TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried plans to have her department release daily reports on COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations because the Florida Department of Health -- under her political foe, Gov. Ron DeSantis -- has switched to providing such information once a week.
Fried, the only Democrat holding a statewide office and a 2022 candidate for governor, said she is still working on how the information will be provided, through press conferences, news releases or online posts.
But with the delta variant of the coronavirus driving up case numbers in Florida, she told reporters Wednesday that the "people of Florida need and deserve access to regular timely updates as it relates to the ongoing pandemic, not secret meetings, or sporadic information sharing."
"We live in the state of Florida," Fried said. "We all know that we are susceptible to hurricanes. We all know how to prepare for hurricanes. We know that we’ve got to stock up on medicine and water and food. And if we have a threat of a hurricane, we expect daily briefings."
Other than through her megaphone as a statewide elected official and as head of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Fried has little direct control over the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fried said she isn’t calling for lockdowns or mandatory mask mandates, which she did a year ago. But she said she intends to provide data submitted by county health departments to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House Health Equity COVID-19 Task Force.
The Florida Department of Health in early June scaled back from releasing daily reports to weekly reports, as new cases and hospitalizations dropped. Also, the weekly reports provide less detailed information than the daily reports, which were posted for much of 2020 and the first half of 2021.
DeSantis’ office has said the administration does not plan to return to daily reports.
Meanwhile, DeSantis on Wednesday raised money for his political committee through an email that blasted Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a favorite target of conservatives. Also, during an appearance at a conservative policy conference in Utah hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, DeSantis mocked new mask guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Tuesday night, DeSantis accused the CDC of being ideologically driven as he appeared on the Mark Levin Show.
"So much of this is not science Mark, it’s political science," DeSantis said. "And that's what I think the CDC unfortunately has been operating under now for many, many months."