her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But the 67-year-old legal secretary from Sunrise, Florida, plans on keeping her daily routine of avoiding virtually all human contact even after she’s fully inoculated. The same goes for her sister and her brother-in-law, both of whom are over 65 and got their first shots together with her at Marlins Park in Miami, Krinick told The Daily Beast.
OK, Nancy, her sister, and brother-in law are afraid. Surely we will find out that there is substance to this fear as the article goes on.
“With these new variants, we are still worried,” she said, adding, “It seems like this is never-ending.”
Nancy is still making decisions purely out of fear. She has heard there are new variants, and her fear has increased. Yeah, I get it. But do a little research and you will find that there are so many mutations that they are impossible to count, Some have been more concerning, but before the article was written, it was known that the existing vaccines are all effective against all known strains. I don’t expect Nancy to know this, but I think the author of this article should maybe have at least a little journalistic integrity. Oooopps, right.. that won’t get as many clicks and shares!
She will continue to get her groceries delivered to her home via Instacart, avoid dining out, and put off visiting her daughter in Knoxsville, Tennessee, until a majority of the U.S. population has been immunized, Krinick said.
This is where I need to decide if caring for people is more important than getting that headline, right? Nancy, spend precious time with your daughter.
As extra-contagious mutations of the coronavirus gather strength like a hurricane churning off the Atlantic coast, Floridians like Krinick see no sign of respite. While they have yet to issue formal guidance on congregating by vaccinated people, state and national health experts have assured the general public that the vaccines are effective—even, if perhaps less so, against the variants surging nationwide.
Like a hurricane churning off the Atlantic coast? At least the author couched in the little fact that the vaccines are effective. Are they less effective against some of the newer variants? Sure, but let’s not forget that they also severely reduce symptoms in those that are not fully protected, and the efficacy rate is nearly double that of an annual flu vaccine, even in the worst of reports. It is still 23% more effective than what an “effective” vaccine would have counted for. Can someone please tell Nancy?
But in a state with a long history of pandemic recklessness and where mask mandates are nonexistent, vaccinated Floridians don’t want to risk getting infected by going out in public.
The news media has had a field day with this since the very beginning, and if you are not on the ground in Florida, you rally have no sense of reality. Florida was first ravaged by the media in 2020 when people were partying on the beach during Spring Break. Nobody wrote headline stories weeks later that would have shown that there were no spikes in covid-spread after that. There was the initial outbreak in the Miami area, but the rest of the state was largely unaffected, and hospitals were nearly empty of Covid cases. It wasn’t until July that Florida started to see a wave of its own. But just like many of the southern states, it came and went. Florida caught all the negative press during this period because it was the most “open” state. But if you look back at the statistics during the July wave, Florida fared significantly better than other states experiencing their wave at the same time.
The second big wave hit much of the country in December, and this included Florida. But unlike many other states, Florida remained wide open, bringing even more “reckless Florida” news coverage. But as cases, hospitalizations and deaths soared in other states that were locked down, the per capita rates were significantly lower in reckless Florida. How can that be? The numbers prove this in every way, but this sure doesn’t sell many headlines, so it is widely ignored by the media and unknown by the general population, including poor Nancy and her friends who likely do not do the deep dives of research people like I do.
Here, getting a shot offers little more than a modicum of relief.
This is, once again, Nancy’s opinion. It is entirely based on fear, and has no basis in actual data. Aren’t we supposed to follow the science?
Thanks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ongoing approach of forcing his state to be wide-open for business and pleasure, surges in community spread seem virtually inevitable. Last weekend, despite warnings from state epidemiologists, a host of potential superspreader events took Tampa by storm, punctuated by legions of Buccaneers fans, a majority of them maskless, celebrating the home town’s victory when the Super Bowl wrapped up.
