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A nurse gives a Florida International University student a COVID-19 vaccine shot, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP) A nurse gives a Florida International University student a COVID-19 vaccine shot, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP)

A nurse gives a Florida International University student a COVID-19 vaccine shot, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 15, 2021

Media reported for weeks on drop in Florida COVID-19 cases, which followed surge

If Your Time is short

  • News media have reported for weeks on the recent decline in COVID-19 cases in Florida.

  • Florida does have measures that restrict mask mandates in schools and limit requirements to show proof of vaccination. But the decline in cases occurred only after Florida led the nation, and Florida still ranks among states with the highest case rate.

Conservative podcast host Joey Saladino took a shot at the media while touting a decrease in COVID-19 infections in Florida. 

"The Media is pretty quiet about Florida's Decline in COVID cases. No Mask Mandates or Vaccine Mandates," Saladino wrote on Instagram, where he has 148,000 followers.

The Oct. 10 post included a chart, with data attributed to the New York Times, indicating that the rate of daily cases of COVID-19 in Florida had dropped sharply starting in late-August 2021.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The news media have reported for weeks on the drop in cases — which occurred only after a period in which Florida led the nation in new cases. Moreover, while it does have measures restricting mask and proof of vaccination mandates, it still ranks among the states with the highest case rates.

Restricts mask mandates, vaccination proof

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has signed COVID-19 measures to prohibit requirements to prove vaccination in certain places and to ban mask mandates in schools.

In May, DeSantis signed a bill that prohibits requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to gain entrance to, or services from businesses, governmental bodies and educational institutions. Violators are subject to a $5,000 fine per violation. On Oct. 12, the state fined Leon County, home to the capital, $3.5 million for requiring its employees to get COVID-19 vaccines and for firing 14 workers who failed to get the shots.

In July, DeSantis issued an executive order to ban mask mandates in schools. So far, it has prevailed in court challenges. The order states that schools cannot mandate that their students wear masks and that the state can deny funding to districts that don’t comply. On Oct. 7, the state Board of Education voted to sanction eight school districts, exposing them to potential funding cuts, because the districts allow parents to decide whether the students wear masks.

COVID-19 cases declining from highs

COVID-19 cases in Florida are decreasing — but from staggering heights.

In late July, we rated Pants on Fire a claim that reports of Florida’s cases being up were "a blatant lie." Florida accounted for more than one-fifth of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. at the time and recorded more COVID-19 deaths than any other state. The seven day-average positivity rate for testing rose from 0.83% on June 11 to 24.3% on July 25.

In each of the past six weeks, counts of new cases have declined sharply, according to the latest figures from the Florida Health Department. 

There were 151,789 new cases during the week starting Aug. 20 and 25,792 during the week starting Oct. 1.

But Florida still ranks high in the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 1 million population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. As of Oct. 14, North Dakota was first, at 183,176; Florida was fifth, at 167,728; the U.S. average was 135,767.

Media coverage of the decline

Our Google searches found that the decline has produced headlines like these for weeks, though primarily in Florida media:

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "COVID in Florida: 3974 new cases as steep drop continues," Oct. 6

WPLG-TV in South Florida, "Florida COVID cases dip to lowest since early July," Sept. 28, 2021

Palm Beach Post, "COVID cases across Florida drop by 40% since last week; pandemic fatalities also down," Sept. 24, 2021

Fox 13 TV in Tampa Bay, "'Work to be done' as Florida's COVID-19 numbers continue decline from summertime peak," Sept. 20, 2021

Tampa Bay Times, "Florida schools shift pandemic protocols as new cases decrease," Sept. 20, 2021

The Associated Press news service, "New daily virus cases in Florida is lowest since July," Sept. 18, 2021

Fortune magazine, "Florida sees new COVID cases drop by 47% in the past two weeks," Sept. 16, 2021

Action News TV in Jacksonville, "Florida’s COVID cases drop again," Sept. 13, 2021

CBS 12 TV in West Palm Beach, "New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations drop in Florida," Sept. 7, 2021

Our ruling

An Instagram post stated: "The media is pretty quiet about Florida's decline in COVID cases. No mask mandates or vaccine mandates."

News media have reported for weeks on the recent decline in COVID-19 cases in Florida.

Florida does have measures that restrict mask mandates in schools and limit requirements to show proof of vaccination. But the decline in cases occurred only after Florida led the nation, and Florida still ranks among states with the highest case rate.

The statement contains only an element of truth. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Instagram, post, Oct. 10, 2021

State of Florida, governor’s executive order 21-174, July 30, 2021

Tampa Bay Times, "For now, DeSantis order on school masks will stand, appeal court rules," Sept. 10, 2021

Tampa Bay Times, "DeSantis signs bill banning vaccine ‘passports,’ suspends local pandemic restrictions," May 4, 2021

Tampa Bay Times, "DeSantis issues executive order to halt school mask mandates," July 30, 2021

Tampa Bay Times, "Federal judge refuses to block DeSantis mask order," Sept. 16, 2021

Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa Bay companies ‘under review’ for allegedly violating Florida vaccine passport law," Oct. 12, 2021

Mayo Clinic, "Hot spots in Florida," accessed Oct. 12, 2021

Our World in Data, "Weekly Confirmed COVID-19 cases," accessed Oct. 13, 2021

Florida Senate, SB 2006, accessed Oct. 12, 2021

Florida Health Department, "COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report: State Overview," Oct. 8, 2021

PolitiFact, "DeSantis’ executive order misleads about the lack of scientific support for masking in schools," Aug. 10, 2021

PolitiFact, "Florida’s COVID-19 numbers aren’t ‘hype.’ Right now, they’re quite bad," July 27, 2021 

Kaiser Family Foundation, "Cumulative COVID-19 Cases and Deaths," Oct. 14, 2021

News media reports as noted

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Media reported for weeks on drop in Florida COVID-19 cases, which followed surge

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