Stories using and about public records in Florida

Legislating in the time of COVID-19 means putting protections over public access

Located on the tallest hill in the highest part of the state, halfway between Pensacola and Jacksonville, Florida’s Capitol is hard to reach for most Floridians during the annual legislative session.But this year, as legislators opened their 60-day session Tuesday trying to navigate a global pandemic and stay healthy enough to avoid disrupting their activities, access to elected government is even more distant.

Timeline: Florida’s dark year for its Sunshine Law

A year ago on March 1, 2020, Florida announced its first two cases of the novel coronavirus, and declared a public health emergency recognizing the emergence of the novel coronavirus. Only later did we learn that the spread of COVID-19 in Florida likely began in January, if not earlier, but as late as March 11, as the White House downplayed the virus, Gov. Ron DeSantis denied that community spread was taking place in Florida. Here is a summary of the state of transparency in Florida over the last year:

Reluctantly, under pressure, Florida disclosed COVID-19 data. What the numbers tell us

As Florida’s government built a plan to contain the effects of a global pandemic, it elevated one tool above all others: data. But unlike the way the state has handled other infectious diseases, the COVID-19 records have been incomplete, changed without explanation, dropped from the Department of Health website without warning, or don’t match the public narrative advanced by the governor. The Miami Herald investigated.

The Florida COVID-19 data said one thing while Gov. DeSantis sometimes said another

When Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that most of the state would reopen for business on May 4, he cited his administration’s “data-driven strategy” and success at achieving “critical benchmarks in flattening the curve” to contain COVID-19. But a review of the data the governor was using shows his public pronouncements were often in conflict with real-time facts. He either wasn’t aware the data showed that community spread, regional outbreaks and death tolls were worse than he was telling Floridians, or he selectively focused on outdated statistics to make his case.
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