First, let’s be clear on one thing. Love him or hate him, Gov. DeSantis has not forced his state to be wide open for business and pleasure. He has declined to issue state-wide mandates, allowing cities and businesses to make decisions based on their experiences. In my case, I live in Hillsborough County, which is where Tampa is. We do have county-wide mask and social distancing mandates. More importantly, businesses technically have a legal option to ignore these mandates. Guess what, they don’t. Every single place of business I walk into has a sign requiring people to mask up.
The inevitable surges in community spread have so far eluded us. We have been wide open since June, and even at the height of the pandemic, we were allowed to go out, enjoy outdoor dining, and shop in most larger stores. We had the wave in July, which came and went quickly, then a smaller one in December.
But wow! Did you see that news footage of all of those irresponsible maskless deviants during the Superbowl in Tampa? I’m not gonna lie. It truly felt like normal life. It got pretty crazy. I live right where all the action was, and that party went all night long. Masks were most certainly abandoned in the mass celebration. I will also admit that I anticipated a spike, just as all of our local hospitals did. But it is now 3 weeks later as I write this. Three weeks. That is a week beyond the 14 day possible incubation period we have all had etched into our heads. I am sorry to tell the world that Florida is experiencing about the same case rate as it did on the week of the mass party. We have seen no spike. Even looking in Tampa alone, no spike.
But it gets worse! Our new cases per week have gone down overall each week since, as has our case positivity rate, our ER visits with covid-like symptoms, and our ER visits with influenza-like symptoms. Covid hospitalizations in Florida have gone down 27% since Superbowl Sunday as part of a continual decrease of roughly 80% fewer hospitalizations since Jan 15th. Florida ranks #28 in case rate in the country, meaning 27 other states have more cases per 100,000 people than Florida. Florida ranks #25 in Covid deaths per capita in the country, and #2 in major states vaccine distribution rollout. Yes, only one state has administered more vaccines, despite the constant media coverage of Florida’s “vaccination rollout nightmare.”
And please let’s not forget that Florida has one of the oldest and most vulnerable populations in the country, just barely getting beat out by Maine, which has a population 20 times less than Florida.
“Everytime I see superspreader events like that, yes it does scare me,” said Mark Zeitlin, a 70-year-old from Boynton Beach, Florida, who’s gotten both his shots. “It’s not only Tampa. It’s happening everywhere.”
Yes Mark, I understand your fears. I really do. I am so happy you got both shots. But please consider that your quote is fear-based. Look at the data. Not a single one of the “superspreader” events in Florida has turned out to be an actual superspreader event. It is just that your favorite news source has failed to note that their predictions didn;t come true, so you assume it actually happened.
Glenn Charnizon, a 66-year-old from Delray Beach, Florida, who also got both doses, said he and his wife won’t be dining out, traveling, or going to the grocery store for a “long, long time.”
“Just because we got vaccinated doesn’t mean we can’t get COVID,” Charinzon said. “We’re not taking any chances until 70 to 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.”
Glenn, I understand your fears as well. And I understand that it doesn’t mean you can’t get Covid. It also doesn’t mean you can. Please do keep in mind that once 70% to 80% of the population is vaccinated, you will need to worry about other viruses as well, not to mention the many unknowns that we face when we dine out, travel, or go to the grocery store.
Meanwhile, the Biden White House is reportedly considering new restrictions on domestic travel with huge implications in Florida, which accounts for more than a third of all documented U.S. cases of the B-117 variant, also known as the highly contagious U.K. variant. Researchers are also monitoring for any Florida outbreaks of other variants from Brazil and South Africa that have been found elsewhere in the United States, but not—officially—in the Sunshine State.
And while Florida has 1/3 of the new B-117 variant cases which is said to be more contagious, I would love to see someone write a story that uses this fact to give hope over fear. Because it can also be reported that while Florida shows such a large overall percentage of this new variant, the cases, hospitalizations and deaths have also been plummeting. Isn’t it wonderful news to know that the place that is showing this scary new variant is wide open with no closures and no lockdown, and has also been seeing a decrease in spread for roughly a month and a half? Is it even remotely possible that we might learn something of value out of this information?
