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Other Voices: Why isn’t California criticized like Florida on COVID-19? Political preference, of course. l COMMENTARY

Why aren’t critics of pandemic reopenings talking about California in the same breath as some other states? And what does that say about combating Covid-19?

The pundits always single out Florida. Or Texas. Or Arizona. Or all three. Paul Krugman, one of the liberal stalwarts on the New York Times’ op-ed page, believes that the reason the U.S. is “losing its war against the coronavirus” is Republican politics. He pointed to President Donald Trump’s mid-April tweets calling for states to end their lockdowns and then wrote: “Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, Texas and elsewhere soon lifted stay-at-home orders and ended many restrictions on business operations. They also, following Trump’s lead, refused to require that people wear masks ...”

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Krugman is far from alone in criticizing those governors. No question about it: Things have gone badly for the three states since early June.

But I repeat: What about California?

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Virtually everything you can say about Texas, Florida and Arizona can also be said about California, starting with the shape of its COVID curve, which climbs gradually until mid-June and then explodes. It took almost two months for California to record its first 100,000 positive cases; it took less than three weeks to record its most recent 100,000. As of July 7, California was second only to New York with 277,000 positive cases. Los Angeles is said to be close to running out of available hospital beds.

Another similarity is that the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in California is remarkably low — just more than 6,500 in a state of almost 40 million people. In Arizona, the number of deaths just crossed 2,000. In Florida, 4,009 deaths have been recorded, and in Texas, the number is 2,813. New Jersey has recorded more deaths than all four states combined.

Since the surge in the South and Southwest began in early June, a theory has developed as to why the death toll has remained relatively low, though it has begun to climb in recent days. Partly, it’s that doctors have a better understanding of how to treat COVID-19. But it’s also because, well, let’s listen to Florida Gov. DeSantis: “If you look at that 25-34 age group, that is now by far the leading age group for positive tests. ... You can’t control them. ... They’re going to do what they’re going to do.”

Callifornia Gov. Newsom called them the “young invincibles.” Indeed, several articles about Newsom’s remark included a photograph of a crowded California beach, full of people without masks — exactly the kind of photo that went viral on Twitter a few months ago when the beach in question was in Florida. As you may recall, the hashtag read #floridamorons.

It's pretty obvious why California and Newsom haven't been pummeled the way Florida, Texas and Arizona have. California is a Democratic state. Newsom is a Democratic governor. Bringing up California's pandemic woes punctures the critics' narrative that Republican mismanagement is the reason for the scary surge in infections.

In truth, Newsom has done many of the same things that his Republican counterparts are being criticized for. He ceded the reopening process to the counties — which raced to end the lockdown before it was wise. He declined to issue a statewide mask mandate, though he did encourage people to use them. He reopened bars, which caused the same problems in California that it caused elsewhere.

In recent days, Newsom has put the brakes on the reopening in much of the state. All of these governors are trying to recover from mistakes.

Why did they reopen their states so early? For the same reason Newsom did. Not to curry favor with Trump, but because they were all desperate to get businesses up and running and people back to work. Did it backfire? Yes. But it also explains why 38 states — red and blue alike — are experiencing rising numbers of positive cases.

The real problem with the Republican governors is not their mistakes but their arrogance. They bragged that their approach was the right one, proof that the Republicans had the answer even as Democratic states were struggling. No wonder their critics pounced when it turned out they weren’t right.

But the critics are just as wrong-headed. Party affiliation is not the reason cases are on the rise in various states. Finger-wagging is counterproductive and even beside the point. The real question is how to get COVID-19 under control and the country going again.

In the face of this terrible, unseeable virus, hubris has no place, not from Republican governors or progressive pundits. There's only one right attitude: humility.

Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.

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