GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faces a lawsuit claiming that the state Department of Health has violated public records laws by not releasing daily data reports about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Miami Herald reports.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Leon County Circuit Court on Monday by Democrat state Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith and the Florida Center for Government Accountability, claims that the Florida Health Department refused to provide information and told them that the COVID-19 data is no longer a matter of public record. It goes on to accuse the Department of Health and Surgeon General Scott Rivkees of having broken public records law while the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to surge in the state.
"Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 and its 'continuing threat' to Floridians, records revealing information about its impact, prevalence and fatality is of obvious public importance," the lawsuit claims, according to the Herald.
"Floridians have an immediate need for access to information about the virus and its impact and spread in particular communities. This information is vital to the ability of citizens to understand the risks and make informed decisions about their lives," it adds.
"The purpose of this action is to obtain critical records that the department previously published daily on its website so that the public will have knowledge of and the ability to scrutinize their government’s response to the rampaging virus. This is the paramount goal of open government laws."
"I don’t want to have to sue the state," Guillermo Smith said on Tuesday, according to local NBC affiliate WFLA. "I’m asking for the exact same public health data that used to be available on the COVID daily dashboard reporting."
He added, "Local school board leaders and school superintendents who need access to local covid transmission trends, data, hospitalizations as it relates to children in their area."
"Public health surveillance and controlling the spread of infectious diseases have always been core functions of the Florida Department of Health," DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw told WFLA on Tuesday. "FDOH reports data routinely and automatically to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], which in turn updates its national COVID dashboard on a daily basis Monday through Friday."
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