An old saying goes: “If you want to be someone, go to California. If you are someone, go to New York. If you were someone, go to Florida.”

But in 2020, Florida Man, Woman, and Child exacted revenge. Now, if you want to be someone, go to Florida. If you are someone, go to Florida. If you were someone, just stay in Florida.

Florida is the future people increasingly want.

It’s hard to tell the story of Florida’s ascent without the corresponding account of the COVID-19 global pandemic, though the category of “what Florida is doing right” is about far more than COVID. The Sunshine State enjoys the status of a rapidly growing destination that has been on the rise for years and still has yet to peak. The COVID storyline also treats Florida’s current trajectory as temporary, when it began before COVID and it’s just as likely to continue after the pandemic.

The handling of the virus by Gov. Ron DeSantis has certainly played a role in the state’s continued growth. The Republican governor, elected in 2018 and often mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential candidate, enacted policies that contrasted sharply with those of other large states. New York and California used harsh, business-killing lockdowns to try and shut down the virus, while DeSantis shied away from one-size-fits-all statewide solutions.

It was hard to ignore that despite the doomsayers, and there were many doomsayers, Florida’s pandemic outcomes were similar or better than other populous states. As of Jan. 25, New York had 218 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 residents. California had 94. Florida had 118. Even Texas had stricter reopening rules than Florida and yet had 117 deaths per 100,000.

Florida was an experiment in efforts to mitigate both the virus and the attendant economic damage at the same time. The results thus far affirm that there are varying approaches to the pandemic worth trying.

This good news caused consternation among politicians who had gone in the other direction. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s adviser Rich Azzopardi ridiculously speculated that Florida was hiding its real statistics. When a former head of the New York state Democratic Party embarrassed the Cuomo administration by flying to Florida to get his coronavirus vaccine, Cuomo spokesman Jack Sterne responded, “Anyone holding Florida up as a good example of anything during this pandemic needs to have their head examined.”