DeSantis’ response has been to chastise reporters for allegedly downplaying the coronavirus dangers of social justice protests and celebrations of Biden’s electoral victory over Donald Trump, striking a defiant tone regarding any travel restrictions. At a Thursday press conference, DeSantis said, “We will oppose it 100 percent. It would not be based in science. It would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida.” A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not respond to email requests for comment.
Again, love him or hate him. Put yourself in his shoes. Your state is doing great with Covid, your economy is not getting battered, and you are doing something different than the other states that have implemented more authoritarian measures. Would you not be honored and proud, or would you say that despite the fact that states with more authoritarian measures are experiencing significantly worse results than us, we should do what they are doing? That would be nonsense. It would most absolutely not be following the science, because the scientific method requires us to challenge scientific assumptions and then measure them. Instead, he gets battered by reporters based on fears that simply are not presenting. A travel ban is threatened without looking at the fact that the actual data clearly shows this is one of the places a person is least likely to get sick. If these were coming from the political party that opposes your party, how would you not knock it as a political attack?
Seniors who spoke to The Daily Beast said DeSantis has been deliberately obtuse in what passes here for containing the pandemic. “The governor of this state is out of control,” said Charnizon. Krinick, the legal secretary, added: “DeSantis? Not a fan. I don’t think he’s doing anything.”
OK, Glenn clearly does not like the Governor. In this political climate, it seems that we have a Democrat that doesn’t like a Republican. I don’t doubt the opinion would be the opposite if the Governor were from his party. Still, both of the above assertions are just opinions. Glenn thinks he is out of control, but cannot point to any actual effect other than his personal fears. Nancy simply adds that she is not a fan, and doesn’t think he is doing anything. So we have assumptions without any basis to back them up, and the Big Tech censors and disinformation monitors don’t see a little problem here?
To be sure, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently said getting both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to stay ahead of the new mutant variants. And Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, a Florida International University infectious disease professor, told The Daily Beast that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective in preventing people from getting sick—including when it came to the U.K. variant.
Wait! Did you help assuage the fears Nancy, Mark and Glenn voiced with this little tidbit of information since they have all been fully vaccinated?
Still, given the basic limitations of any vaccine, and the proliferation of variant cases in a state that has stood out for pandemic absurdity, Floridians can’t let up any time soon.
Oh, I guess not. Despite all of the actual facts, we cannot let up anytime soon, even if we are vaccinated.
“It is possible people who have gotten their second dose can still catch the virus,” Trepka said. “They can be asymptomatic and become infectious. But we are very concerned about more variants popping up because we may get one that vaccines don’t work on.”
By all means, there might be one that vaccines don’t work on at some point in the future. There might be an entirely new virus, we might have an Ebola outbreak. Throughout history, we have actually had risk in life. Have we gotten to a point that we are all going to shut ourselves in for fear of the unknown? Because there is a medical term for that called Xenophobia. Yes, many of us think that term means you don’t like immigrants, but it is actually a medical condition that relates to fear things unknown. There are many psychologists that can help with this, and I would strongly advise consulting one. Xenophobia easily leads to catastrophizing, which can bring on anxiety disorders, extreme fatigue and depressive disorders. In fact, this may easily be a sign of chronic depression. Personally, I find it abhorrent that a journalist would take advantage of this kind of situation for a headline.
Due to the high degree of community spread in Florida, vaccines alone will not end the pandemic, she argued—even if the shots have amounted to DeSantis’ sole strategy of late.
On the topic of journalistic integrity, how do we define “high degree of spread?” Is it possible that just maybe a place with one of the lowest degrees of spread is still considered a place with a high degree of spread? Just asking.
“Even if you are one of those who have gotten full doses, you are still around a lot of people who have not been vaccinated,” she said. “We need people wearing masks, doing physical distance, and avoiding large crowds. Many people are following it religiously and many are not.”
