ORLANDO, Fla. – White House officials raised concerns over “early warning signs in Florida” when they noticed a “week over week increase in (coronavirus) cases in The Villages and several counties, including Brevard," according to a report released to Gov. Ron DeSantis' office earlier this month.
The weekly report sent to DeSantis shows 25% of nursing home staff members were testing positive for COVID-19 and encouraged to continue “mitigation behaviors” for students at universities.
The problem? The report wasn’t made public for 11 days, until Thursday. On this day, Florida reported the highest single-day statewide increase in coronavirus cases since Sept. 1.
“That means that everyone is letting their guard down,” Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty said. “It is very disappointing.”
Since the summer, White House officials have been sending weekly coronavirus reports to governors across the country.
The reports detail week over week trends for each state and include a slew of recommendations for officials trying to tackle the seemingly-never-ending pandemic.
Some, like Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, have chosen to immediately put the weekly state reports on a public website.
However, in Florida, News 6 found this is not the case. Reporters asking for copies of the reports were forced to file formal public records request for the weekly updates, even though the White House has said the recommendations are public and can be released.
The most recent report we uncovered, one from Oct. 11, makes a list of recommendations for DeSantis and his team. Among them are increased testing statewide, and the continued encouragement of “outdoor activities and ensure mask(s) and physical distancing.”
“Our message has been very consistent,” Husty said. “Masks and social distancing work. If people do not understand that then they are not really listening.”
One day after getting the White House report on Oct. 11, DeSantis joined President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Sanford. The majority of the crowd remained maskless.
News 6 reached out to DeSantis' communications office for an interview or comment, but we have not received a response.
“I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I was disappointed whenever I see a group of people not wearing masks and social distancing,” Husty said, who admits even he has coronavirus fatigue. “I am so tired of this virus, but it is not tired of us.”
Husty says whether or not DeSantis makes the White House records public to health officials, he has local data he can rely on to make informed decisions on behalf of the public.
“In some ways, I do not care what the president says and I do not care what the governor says," he said. "What I care about is what we collectively know to be working and not working, and we can see that.”