Florida's GOP Gov. DeSantis is concealing 'crucial information' about the COVID-19 crisis: report

Florida's GOP Gov. DeSantis is concealing 'crucial information' about the COVID-19 crisis: report
Governor Ron DeSantis Screengrab

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a far-right Republican and strident supporter of President Donald Trump, has been widely criticized for not being nearly as proactive as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in his response to the coronavirus pandemic. And this week in an article for the Miami Herald, reporter David Smiley notes some ways in which DeSantis’ administration hasn’t been forthcoming about coronavirus-related deaths and infections in Florida.

DeSantis’ administration, according to Smiley, “has been unwilling or unable to provide crucial information about its coronavirus response — and at times, has actively tried to shield critical details about the depths of the crisis from becoming public.”

Smiley discusses the Herald’s recent request for information on coronavirus deaths in South Florida, reporting, “When the Miami Herald sought information from the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office last month about COVID-19 deaths in the epicenter of Florida’s coronavirus outbreak, attorneys for the state health department moved to block the records from becoming public.”

Those attorneys, according to Smiley, “spent more than a week trying to convince their counterparts in Miami-Dade County not to provide that information to the Herald.”

On April 2, Christine Lamia, deputy general counsel for the Florida Health Department, told Assistant Miami-Dade County Attorney Christopher Angell: “As we discussed, it is the Department of Health’s position that the information requested in the request below should not be released, as it is confidential and exempt from public record disclosure.”

On Thursday, Smiley reports, the Herald received the information it requested when Miami-Dade County “bucked Florida’s Department of Health.” But according to Smiley, there has been an ongoing pattern of evasiveness at the state level when it comes to coronavirus’ impact in Florida.

“In recent weeks, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has refused to name the nursing homes experiencing coronavirus outbreaks, even as the number of cases in long-term care facilities has passed 1300,” Smiley explains. “The Department of Corrections had, until Wednesday, declined to acknowledge two inmate COVID-19 deaths at a privately run prison. And the Department of Health has been unwilling to disclose the extent of an undefined backlog of unresolved coronavirus tests at private labs.”

One of the people who has been critical of DeSantis’ response to the pandemic is Pamela Marsh, president of the First Amendment Foundation.

“Openness, helpfulness, honesty: that’s what we want from our government in a crisis,” Marsh told the Herald.

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