Florida response to coronavirus ranks low compared to nation, study shows

Study compares hospital beds available per capita, state-wide measures to stop spread

Florida travel restrictions

An updated study on state-by-state response to the coronavirus ranks Florida No. 36 in its attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.

After a week, WalletHub has updated its Most Aggressive States Against the Coronavirus rankings in which Florida still ranked in the lower half.

Analysts compared how states are legally enforcing social distancing, the share of the workforce affected by the outbreak and the uninsured population among its key metrics. Included in the data set are state and public health laboratories per capita, total public health emergency preparedness, emergency centers and services, intensive care unit beds per capita and hospital beds per capita.

Click here for a full list of metrics.

At first, Florida ranked No. 37, bumping up a spot after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued statewide mandates such as suspending dine-in options at restaurants, closing bars and nightclubs and issuing travel restrictions.

“At first, Florida was definitely slower to mandate,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “It’s one of the smallest changes we saw. The closure of some beaches might have helped."

[RELATED: ‘We do not want to have to close our beaches’: Brevard Sheriff urges people to practice social distancing on shore | Flagler County beaches, boardwalk closing due to COVID-19 pandemic]

In terms of the prevention and containment metric, Florida ranks No. 28. The Sunshine State comes in at No. 37 when it comes to the risk factors and infrastructure metric.

Gonzalez said WalletHub measured infrastructure as resources that already exist such as hospital beds, ICU beds and the quality of a state’s public hospital system, contributing to Florida ranking on the lower end of the metric. These factors are measured per capita to make the metric comparable state to state.

“It’s not the number of hospital beds but beds for the population,” Gonzalez said. “We have a place like New York that’s going to need more hospital beds than a place like Montana."

The study’s analysis of the state’s hospital system data comes as the Florida Health Care Association says nursing homes and assisted living facilities are at a crisis level for supplies. DeSantis announced efforts are underway to get masks, gloves and other personal protection equipment to such facilities by Wednesday.

“A lot of states with larger populations are using efforts to try and stay ahead,” Gonzalez said.

Though treating COVID-19 is uncharted territory, Florida ranks No. 1 in lower influenza and pneumonia death rates per capita, indicating the state has a successful response to the flu.

[INTERACTIVE MAP: See how states compare below]

Source: WalletHub

When asked about this metric and how it pertains to the state’s response to the pandemic, Gonzalez said its a promising indicator but should not be treated in correlation to the state’s coronavirus death rate.

“This is more as a risk factor,” Gonzalez said. "The better the states dealt with influenza and pneumonia in the past the better risk factors would be but it’s apples to oranges, especially this early on.”

Though Florida ranks No. 36 overall, it ranks lower in terms of the highest share of the population without health insurance coverage and highest share of workforce in accommodation and food services.

These metrics helped shaped its economic impact ranking. Compared to the rest of the nation, Florida is ranked No. 46.

Gonzalez said state-wide mandates impacted Florida’s ranking in this department. In just a matter of days, Gov. Ron DeSantis forced hotels to shut their doors on top of previous restrictions. Disney World and Universal Studios have now closed their parks and resorts, meaning Florida’s tourist industry has taken a huge hit during the pandemic.

“Florida is not a huge outlier but it’s at an economic advantage especially during a crisis like this," Gonzalez said.

[RELATED: Winter Park business owners already feeling the impact of COVID-19 | This will be the longest closure ever for Disney World]

Gonzalez said Florida does not have a big share of small business employment but when compared to large companies and corporations that do business in the state, it’s the small businesses that will likely suffer more.

“Small businesses are affected now because a lot of them don’t have rent, health insurance, ways to pay employees," she said. “They don’t have a lot of cash reserves during a time like this."

Gonzalez said as national and state leaders continue to take further measures to combat the virus outbreak, she expects data to change.

“This really comes down with what states have been doing to prepare themselves,” she said. “As soon as we have new numbers we’ll update the study.”

To read more about the study’s methodology or how other states compare, click here.