Now, if I found a different infectious disease professor from another prominent university that countered that suggestion, which would be citing junk science? Because the reality is that there is an expert out there for every point of view, including one from Johns Hopkins that cites the U.S. is approaching Herd Immunity by this April. Where is the truth? We really don’t know. Which expert is the expert we should listen to? Again, don’t know. But we do know this. Between known infections and completed two-dose vaccinations, we are at minimum about 24% toward herd immunity. While that is not near the target of 70%, keep in mind that your chances of catching it from a random person in your space is now at a minimum 24% lower.
Then consider the fact that we absolutely know there are millions of people that have had it, but were asymptomatic. That number, while unknown, puts us that much closer to herd immunity. Sorry, I am an optimist.
We are currently administering roughly 1.5 million doses of the vaccine per day, meaning that just a month from now, another ~25 million people will be vaccinated in the U.S. That would put us up to at least 32% herd immunity over the next four weeks, and that assumes nobody else gets Covid in that time. Now you are, at minimum, 1/3 less likely to catch Covid from a bystander.
All of this is with the two existing vaccines that are difficult to distribute due to the temperature requirements. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is already being reviewed by the FDA for an Emergency Use Authorization that will likely come in days, and Novavax is not far behind. These do not require sub-zero temperatures and are significantly easier to distribute in mass quantity. This will bring our daily vaccination numbers significantly higher, allowing significantly more sites to administer the vaccine. With hat in mind, the math simply gets us pretty close to herd immunity at some point in April.
Finally, if you think you are unsafe until we reach herd immunity, consider that herd immunity means the virus is starved of hosts. It is nearly impossible to catch it at that point. When you get closer to herd immunity, it is not impossible, but it is very hard to catch it. Before we reach herd immunity, Covid is likely to be far less likely to kill you than a drive around the block. This is not epidemiology. It is math. You don’t need to be an expert to calculate this. You just need the data and a calculator.
The fear and anger at the dangers posed even after vaccination are not confined to the senior citizens DeSantis has prioritized above virtually all others. In the labor and delivery department of North Miami’s Northshore Medical Center, health-care workers who have been fully inoculated are still on guard, said one nurse who asked for anonymity because she did not have authorization from the hospital to speak to the media.
OK, so the journalist went the extra mile and found a single anonymous nurse that said she is still on guard. This is to imply fear and anger toward DeSantis by virtually all others. Sigh.
“Because of the new variants and people not being safe, I am still wearing a mask when I go out and I am still not going to family functions because I know I can’t trust some family members who are out in the streets and not taking proper precautions,” she said.
I know I am beating a dead horse, but once again. This is opinion cited by fear, not data or science.
The terrifying reality that Florida is a living petri dish for coronavirus mutations means seniors like Carla Golembe will just keep isolating themselves even though she’s gotten both her shots.
Now Florida is a Living Petri dish? Remember, this was published while the numbers had been plummeting for weeks. This is not a reaction to a new surge. It is fear, written to incite more fear (and clicks).
“The variants are scary,” the 67-year-old artist from Delray Beach, Florida, told The Daily Beast. “We don’t know much about them. Just when we think we are beginning to understand this virus, now there are more curveballs.”
Carla, I am sure you are a wonderful artist, and I don’t expect you to know much about this stuff. But I do expect the people providing information to you to be a little more honest.
In two weeks, once her body has built up full immunity, the only major outing she has planned is a trip to her dentist, she said.
“Maybe on a quiet afternoon, I will go into a grocery store, double-masked,” she said. “I hope my husband, who also got both his shots, and I can get together with other friends who have been fully vaccinated. We want to hang out again, but at a distance and outdoors, of course.”
OK, here we are. A group of people who will have been fully vaccinated hope to get together with other friends who have also been fully vaccinated, to hang out. And still, it will be fully masked, outdoors, and distanced. Please, please, please… think that one through. If this is the bar our society will set, under what conditions will we ever get together anywhere without masks and distancing? I am at a loss for words as I read this. If people feel this much fear, Covid has killed people, but it irresponsible journalism has killed the souls people like this.
Please don’t believe everything you read out there. Research this stuff for yourself. It honestly doesn’t take much time.