A courtroom settlement over withheld Covid-19 data that critics say cost thousands of lives has deflated Ron DeSantis’s campaign trail persona as a “freedom warrior” who kept his state open during a deadly peak of the pandemic. Via The Guardian:
The settlement ends a two-year legal battle between the DeSantis administration and a coalition of Democrats, open government advocates and media outlets that began in June 2021 when the Florida health department ended daily updates of Covid cases, deaths and vaccinations on its online dashboard.
The department will pay the plaintiffs’ $152,000 legal bill and resume regular posting of the data that DeSantis’s communications team insisted at the time was no longer necessary because cases had “significantly decreased” and that Florida was “returning to normal”.
In reality, as DeSantis dismissed reporting on the pandemic as “media hysteria”, the Delta variant of the virus was just taking hold, and cases and fatalities spiked, to a record 385 a day in Florida by September 2021. Simultaneously, Florida led the nation in pediatric Covid hospitalizations.
I’d guess this information is coming too late to stop the kind of control DeSantis favors.
“Twenty-three thousand Floridians died during the Delta surge, and not only did the DeSantis administration restrict information on Covid during that time, they repeatedly downplayed the severity of the outbreak to fit their political narrative and help DeSantis run for president. That decision cost lives,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democratic former state congressman who filed the lawsuit against the Florida health department, later joined by the Florida Center for Government Accountability.
“Our school leaders were struggling to make informed decisions about how to mitigate the spread of Covid, whether it be masking or social distancing policies, or other strategies. They needed data, they needed information, but the state made it unavailable, then said it didn’t exist.
“All Floridians have a constitutional right to public records and receive them in a timely manner. And what’s interesting about the governor’s arguments about Covid is, he repeatedly talks about giving people the choice over masks and vaccinations, but without critical public health data how are they able to make informed choices?”
[…] “The DeSantis administration was caught red handed lying about the existence of these public records in court, repeatedly claiming that the records we were requesting didn’t exist, then saying even if they did exist, they would not share them because they were somehow exempt,” he said.