Fla. Cong. Democrats Demand DeSantis Disclose COVID Task Force Reports, Stop Suppressing Public Health Info

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Washington, December 18, 2020 | comments
Florida Congressional Democrats today called on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to release undisclosed weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force Reports and quit ignoring the urgent health recommendations they call for, and once again, they demanded that the governor stop manipulating COVID-19 health data – all of which compromises public safety and undermines the vital credibility needed to aggressively confront this deadly pandemic.
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Washington DC – Florida Congressional Democrats today called on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to release undisclosed weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force Reports and quit ignoring the urgent health recommendations they call for, and once again, they demanded that the governor stop manipulating COVID-19 health data – all of which compromises public safety and undermines the vital credibility needed to aggressively confront this deadly pandemic.

Florida media have continued to uncover a long-running pattern by DeSantis of withholding and manipulating COVID-19 data. The Orlando Sentinel recently sued DeSantis to release all the weekly reports, and after relenting to make two of them public, the Orlando newspaper reported that the governor had largely ignored the report’s recommendations. In an equally troubling report, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the state suddenly and temporarily paused reporting data concerning backlogged COVID-related death totals around the presidential election.

“By failing to publicly disclose the Task Force reports in a timely manner, and purposefully creating a reporting gap in Florida's coronavirus death data, your Administration continues to demonstrate a lack of transparency without reason or justification,” the Florida Democratic Members of Congress wrote in a letter co-led by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09). “These actions continue to erode the public’s trust in your ability to ensure the health and safety of Floridians.”

Signers on the letter also include Reps.: Reps. Alcee Hastings, FL-20, Kathy Castor (FL-14), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Al Lawson (FL-05), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26).

See the entire letter below:   

The Honorable Ron DeSantis

Office of Governor

State of Florida, The Capitol

400 S. Monroe St.

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

 

Governor DeSantis:

We write out of concern with the ongoing and purposeful lack of transparency regarding COVID-19 by your Administration. Reports indicate that your Administration has chosen to withhold from the public the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force Reports, and ignore the recommendations contained therein. In addition, an investigation revealed that the State abruptly and temporarily paused reporting data concerning backlogged COVID-related death totals during the timeframe of the presidential election. As such, we urge you to publicly and promptly release future reports to the public and require an explanation for your Administration’s decision to suppress factual data in these separate matters.

During a public health emergency, it is imperative that your Administration provide Floridians with timely information and guidance that ensures their health and safety. The Task Force’s weekly reports provide states with recommendations necessary to control the spread of the virus and protect their constituents, and advocates for these reports to be widely shared with the general public. The latest report from December 6, urges the escalation of mitigation efforts, such as no indoor gatherings outside of immediate households, aggressive testing to identify asymptomatic cases, and increased mask usage. In contravention, your Administration has ordered a full reopening of bars and restaurants, encouraged indoor dining, and sought to stop local governments from enforcing mask mandates. Instead of adhering to medical and scientific expertise, you made the decision to conceal these reports from the public since Nov. 1 without reason or justification, which is counterintuitive to reduction of community spread.

In addition, an analysis of Florida’s data reporting demonstrates that the State stopped including backlogged COVID-related fatalities – specifically, deaths that occurred more than one month earlier – in its daily counts from October 24 through November 17. Outside of this timeframe, the State consistently included this information in its daily reports. Without explanation of purpose for this reporting gap, the timing of this action is unusual given this temporarily altered data exhibited favorable mortality rates ten days before the presidential election until two weeks thereafter. This investigation especially is troubling considering allegations that health officials in the state were told not to speak about COVID until after the election, and that health experts in Florida have repeatedly alleged that COVID-related deaths are being underreported.

By failing to publicly disclose the Task Force reports in a timely manner, and purposefully creating a reporting gap in Florida's coronavirus death data, your Administration continues to demonstrate a lack of transparency without reason or justification. These actions continue to erode the public’s trust in your ability to ensure the health and safety of Floridians.

Given the proliferation of the pandemic in Florida, we urge you to begin instituting the guidance provided to the state by the Task Force. In addition, we request that you promptly provide a detailed explanation for the (i) concealment of the weekly Task Force reports, and (ii) discrepancy in the State’s mortality data. It is essential and overdue that your Administration refrain from any future denials of transparency of vital information to the public.

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