By John Haughey
The Center Square
November 14, 2020
Florida has about 425,000 state employees, so it’s not every day that an entry-level, $40,000-a-year hire draws statewide media attention and scorn.
If that newly hired COVID-19 data analyst in the Florida Office of Policy and Budget (OPB) is a “ ‘sports guy’ moonlighting as a COVID-19 analyst” with no knowledge of immunology but an exhaustive history of spreading conspiracy theories and dismissing science, however, then observers notice.
Kyle Lamb, 40, a sports blogger, podcaster and Uber driver from Columbus, Ohio, has been hired by the OPB, an agency within the governor’s office, but has not as started his position in Tallahassee.
Among his Twitter and sports message board posts, Lamb repeatedly has posted claims that defy scientific evidence, such as masks don’t prevent COVID-19 from spreading, hydroxychloroquine can treat the virus, COVID-19 is less dangerous than the flu and isn’t dangerous for children, United Nations troops were occupying a local county fairgrounds in March and the pandemic is a “biowar” being waged by China.
On a website for a podcast he hosts, Lamb wrote, “Fact is, I’m not an ‘expert.’ I’m not a doctor, epidemiologist, virologist or scientist. I also don’t need to be. Experts don’t have all the answers, and we’ve learned that the hard way.”
Peppered throughout his social media posts is effusive praise for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pandemic policies, such as his refusal to issue a statewide mask mandate, which drew notice on Fox News in July.
Lamb tweeted Nov. 6 that he’d “officially accepted an offer to go work for Gov. Ron DeSantis … doing data analysis on several fronts for them including but not limited to COVID-19 research and other projects. I have no qualms about being a ‘sports guy’ moonlighting as a COVID-19 analyst.”
Word of Lamb’s hiring filtered through Ohio before it matriculated south, with one well-known epidemiologist issuing a warning to Floridians.
“Oh, lord. Sorry, Florida,” Kent State University College of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Tara C. Smith tweeted. “Ohioans may have seen Kyle Lamb’s COVID conspiracy posts shared on social media – now he’s apparently gotten a job in the Sunshine State.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a prospective 2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said in a statement Lamb is actually the perfect hire for an administration attempting to obscure its failure in addressing the pandemic.
“Cases are skyrocketing, and the governor continues undermining science,” Fried said. “Now he wants to hire a fringe sports blogger with no experience in epidemiology or data analysis just because he shares the governor’s negligent, misguided opinions?”
Ten of Florida’s 13 congressional Democrats in a letter to DeSantis demanded Thursday he un-hire Lamb.
“Given that Lamb is an unqualified conspiracy theorist, his role as a member of your COVID-19 response staff is inexplicable and grossly irresponsible, we call on you to immediately remove Lamb from this critical role,” the letter reads.
The letter contrasted Lamb’s hiring with the firing of Rebekah Jones, the geographic information system manager for FDOH’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection who fostered controversy in May by claiming in a mass email to COVID-19 dashboard subscribers that the state was manipulating data.
Jones has a doctorate in geography from Florida State University, a master’s in geography and mass communication from Louisiana State University, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Syracuse in geography and journalism.
“The firing of Jones, a qualified expert aiming to protect the well-being of Floridians, and the hiring of Kyle Lamb, an unqualified conspiracy theorist, leaves us with no choice, but to question your hiring practices and conclude that you are putting the health and safety of Floridians at risk,” the letter concludes.