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Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After a solid year of living with a pandemic, the national press is beginning to ask the question that even Democrats have been quietly pondering in the Sunshine State: Was Gov. Ron DeSantis' pandemic response right for Florida?

Don't forget: More than 32,000 Floridians have died, a number the state's leaders rarely acknowledge, but our death rate is no worse than the national average — and better than some states with tighter restrictions.

The Los Angeles Times compared Florida and California's responses:

  • "California imposed myriad restrictions that battered the economy, and have left most public school students learning at home for a year. ... Florida adopted a more laissez-faire approach decried by public health experts — allowing indoor restaurant dining, leaving masks optional and getting children back in classrooms sooner."
  • But, it points out, "If California had Florida’s death rate, roughly 6,000 more Californians would be dead from COVID-19, and tens of thousands of additional patients likely would have landed in already overburdened hospitals. And if Florida had California’s death rate, roughly 3,000 fewer Floridians would be dead from COVID-19."

On Sunday's front page, the New York Times explored the positives — from the booming real-estate market to Florida's low unemployment rate — of an early reopening: "Much of the state has a boomtown feel," writes Patricia Mazzei, "a sense of making up for months of lost time."

  • The Times notes that Florida's unemployment rate is 5.1%, compared to 9.3% in California, 8.7% in New York and 6.9% in Texas.
  • "That debate about reopening schools? It came and went months ago. Children have been in classrooms since the fall."

The big picture: Much of the public part of DeSantis' pandemic response feels more and more like an audition for a 2024 presidential run, which Politico's Marc Caputo has noted.

  • "With a COVID death count cover-up consuming New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a pandemic-related recall effort haunting California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Republicans are embracing DeSantis as a red-state exemplar."

Our thought bubble: We've long known that the state's pro-business Republican leadership was making a sort of grand bargain: that the death toll was the price paid for keeping commerce flowing and keeping kids in school.

  • The closer you are to either loss or to the fullness of life will likely determine how you feel about the state's response.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

More than a dozen injured in downtown Austin shooting

Police tape in Austin, Texas in 2018. Photo: y Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A shooting in a busy part of downtown Austin, Texas, early Saturday injured at least 13 people, including two who are in critical condition.

The state of play: Gunfire erupted around 1:30 a.m. along 6th Street, a popular area with bars and restaurants. The suspected shooter remains at large, Austin police said. "It is unknown if there is one, or multiple suspects involved," they noted, adding the shooting appears to be an isolated incident.

Biden to urge G7 to take unified approach to countering China

Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Saturday is expected to urge fellow G7 leaders to adopt a unified approach to countering China's rising global influence, AP reports.

Driving the news: The G7 leaders are set to unveil a multi-billion-dollar global infrastructure plan aimed at rivaling Beijing's efforts in the developing world.

Why America's post-vaccine summer is off to a slow start

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are itching to put pandemic life behind them, but many of the necessary ingredients for a summer of carefree fun — everything from neighborhood pools to car rentals — still aren't fully available.

The big picture: Labor shortages, scrambled supply chains and simple logistics are all making it harder for a whole range of businesses to meet post-pandemic demand, and that’s making “hot vax summer” a little harder to pull off.