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Editorial: Why does DeSantis continue to hide COVID-19 data? Florida already looks like a loser

Miami Herald on

Published in Op Eds

Fighting COVID-19 has been hard enough, but fighting the state for a straight answer on numbers to gauge the past and current spike of new cases has been utterly exhausting. Floridians deserve better.

The latest battle is getting Gov. DeSantis' office to release complete daily hospitalization data for all 67 counties. It's amazing that this is not routine already.

Other elected officials have made their numbers public. In April, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered hospitals in the county to report daily patient admissions, ICU capacity and ventilator inventory.

It's important that we know this information, especially as new cases of the coronavirus in Florida top out near the 10,000 mark daily. As local hospitals are reaching capacity, admission figures are real-time indicators of how fast and furious the virus is spreading in a specific community. The number of people entering hospitals each day for COVID-19 is also key information that public health experts monitor to assess the spikes in cases and potential strain on hospital systems.

So why can't Floridians see for themselves?

Florida an outlier

But ask the state for hospitalization numbers, and you get the runaround, thanks to Florida's secretive governor. It shouldn't take unending media requests and lawsuits to jar loose information the public needs to understand this horrible pandemic.

Florida is an outlier among states in not reporting the number of patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

In Nevada, residents are privy to charts featuring information pertaining to the growth rates of cases and related deaths, hospitalizations and capacity, and the state's cumulative positive test rate. But Floridians and, as important, public health professionals, are kept in the dark as the DeSantis' administration stonewalls.

The secrecy is hard to comprehend, unless the numbers match up. One theory is that the state hospitalization numbers will conflict with those already released by counties such as Miami-Dade, giving rise to a bunch of questions for which the state has no answer.

 

Under pressure last week as COVID-19 hospitalizations soared in Florida, DeSantis' office said the state would start reporting daily hospitalization data. But we've gotten close to zilch so far.

Mish-mash of numbers

Currently, the state's Agency for Health Care Administration is the keeper of those numbers and reports daily hospital bed capacity, while the state Department of Health reports the total number of patients admitted to hospitals during the course of the pandemic, but not the number of people actively in a hospital at a given time. Confused?

Asked by a Miami Herald reporter to explain this week, DeSantis deflected: "Obviously not everything is presented in this report, but just an unbelievable amount of data is available." He did not respond to a follow-up question from CNN correspondent Rosa Flores as to why the state does not publish daily hospitalization data. Let's see now, he didn't want to release the names of nursing homes where coronavirus was found; fired Rebekah Jones, who oversaw the statewide dashboard for COVID-19 data when she wouldn't play along and manipulate numbers; now this. Typical DeSantis, sadly.

Any public distrust of this administration has been well-earned. It's the fruit of bad leadership.We can't trust him when he refuses to be fully transparent. In fact, we can't trust the governor with our lives. Every county in the state should, like Miami-Dade, refuse to follow his lead.

Floridians deserve better.

(c)2020 Miami Herald

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