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Coronavirus in Florida

After hearing crickets, Kathy Castor files public records request for Florida COVID-19 testing plan

Castor requested the plan three weeks ago, but Gov. DeSantis didn’t respond.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is officially requesting Florida’s COVID-19 testing and tracing plan.

Castor filed a public record’s request with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office Wednesday for “any and all documents” related to “the state of Florida’s testing plan that was required to be sent to the U.S. Department of Health Human Services” 30 days after the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program. That measure was approved April 24 and would have been due a month ago.

Castor previously requested DeSantis release the plan three weeks ago, but said she has not received a response.

“The key to controlling the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopening Florida’s economy is a widespread and rapid testing plan and contact tracing with diligent focus on our most vulnerable Floridians,” Castor wrote in her records request to the Governor’s records custodian.

“The State of Florida was required to submit a testing plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in May, but it is unclear whether or not the State complied with the law passed by Congress to do so.”

The plan required states’ goals for testing throughout 2020 including the number of tests needed, month-to-month estimates of laboratory testing capacity and a description of how the state plan to use its resources for testing.

“This is important information that Floridians, local officials and public health experts need to make informed decisions and save lives,” Castor wrote.

Castor requested the documents within two weeks or, if that’s not possible, a written explanation for why. If the office determines any of the information is exempt from public disclosure, she also cited state statute requiring a written explanation.

Castor said her office, which is publicly funded with federal dollars, would cover any costs associated with duplicating documents for dispersement to her office.

“It is more important than ever that we work together to keep Floridians safe, especially with the recent spike in cases and growing positivity rate among Floridians,” she wrote.

“As steps are taken to move away from the State’s Safer at Home plan, it is imperative that we have a publicly available testing plan to help our neighbors make decisions for their families, fight this pandemic and start building back our economy.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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