DeSantis Advances Questionable Hyperlink Between Lockdowns and Despair

The results of lockdowns “has been the destruction of thousands and thousands of lives throughout America in addition to elevated deaths from suicide, substance abuse and despair with none corresponding profit in covid mortality.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Feb. 2, 2020

For months, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has boasted about his state’s “open for enterprise” technique in coping with covid-19 and the way it’s working higher than so-called lockdown states.

This story was produced in partnership with PolitiFact. It may be republished at no cost.

In contrast to in another states, all Florida public faculties are open for in-person studying, eating places and bars have few restrictions, and the state has barred native governments from penalizing people for not sporting a masks in public.

In a current rant towards social community corporations equivalent to Fb and Twitter, DeSantis recommended that states that had instituted heavy restrictions on residents skilled extreme repercussions for residents with out lowering the variety of covid deaths.

“Lockdowns on the time of the pandemic have been favored by the, quote, ‘narrative’ and so, within the title of, quote, ‘science,’ articles and posts warning towards lockdowns have been taken down and censored,” mentioned DeSantis. “The consequence has been the destruction of thousands and thousands of lives throughout America, in addition to elevated deaths from suicide, substance abuse and despair, with none corresponding profit in covid mortality.”

We puzzled whether or not that was true. Have state restrictions carried out such important hurt with out offering any increase within the combat towards covid deaths? So we dug in.

Locking In on Lockdowns

To cut back the unfold of the coronavirus, states have enacted — after which typically relaxed or lifted — varied restrictions, together with masks mandates, limits on restaurant capability, stay-at-home orders and bans on giant gatherings.

DeSantis, a Republican, has bristled at such statewide orders, even resisting pleas from native officers in Florida and criticizing different jurisdictions for implementing them. He has constantly questioned their effectiveness. Late final 12 months, as an example, he claimed that states with lockdowns had covid transmission charges twice as excessive as Florida’s. We rated that Half True.

We requested DeSantis’ workplace for any proof supporting his newer declare. The response reveals a combined bag of knowledge.

Verify the Information: Did Florida’s Path Result in Much less ‘Despair’?

To assist the governor’s declare that different states have seen larger numbers of deaths from suicide, substance abuse and despair than Florida has throughout the pandemic, DeSantis’ workplace despatched info from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention exhibiting “all trigger” mortality charges elevated slower in Florida in 2020 — coinciding with the pandemic’s first months by way of June 3 — over 2019 charges than in California and New York — two states which have opted for extra laws on public gatherings and mask-wearing. DeSantis’ evaluation confirmed Florida’s charge rose 15% in contrast with 16% in California and 29% in New York.

However the “all causes” class goes far past deaths related to suicide and drug abuse. It consists of deaths from most cancers, coronary heart illness, lung illness and dementia, for instance.

DeSantis’ workplace didn’t present any information exhibiting how charges of suicide and drug abuse in Florida in contrast with these in so-called lockdown states. It despatched us a Miami Herald article that mentioned in Florida, in line with preliminary health workers’ statistics, 2,975 folks died by suicide in 2020, down 13% from the earlier 12 months. However the article didn’t have nationwide information or figures from California or New York.

Regarding overdose deaths, DeSantis’ workplace didn’t present particular info. Nevertheless, well being consultants mentioned the pandemic probably did enhance opioid overdoses. However the newest, provisional CDC information on drug overdose deaths exhibits Florida’s numbers rising quicker than the nationwide common.

Evaluating the 12-month interval ending in June 2020 to the prior 12 months, the interval for which information is out there, Florida had a 34% enhance within the charge of overdose deaths in contrast with a 20% nationwide common amongst states. California had a 23% enhance and New York had an 18% enhance.

In the meantime, federal suicide information reflecting the months by which the pandemic has transpired is not going to probably be accessible till 2022. Specialists say that anecdotal proof suggests a potential uptick in suicide charges throughout the pandemic. As well as, a web based device provided by the nonprofit Psychological Well being America to assist display for psychological well being points confirmed a slight enhance final 12 months in folks having suicidal ideas.

Nonetheless, Paul Gionfriddo, the group’s CEO, mentioned he is aware of of no research exhibiting that so-called lockdown states have larger charges of suicide than these with fewer restrictions.

Gionfriddo mentioned DeSantis might imagine he’s mitigating the dangerous results of loneliness by not limiting public gatherings. However loneliness isn’t the one cause folks cite in contemplating suicide, he mentioned. Grief, monetary insecurity and different components additionally play a job, he mentioned.

