There are two schools of thought on the COVID-19 pandemic response: some believe that the federal government should adopt a “national strategy,” while others think state and local governments should tailor strategies to conditions on the ground with logistical support from the federal government.
Since the start of this deadly pandemic, Florida lawmakers have had the liberty to implement strategies that they believe are best suited to our state’s unique healthcare and economic needs. Officials in other states have enjoyed the same prerogative.
Some states hurried to shut down their economies, with decidedly mixed results — in some places, strict lockdowns appeared to be at least partially effective; in others, they appeared to make little difference. Florida did not give in to premature panic, but when the number of cases started to rise over the summer, state authorities implemented targeted measures intended to flatten the curve to the greatest extent possible while minimizing the economic damage to our state.
Despite relentless criticism from the media, the state remained committed to its chosen course, and before long the number of new daily cases was falling as quickly as it had risen. While some economic restrictions were necessary, they were strategically applied to industries that posed the greatest risk of spreading the virus.
Floridians should be proud of how the Sunshine State has handled the pandemic — after getting the virus under control in relatively short order, Florida was able to become the first state in the nation to fully lift all of its coronavirus-related economic restrictions. Today, the total number of new coronavirus cases has plateaued at post-pandemic lows, while the total number of active cases continues to decline rapidly. As a result, our economy is roaring back to life, regaining more than 630,000 nonfarm jobs since April.
Florida did not overcome this pandemic by forcing all “non-essential” businesses to close their doors indefinitely, or by threatening to jail law-abiding citizens if they didn’t abide by mask mandates. And yet, those are exactly the types of restrictions that Floridians would have to endure if the federal government imposed a nationwide shutdown or universal mask mandate.
The politicians who support a “national” pandemic response are not talking about reining in overzealous state and local governments. They are invariably talking about forcing every state to abide by the most restrictive rules that any state has put in place, regardless of whether such rules are appropriate in any given jurisdiction.
The United States is a large and diverse country, and each state should have the right to implement the most optimal coronavirus response plan for its own needs. Just because some initiatives have proven to be successful in Florida, for instance, doesn’t mean that they would yield the same results in New York, and vice versa. Just as New York should be free to impose restrictions as it sees fit, so should Florida.
Career politicians and bureaucrats who spend most of their time in Washington, D.C. don’t have the knowledge required to combat the pandemic on a local level — no matter how good and honest their intentions might be. Crafting a coronavirus response strategy that successfully slows the spread of the virus while mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic requires a degree of regional familiarity that can only come from state and local elected officials.
Floridians have earned the right to be in charge of our own destiny. A one-size-fits-all mandate from the federal government would be a huge step backward for states that have already managed to get the crisis under control.
Kiyan Michael is an Angel Parent of the late Brandon Randolph Michael and serves as an advisory board member for the Black Voices For Trump coalition.