Florida among states with highest COVID-19 infection risk for younger residents, research says

FAU published a new research article that dives into a data-driven study conducted by the university’s College of Business associate professor of health administration Patrick Bernet.


Rebel Cole (pictured left) and Patrick Bernet (pictured right). Photos courtesy of the FAU College of Business. Collage by Michelle Rodriguez-Gonzalez.

Kendall Little, Managing Editor

This week, Florida Atlantic University released a COVID-related research article that negates a previous piece from July. The new article promotes research claiming Florida has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in younger adults and essentially attributes the spike in cases to support for former U.S. president, Donald Trump.

In July, university staff published an article highlighting research from finance professor Rebel Cole. The release received negative feedback from media outlets, health experts, and even FAU students and alumni.

The initial article, published in July 2020, deemed Cole as a reliable source for many dubious claims about COVID-19 data.

Now, FAU has released another COVID-related research article and it completely contradicts its predecessor. “Florida ranked among the states with the highest COVID-19 infection rates for younger residents in 2020,” according to a study conducted by associate professor of health administration Patrick Bernet. However, the July release claimed that mainstream data was inaccurate and to blame for the belief that Florida was severely impacted by COVID infections.

Florida supported Donald Trump for presidency in 2016 and 2020, so politically associated health behaviors are pertinent in the study according to Bernet.

He found that “former U.S. President Donald Trumpʼs vote share in Florida was associated with higher infection rates for all and higher over age 64 emergency room, hospitalization and mortality rates.”

Cole took a different stance in July.

He believed that current data was skewed and “giving the wrong impression that Florida [was] losing the coronavirus battle.”

Bernet also stated his concerns about the infection rate in younger people and how it seems to be overlooked.

“There has been no concerted effort to communicate just how dangerous each single infection is – no matter the person’s age, race, income, or gender,” Bernet said to FAU News Desk. 

While this may ring true for Bernet, it was the opposite back in July for Cole.

“Follow the data, and the data show that children, high-schoolers, and college students are not at risk,” Cole said to FAU News Desk last summer. 

Cole used social media to express some controversial opinions including a call for schools to reopen amidst the pandemic, blaming Florida’s spike in COVID cases on an increase in tests, and comparing the mask mandate to Nazi Germany. Twitter representatives have since suspended his account for violating the app’s policies. However, he still seems to use a back-up account to continue to tweet.

In the July press release, Cole argued that keeping schools and workplaces closed would cause considerable harm to the economy. “By doing this, you’re hurting the most vulnerable economically,” he said. “It’s a bad policy.” 

Bernet argues vaccine expenses will be the main economic struggle of the pandemic.

He believes that public vaccine distribution will ultimately reduce “COVID-19 infections and deaths for all, minimizing the economic and human costs of the pandemic.” 

Because of such a stark contrast in ideals and even research, the UP reached out to Cole and Bernet for a comment to explain how they came to such drastically different conclusions.

Neither Cole nor Bernet responded to requests for comment by publication time.

Kendall Little is the Managing Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @klittlewrites.