Gov. DeSantis’ office delays critical White House coronavirus report for 2nd time

Delayed report warns Florida is in the ‘red zone’

News 6 continues to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis' office why it for a second time delayed the release of a public document from the White House intended to warn and advise Florida about its COVID-19 situation.

On Monday, News 6 received reports dated Oct. 18 and Oct. 25 sent to DeSantis’ office from Vice President Mike Pence’s White House Coronavirus Task Force.

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The White House has said the reports and their recommendations are public and can be released.

It’s the second time the reports haven’t been released from DeSantis’ office for more than a week after they were written.

The most recent report, dated Oct. 25, listed Florida in the “red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the 31st highest rate in the country.”

Florida was listed in the “yellow zone for test positivity, indicating a rate between 5% and 7.9%, with the 33rd highest rate in the country.”

On Oct. 30, the U.S. set another new record for most positive COVID-19 cases in a day.

Also on Oct. 30, the number of new cases reported in Florida by the Florida Health Department reached almost 6,000, a level not seen since Aug. 15.

“57% of all counties in Florida have moderate or high levels of community transmission,” the Oct. 25 report said. “An average of 94% of hospitals reported either new confirmed or new suspected COVID patients each day during this period (Oct. 17-23).”

The White House report also listed recommendations for Florida, including:

  • “The timeseries of maps” in the packet shows “shows early signs of deterioration in the Sunbelt, including Florida, as mitigation efforts were decreased over the last month.”
  • “There continues to be an increase in COVID-19 cases, a slight increase in test positivity, and no decline in week over week new hospital admissions. These... suggest the early signs of expanding community spread that should be immediately addressed.”
  • “Florida should immediately expand mitigation in the counties with rising cases and any increase in daily hospitalizations.”
  • Efforts should include “mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings...”
  • “Ensure all k-12 schools are following CDC guidelines...”
  • “Encourage university students to continue their mitigation behaviors...”
  • “Ensure all nursing homes, assisted living, and elderly care sites have full testing capacity...”

DeSantis spoke briefly about the election Wednesday afternoon in Tallahassee but did not answer questions.

News 6 asked DeSantis' press secretary Cody McCloud why the governor’s office has delayed the release of the White House report to the public a second time and if local governments could have used the information sooner to prepare and respond to COVID-19 cases.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor DeSantis has coordinated with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and experts at the local, state and federal levels, as well as those in the private sector, to protect Florida’s most vulnerable residents and guide our state through this unprecedented public health emergency,” McCloud wrote in an email. “Since March, he has traveled the state on a near-daily basis, urging best health practices and encouraging vigilance against COVID-19.”

McCloud did not address the repeated delays.

Some governors, like Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, have chosen to immediately put the weekly White House reports on a public website.

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