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Newly available COVID data not enough to quell public records lawsuit

Daily case averages are at their lowest point since late July and hospitalizations are lower...
Daily case averages are at their lowest point since late July and hospitalizations are lower than they’ve been since early August.(Capitol News Service)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 3:28 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The new White House COVID-19 Community Profile Report includes a breakdown of deaths in Florida by county. It’s the first time the detailed information has been included for roughly three months.

“It is not a coincidence,” Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith said.

Smith, who is suing the state for access to more detailed COVID data, said the timing of the release is suspect.

“They have a history of only sharing information and public records after they’ve been sued,” Smith said.

The Governor’s Office responded accusing the Representative of politicizing COVID data.

“It is disappointing that anyone – including activist groups and lawmakers – would question the integrity of Florida’s public health professionals by inappropriately politicizing their important work,” DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said.

The Department of Health also pushed back, blaming the lack of Florida data appearing in the White House reports on the CDC.

“The Department continues to provide, and has provided, CDC county COVID-19 data since March 2020. We do not have control over the display of these data by CDC,” DOH Communications Director Weesam Khoury said in an emailed statement.

USF Epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi said he finds the department’s defense credible.

“Undoubtedly the Department of Health has been reporting this information,” Dr. Salemi said. “My suspicion is, maybe the Department of Health didn’t even know it wasn’t being updated until they were finally informed.”

Smith told us even with the county by county death data now available, his lawsuit will still go forward. That’s because he’s seeking detailed demographic breakdowns on the county level for hospitalizations, cases, and deaths.

“Some of these specific breakdowns, particularly by age, are very important as our kids are returning to school,” Smith said.

Salemi and Smith both agree, more data is never a bad thing.

“There’s always going to be somebody who wants more and more data, and I’m one of those people,” Salemi said.

Smith’s lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing Monday afternoon. The Department of Health had no comment regarding the case.