Florida newspapers sue DeSantis administration for lack of transparency on COVID-19 pandemic

Florida newspapers sue DeSantis administration for lack of transparency on COVID-19 pandemic
Gage Skidmore.

Although some Republican governors have aggressively promoted social distancing measures and coronavirus restrictions in their states — including Maryland's Larry Hogan, Massachusetts' Charlie Baker and Ohio's Mike DeWine — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has drawn a great deal of criticism from Democrats for not taking the COVID-19 pandemic as seriously as he should. And Florida newspapers have been critical of DeSantis for not being more up-front about the pandemic's impact on the Sunshine State, including some newspapers that have taken aggressive legal action.

The Associated Press reports that two Florida newspapers, the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Orlando Sun Sentinel, are suing the DeSantis' administration for failing to publicly release reports about pandemic conditions in the state. Julie Anderson, who serves as editor-in-chief of both publications, is quoted as saying, "The state has given us no explanation as to why this crucial health information should be withheld. We had no choice but to ask a court to intervene to uphold the public records law."

The White House coronavirus task force, according to AP, believes that Florida needs to do a lot more to discourage the spread of COVID-19. The Center for Public Integrity, AP notes, has obtained a copy of a report the task force issued on December 6 — and the report's recommendations for Florida include more social distancing and discouraging indoor gatherings in bars and restaurants.

According to the report, "Florida has seen stability in new cases, an increase in test positivity and increasing hospitalizations and deaths, indicating unrelenting community spread and inadequate mitigation."

DeSantis, however, has been resisting a mask mandate and tougher coronavirus restrictions for businesses. The far-right Florida governor recently said, "No one's losing their job because of a government dictate. Nobody's losing their livelihood or their business."

The White House's coronavirus task force is headed by outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, and Dr. Deborah Birx is its response coordinator. Expert immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci is also part of the task force, and President-elect Joe Biden has asked Fauci to be a chief medical adviser for his coronavirus response team in 2021.

Last week, the United States suffered some of its deadliest days yet during the coronavirus pandemic — including more than 3300 deaths on Thursday, December 10. According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the pandemic has killed more than 1.6 million people worldwide and over 299,000 people in the U.S.

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