Florida leaders face 'challenges in filling' critical public health roles as Malaria cases emerge

Florida leaders face 'challenges in filling' critical public health roles as Malaria cases emerge
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Image via Twitter.

Weeks after four malaria cases were detected in Florida, state officials are struggling to fill two important public health positions, Rolling Stone reports.

On Thursday, July 6, NBC exclusively reported the vacant roles "are in the Florida Health Department's Bureau of Epidemiology, which plays a key role in monitoring and combating the spread of disease in the state."

NBC also notes Florida Republican Governor Ron "DeSantis' hands-off approach during the height of the Covid pandemic made him a star with conservatives nationally, and he regularly touts his strategy in his 2024 presidential campaign," however, "the approach has also given Florida the reputation of being ground zero for how the division in public health administration is treated."

READ MORE: Top Florida health officials disregarded critical COVID-19 vaccine data: report

The Sunshine State, according to Rolling Stone, "hasn't had anyone at the top of the Bureau of Epidemiology since last month, and the surveillance administrator position has been empty since March."

Florida International University an infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty, told NBC News, "These are critical public health functions," adding, "There has, unfortunately, been recent politicization of the use of vaccines and health services for refugees and other immigrants, which may explain the challenges in filling this vital position."

NBC reports:

Late last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert after four cases of malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes, were found in Florida for the first time in two decades. As a result, the Florida Health Department has issued an advisory on mosquito-borne illnesses.

The report also notes the CDC "issued an alert for new cases of malaria in Florida just days ago," according to Rolling Stone.

Ron DeSantis pushing to ban COVID-19 protection measures as cases and deaths rise

Rolling Stonereports:

DeSantis is currently presiding over a state lacking a head of its epidemiology bureau at a time when malaria has cropped up within its borders for the first time in two decades. The climate crisis is only going to heighten the risk of infectious disease, which means the nation would probably be wise to avoid installing an anti-science ideologue like DeSantis in the White House.

In April, NY Daily News reported top "Florida health administrators disregarded essential COVID-19 findings issued by the" CDC, which University of Florida biostatistics professor Matt Hitchings told Tampa Bay Times was "a grave violation of research integrity," emphasizing, [The vaccine] has done a lot to advance the health of people of Florida and he’s encouraging people to mistrust it."

READ MORE: Florida health official placed on leave after encouraging staffers to get COVID vaccine

Rolling Stone's full report is available at this link (subscription required). NBC's exclusive report is here.

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