Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has thus far resisted calls for heavier restrictions in the state, and part of his argument for not going further appears to be that stay-at-home orders elsewhere have had unintended consequences (with perhaps an implication that those consequences have been bad for Florida):

"In New York (City), when they did the stay-at-home order, what did people do? A lot of people fled the city and they are going to stay with their parents or fly (out) [...] We are getting huge amounts of people flying in. We are looking at how to address those flights."

(See, e.g., https://miami.cbslocal.com/2020/03/23/coronavirus-florida-governor-ron-desantis-wants-to-avoid-statewide-shutdown/; searching for phrases from the quote should turn up other confirmations)

This feels (through my admittedly somewhat biased lens) at least a little like an attempt to blame 'big city liberals'; my question is, is the governor's claim here backed up by any tangible evidence? Has there been any evidence of an increase in NY-Florida travel, or even a relative flatness compared to declines in travel elsewhere?

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    Would the downvoter care to explain their reasons? I'm more than happy to improve the question. Mar 24, 2020 at 1:03
  • The New York Times mentions "a recent uptick in travel" without any detail.
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2020 at 5:49
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    @StevenStadnicki - That's not how Skeptics is supposed to work. You need a credible claim. Mar 24, 2020 at 19:00
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    @DanielRHicks "Skeptics is for [...] researching the evidence behind claims you encounter"; "If you have a question about the accuracy of public claims made in the media or elsewhere, you are in the right place." These seem like precisely the points my question is trying to cover? Mar 24, 2020 at 19:29
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    @Fizz I do too, I freely admit; unfortunately, all too often vague statements are all we get to challenge. :/ Thank you much for the edit — I definitely think that improves the question. Mar 26, 2020 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


As quoted in numerous stories in Florida papers today, March 24, 2020:

"Today there are over 190 direct flights from the New York City area to Florida,” [Gov. Ron] DeSantis said. “I would reckon given the outbreak there that every single flight has someone on it that is positive for COVID-19, and so as we’re working to stop it in the state of Florida.”

So, the number of flights at this time is significant, and has not yet been reduced by Covid19 concerns. Of course, the historic volume may be much higher at various times.

Annual Airport Passengers:

Miami: (2018) >45 million passengers

Tampa (2020, previous 12 months:) 22,731,796 passengers

Orlando: (2019) >50 million passengers

Total: 117.7 million arriving and departing passengers a year

That's an average of 322,000 passengers a day for three airports in Florida, or 161,000 arrivals (if half are arrivals and half are departures).

The annual volume through Miami, Orlando, and Tampa is pretty big, so 19,000 to 38,000 people in one day from New York (190 flights with roughly 100 to 200 passengers each) is relatively small. Current estimates are that 1,000 people a day were moving to Florida before the Covid pandemic. The governor makes it sound like an invasion. In fact, it might be a slowdown.

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    I don't think this answers the question. It just repeats the claim.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 26, 2020 at 2:18
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    DeSantis's claim of every single flight seems extreme. Back of envelope: NY has 30,811 confirmed cases (and counting). Assume that is the tip of the iceberg, and there are... 100,000? infections in 8.6 million people, or 1.16%. In a plane of, say, 200 people, assuming (wrongly) that they are independently sampled, there is a 1-(1-1.16%)^200 = 90% chance that any flight contains an infected person. Wow, his statement isn't as ridiculous as it sounded.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 26, 2020 at 2:25
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    @Oddthinking: some more reading on this irishtimes.com/life-and-style/travel/… By the time the flight disembarks, there might be 10 people seeded by that one, if the flight was full.
    – Fizz
    Mar 26, 2020 at 3:40
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    @Oddthinking BTW, there's an approximation for this sort of situation of e^(-pn). Here, given your numbers, this give e^(-200*0.0116) = 0.0982735856 , or 9.8% chance that a flight won't have any infected. Mar 26, 2020 at 4:59

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