John Auerbach, president and CEO of Belief for America’s Well being, a nonprofit assume tank, mentioned it’s troublesome to pinpoint the psychological influence of restrictions to scale back an infection as a result of guidelines differ by state and inside states, and such laws have been imposed and lifted at totally different instances.

Auerbach mentioned he is aware of of no proof that hyperlinks states’ covid restrictions to suicides or drug overdose deaths.

“There are various contributing components to suicide and drug overdoses,” he mentioned. The pandemic itself is having the largest impact on heightening folks’s danger of dying from suicide and drug abuse — not the states’ totally different approaches to stop the transmission of an infection, he added.

“It’s the underlying pandemic that’s on the root of elevated dangers,” Auerbach mentioned.

Factoring In Covid Mortality Charges

DeSantis additionally argued that statewide restrictions didn’t deliver any corresponding profit in limiting covid mortality.

We requested his workplace for proof. They once more pointed to the CDC enhance in “all trigger” mortality information that confirmed California’s charge was barely larger than Florida’s. However these statistics cowl all causes of demise, and individuals are nonetheless dying of ailments and situations in addition to covid.

We then consulted three epidemiologists to get their take. All of them mentioned the governor was taking part in free with the details. They burdened various components that have an effect on states’ mortality charges — from the climate to socioeconomic indicators to entry to well being providers.

The epidemiologists pointed to the newest CDC information, which indicated that Florida’s covid mortality charge is larger than California’s and appeared to undercut DeSantis’ place that lockdowns have solely harm states.

As of Feb. 22, Florida ranked twenty eighth in covid demise charges whereas California ranked thirty third, in line with the newest CDC information, as compiled by Statista.

“That will bolster the argument that restrictions are one issue concerned in decreasing demise charges,” mentioned Nicole Gatto, an affiliate professor of public well being at Claremont Graduate College in California.

Quite a few others additionally have an impact, Gatto mentioned, so it’s unimaginable to check states utilizing present information primarily based on their methods.

“I do assume it’s an oversimplification to make the assertion that the governor did with out additional research of the quite a few variables concerned, traits of the inhabitants, timing of interventions and the constraints of the information,” she mentioned.

Our Ruling

DeSantis mentioned lockdown states have seen “elevated deaths from suicide, substance abuse and despair with none corresponding profit in covid mortality.”

The pandemic definitely has brought on anxiousness and misery throughout the nation, and state and native restrictions designed to tamp down on the coronavirus’s unfold have additionally affected folks’s monetary and emotional well-being. However at present, no clear information helps DeSantis’ strongly worded declare. Researchers agreed that extra analysis is important earlier than such broad conclusions may very well be drawn. As well as, consultants mentioned that covid demise charges differ by state and quite a few components past state methods to fight the virus have an effect on this metric.

We charge the assertion Largely False.


Gov. Ron DeSantis information convention, Feb. 2, 2021

Phone interview with Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Psychological Well being America, Feb. 12, 2021

Psychological Well being America, Take a Psychological Well being Check, Psychological Well being America on-line screening device, accessed Feb. 12, 2021

Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, Very important Statistics Fast Launch: Provisional Drug Overdose Demise Counts — CDC information on overdose deaths, Feb. 7, 2021

E mail correspondence with Meredith Beatrice, DeSantis spokesperson, Feb. 10 and 11, 2021

Phone interview with John Auerbach, president and CEO of Belief for America’s Well being, Feb. 12, 2021

E mail interview with Nicole Gatto, MPH, Ph.D., affiliate professor of public well being at Claremont Graduate College, Feb. 18, 2021

E mail interview with William Miller, professor of epidemiology on the Ohio State College, Feb. 18, 2021

Phone interview with Dr. Robert Murphy, professor of drugs and biomedical engineering and government director, Northwestern College’s Institute for International Well being, Feb. 18, 2021

Statista, Demise charges from coronavirus (COVID-19) in america as of Feb. 17, 2021, by state, accessed Feb. 22, 2021

Miami Herald, “One Pandemic Constructive: Suicides in Florida Really Plummeted. Specialists Fear It Gained’t Final,” Feb. 10, 2021

PolitiFact, “Is Florida Doing Higher on COVID-19 than ‘Locked Down’ States? Dec. 2, 2020

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