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March 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — With election season over and a Democrat president safely in the White House, the mainstream media appears to have gained an increased willingness to acknowledge greater nuances in the debate over COVID-19 response policies than was the norm at the height of the public health panic.

Over the weekend, the Associated Press published a report acknowledging that “California and Florida have experienced almost identical outcomes in COVID-19 case rates,” despite the former state imposing some of the most draconian lockdown measures in the United States under Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom, and the latter state remaining mostly open under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Per Worldometer, both states have similar case rates and death rates, despite their vastly differing policies (as well as Florida’s large elderly population, which is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19). Another example, the AP notes, is the comparison between Connecticut and South Dakota, both of which “rank among the 10 worst states for COVID-19 death rates” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), despite the contrasting policies of the former’s Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont and the latter’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

“While so many other states kept locking people down over these many months, Florida lifted people up,” DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential contender, argued in his annual State of the State address earlier this month. “Florida’s schools are open — and we are one of only a handful of states in which every parent has a right to send their child to school in-person. All Floridians have a right to earn a living — and our citizens are employed at higher rates than those in the nation as a whole. Every job is essential.”

“Economic lockdowns are a luxury of the largely affluent Zoom class,” he noted. “Many Floridians can’t do their jobs over a computer, they need to show up.”

One of the biggest differences between conservative and liberal states has been the question of mandating mask-wearing outside of residents’ homes. In the early days of the outbreak, the CDC and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams counseled against wearing masks, as did White House COVID adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, claiming they were ineffective at blocking COVID. But the public later learned that health officials actually wanted to discourage the general public from buying masks to conserve the supply for health workers.

Despite the popular insistence that masking is essential outside one’s home, there remain reasons to doubt their effectiveness, such as the CDC’s September acknowledgement that masks cannot be counted on to keep out the coronavirus when spending 15 minutes or longer within six feet of someone, or a May 2020 study published by CDC’s peer-reviewed journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.”

While lockdowns, which caused hundreds of thousands of job losses and business closings, seem to have had little effect on the spread of the virus itself, they were responsible for a spike in deaths for another reason: suicides brought on by prolonged social isolation.

Last July, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield admitted that the “cost to our nation in continuing to keep these schools closed is substantial,” especially the mental and emotional toll. “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID,” he said. “We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”

Even so, conservatives allege, many Democrats and the public employee unions that support them continue to resist reopening public schools for in-person learning.