Politifact Botches Another Fact Check on New York vs. Florida Coronavirus Deaths

Politifact Botches Another Fact Check on New York vs. Florida Coronavirus Deaths

Politifact’s worst “fact checker” is at it again.

This time “fact checker” Tom Kertscher is evaluating the truth of the objectively true claim that “Florida is doing over five times better than New Jersey and New York in COVID-19 deaths per million people.” In a miraculous feat, he managed to prove the claim true with his analysis before justifying giving the claim a “mostly false” rating.

After all, why would he want to go through all of that hard fact checking work only to admit that a conservative was right about. something?

For some background information: the claim is pretty easy to prove. New Jersey and New York rank #1 and #2 in the number of coronavirus deaths. NJ has 1780 coronavirus deaths per million people, while New York has 1680. Florida has 330. The figures for other states making headlines lately such as Arizona and Texas are 520 and 240. In other words, you could add up Florida, Arizona, and Texas’ totals, and still need another 590 deaths per million people to match New York.

It is true for both New York and New Jersey that if each state were its own individual country, both would have more coronavirus deaths per capita than any other country on Earth.

So how does Kertscher pretend otherwise? With a rebuttal amounting to “well that my be true – but things could change!” Kertscher writes “Timing is a big reason why the statistic cited is misleading. New Jersey and New York were hit hard early in the pandemic, and Florida was hit later.”

But we already know that Florida is doing a much better job of managing the virus than New York. While New York has had five times as many deaths per capita as Florida, Florida has more confirmed coronavirus cases per million people (2,268) than New York (2,140).

Florida also didn’t make the disastrous decision of mixing coronavirus patients with those least likely to survive contact with it. A ProPublica analysis of New York’s disastrous nursing home order (which New Jersey followed in the lead of) found that:

In the weeks that followed the March 25 order, COVID-19 tore through New York state’s nursing facilities, killing more than 6,000 people — about 6% of its more than 100,000 nursing home residents

States that issued orders similar to Cuomo’s recorded comparably grim outcomes. Michigan lost 5% of roughly 38,000 nursing home residents to COVID-19 since the outbreak began. New Jersey lost 12% of its more than 43,000 residents.

In Florida, where such transfers were barred, just 1.6% of 73,000 nursing home residents died of the virus.

You can take a look at how massively Florida’s daily deaths lag New York’s and decide for yourself what their odds are of ever coming close to catching up to theirs are:

Florida’s biggest single day of reported deaths (257) is in comparison to New York which sustained a daily death toll roughly three times that at their peak. It took nearly a month for New York to go from peak daily deaths (excluding the May 5 spike, which was due to reclassification of certain deaths) to where Florida’s deaths peaked at.

Meanwhile New Jersey’s daily deaths peaked in the 400s.

Kertscher has a history of flimsy fact checking, whereas he’ll point out a scenario in which case something *could* be wrong, then do no actual work to determine if it is. Another one of notably lazy “fact checks” was of the claim that violent crime in South Bend Indiana had effectively doubled under Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s tenure. Kertscher rated the claim false because South Bend changed the way that police counted assaults by including cases “where a weapon was shown” as aggregated assaults.

Kertscher then did no actual work to quantify the extent to which this influences the numbers, he just says that the numbers then get tricky. That’s it.

He simply tells us that violent crime went up under Mayor Pete, but that it didn’t double (again, not much detail for how he reached that conclusion). And that’s what qualifies for a fact check over at “Politifact.”

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