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Florida must publish Covid data until 2027 and pay $150,000 in legal fees after it was accused of covering up figures during the pandemic.

The state’s Department of Health stopped releasing daily figures on cases, deaths and hospitalizations in June 2021 — arguing vaccinations meant it was not needed.

But after it rejected a public records request for the information, citing confidentiality, the state was sued by campaigners.

It has now agreed on a settlement that will see it release the data and continue to publish figures for another three years. The Department has not admitted any wrongdoing.

Florida’s Department of Health has now agreed a settlement to release Covid data and pay legal fees. Its governor is Republican presidential nomination hopeful Ron DeSantis (pictured today)

The state’s Department of Health (pictured) stopped releasing daily figures on cases, deaths and hospitalizations in June 2021 — arguing vaccinations meant it was not needed.

The above shows the test positivity rate – the proportion of tests picking up the virus – over the first two years of the pandemic. The Delta wave is represented by the peak between July 2021 and December the same year

The above shows Covid hospitalizations in Florida, revealing these also rose during the Delta wave in the state

The director for Public Access at the Florida Center for Government Accountability, Michael Barfield, who was involved in a lawsuit, said transparency and accountability were ‘non-negotiable’ and ‘mandated’ by the Constitution.

‘The Department hid public records during the height of the pandemic to fit a political narrative that Florida was open for business,’ he said.

‘The DeSantis administration settled in our favor because they knew what they did was wrong.

‘We held them accountable, we required them to be more transparent and to hand over records they claimed didn’t exist, and we protected the public’s constitutional right to know.’ 

Democrat and Orlando representative Carlos Smith, who was also involved in bringing forward the lawsuit, said: ‘The Department lied about the existence of these public records in court.

‘[The Department] did everything to restrict information and downplay the threat of Covid even while the Delta variant ripped through Florida — a decision that cost many lives.’

Florida suspended daily data updates and its Covid dashboard in June 2021, switching to weekly reports.

At the time, it said this was due to a higher vaccination rate and data suggesting cases in the state were dropping — despite the Delta wave hitting the US.

Rep. Smith, who was also a member of Florida’s House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee, used a public records request to ask for data for his home county in August 2021.

But when this was denied, with the Department citing confidentiality, he sued the state.

The FLCGA then requested the daily data for all of Florida’s 67 counties via a public records request but, when this was also denied, they sued as well.

The Department of Health initially demanded a protective order in January 2022 in order to avoid releasing the data, but a Circuit Judge blocked the request.

Officials then said the data did not exist.

But after an appellate court said an agency official had to answer questions under oath, the data was produced in March 2023.

A settlement has now been agreed upon that will see the Department release Covid data in weekly reports for the next three years.

This will include vaccination counts, case counts and deaths given by county, age group, gender and race.

A spokesman for the Department of Health dismissed the lawsuit as a ‘political stunt’.

‘It is unfortunate that we have continued to waste Government resources arguing over formatting of data with armchair epidemiologists,’ he said, ‘who have zero training or expertise’.

The Department says that it continued to share data with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The lawsuit was supported by publications including the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and the First Amendment Foundation.

The Delta variant of Covid was first detected in the United States in March 2023 and sent cases surging in July that year.

But by September, daily Covid data updates were being likened to ‘scaremongering’ in some quarters — who argued the roll out of the vaccine had ‘changed the game’.

Other states — including Nebraska and Kansas — also cut back on daily numbers reporting in mid-2021. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — and current Republican nominee for president hopeful — was repeatedly accused of using Covid data to back his policies.

He re-opened most of Florida for business in early May 2020 — when most of the world was still in lockdown and before vaccines were available — citing a ‘data-driven strategy’ and dropping infections.

Donald Trump was also able to point to Florida during his campaign as a sign that America was, once again, open for business.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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