Published On: Tue, Jul 28th, 2020

Florida’s poor Coronavirus response threatens our state’s long-term economic health

By: Kartik Krishnaiyer

Denial of the scope and impact of Coronavirus has infected our political leadership in Florida, which has in turn led to a series of short-sighted decisions that could cost the state enormously in terms of economics. 

Florida’s lack of economic diversity means our state is excessively reliant on travel and tourism – particularly during the busy Fall and Winter travel seasons. We can discuss the merits of this economic approach in the future, but for now it’s a reality and needs to guide the way we think about our state. 

In mid-March, when much of the nation was shutting down, Florida remained partially open outside of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. This determination apparently had to do with the importance of Spring Break to Florida’s economy. When the Spring Breakers left, Governor DeSantis declared the party over and responsibly shut down the state. 

Once shut down, Florida “flattened the curve” and began formulating data-driven reopening plans. At first, DeSantis seemed to understand the key for Florida’s recovery was to restore confidence among the general product and potential visitors to the state. While Georgia, our neighbors to the north with more per capita cases and deaths than we had, quickly reopened in late April, DeSantis was rightly cautious.  

But then suddenly long-term economic planning and public health protection took a back seat. In mid-May, Governor DeSantis pushed expedited reopening as an economic fix. In doing this, the Governor quite possibly buckled to pressure from activists and donors, while ignoring the larger economic reality of Florida’s predicament. 

Amusement Parks made plans to reopen, and airlines announced a restoration of many previously suspended flights to Florida, to begin in July and August. State and local officials had wooed WWE, MLS, WNBA and the NBA to bring live sports to Florida and sought to have the doors to the state wide open by July 4, after having a limited reopenings in time for Memorial Day. 

 Florida outside the three metropolitan counties of South Florida went from Phase 1 to Phase 2 in 17 days, allowing bars, restaurants and shopping malls to reopen. Many Floridians lacked the discipline to observe social-distancing or mask-wearing. By the first week of June, cases were rising again rapidly and by June’s second week, Florida’s 7-day average for new cases was higher than at any point during the previous peak in April. By late June, Florida’s new Coronavirus cases were as high per capita as any place on the planet outside Brazil.  

As July has progressed, deaths have piled up in the state and new cases continue to rise. Meanwhile several airlines have withdrawn rescheduled service to Florida from their reservation systems for August and September. Those who make plans to spend tourist dollars in the winter now, are likely avoiding making commitments to visit Florida. 

Florida’s economy is far more dependent on travel, tourism, sporting and business events in the fall and winter months than they are in the summer months. By rushing reopening and allowing numbers of coronavirus patients to spike uncontrollably during June and July, our peak economic season is now in serious jeopardy. 

The general idea that early reopenings would salvage the economy was in hindsight complete madness. Alexander Hamilton, the father of the American economy made it very clear that in his view psychological factors play a major role in economic growth. But we didn’t actually need Hamilton to tell us this, it’s common sense.

Those pushing a message in April to Reopen Florida, wrongly assumed economic activity would quickly return to pre-Pandemic levels if the state fully opened up. Governor DeSantis wisely at first used data to inform his choices and started with a limited reopening. But once he abandoned that data-driven slow-go approach, he not only allowed the virus to spread once again but with such a large percentage of the population not confident about resuming previously normal activity, the economy had no chance to recover. Instead, by jumping the gun, Florida sits in a precarious position of hoping somehow the virus recedes in the next few weeks. 

It all could have been so different – we could have systematically reopened, taken our time to limit the viruses spread and been ready for the fall. Now, we’re in a position of simply wishing and hoping Coronavirus will go away. 

Kartik Krishnaiyer is a Senior Writer for World Soccer Talk and Editor-in-Chief of The Florida Squeeze. He is also the former NASL Communications Director serving in that role from the league’s inception in January 2010 to May 2013. Prior to that he worked with Miami FC of the USL. He has also worked extensively as a political and government relations consultant.  Based in Florida, he has served as a broadcaster for several local teams and has also previously served as the Media Relations Director for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Kartik is the author of two books about the beautiful game, Soccerwarz which discusses the conflicts between leagues in the United States and Blue with Envy which is about Manchester City FC. He is currently writing a book on Colonial Florida. He has been married since 2005 and has four cats

About the Author

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>