By John Haughey
The Center Square
July 29, 2021
There were 16,038 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Florida Tuesday, 20% of all new cases reported nationwide.
The tally was the Sunshine State’s highest single-day new case count since Jan. 7 and the seventh-consecutive day it recorded more than 12,000 new daily cases.
But you couldn’t find that data Wednesday or Thursday on the Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 data dashboard.
In fact, information about the surging pandemic’s wildfire sprint across Florida between July 23-29 won’t be available until Friday when the DOH posts its weekly update.
Since June, under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ directive, the DOH has only been posting weekly updates every Friday.
The only way to chart the revived pandemic’s day-to-day surge in Florida is via the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)’s COVID Data Tracker – or via the Florida Department of Agriculture’s webpage, where state Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried vowed Wednesday to fill the “COVID information-sharing void” by posting daily CDC data on the site and by conducting daily Facebook live-streamed briefings.
One of three Democrats seeking her party’s nod to challenge DeSantis in the 2022 gubernatorial race, Fried Wednesday said the state’s failure to post daily case counts, hospitalizations and deaths – as well as local and regional vaccination rates – is politically motivated and irresponsible.
“As Floridians in the middle of hurricane season, can you imagine if we had a report saying a storm is coming but that is all the information you get? No daily information on the track of the hurricane or how it is increasing in size,” she said Thursday. “That is what is happening here in the state of Florida.”
Floridians “need and deserve access to regular, timely updates as it relates to the ongoing pandemic,” Fried continued. “That is why I am holding regular briefings to provide needed information and coordination from the federal government, filling the COVID information sharing void that currently exists in our state.”
Fried said by the time Floridians learned the number of new cases increased by 59% last week, it was this week. She said the 8 million unvaccinated Floridians – only 48.46% of eligible Floridians are fully vaccinated – are unaware they are at dramatically increasing risk.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy last week said Florida’s rising caseload is directly related to large unvaccinated population and that daily reporting spotlights where rates are higher and lower
“What concerns me the most about Florida is that cases are rising at an alarming rate, hospitalizations are going up, and deaths are going up. And it’s being driven by the delta variant,” Murthy said. “The challenge we have in Florida, and in far too many states, is we still don’t have vaccination rates high enough, and in some pockets, we have actually vaccination rates that are quite low.”
Knowing where those “pockets” are is vital, Fried said.
“The people of Florida need and deserve access to regular, timely updates as it relates to the ongoing pandemic, not secret meetings or sporadic information sharing,” she said, referring to DeSantis’ closed-door roundtable Monday with anti-mask “experts.”
During that meeting, the governor said the DOH would not return to daily COVID-19 reporting and questioned the need to do so.
“What’s the point of tracking these cases the way we’re tracking the cases if, in fact, we believe the vaccines protect you from severe outcomes but may not necessarily protect you from testing positive?” he asked.