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Coronavirus in Florida

Governor’s Office mulls reducing COVID-19 reporting, but decision isn’t imminent

When the pandemic subsides in Florida, daily reports could become weekly reports.

The Governor’s Office has begun discussing the possibility of decreasing Florida’s coronavirus reporting from a daily release to a weekly release.

There is no consensus yet on what factors would lead the Governor’s Office, the Department of Health and the Division of Emergency Management to slim what has been near-daily updates. And Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ communications director, Fred Piccolo, told Florida Politics that the change is not imminent.

Spectrum News reported Friday that the state has started exploring the possibility of a weekly report now that Florida is in Phase Three.

But Piccolo said staff have only discussed the possibility once or twice.

DEM spokesman Jason Mahon, whose agency is tasked with publishing the state’s coronavirus data, said the Division has not been a part of any conversation on reducing the report’s frequency. And DOH spokesman Alberto Moscoso, whose agency compiles the data, also said the Department hasn’t been apprised of those discussions either.

“I don’t think it’s surprising to read,” Moscoso said. “At some point there has to be a discussion about a path forward.”

State and local officials, the media and the general public alike view the state’s data, which is published on a dashboard and detailed in an archive that sees thousands of new pages added each day. Reducing that data would have to come only when the time is right.

“Everyone likes the data and likes to see the numbers,” Piccolo said.

The discussion is still young, but Piccolo says the switch would likely be tied to a decline in new cases. One threshold he mentioned was when Florida achieves a day with zero deaths tied to COVID-19.

Over the last two weeks, Florida has confirmed an average 92 resident deaths per day.

Ultimately, reducing the frequency of COVID-19 reports would “treat it like any other infectious disease, like hepatitis,” Piccolo said. DOH also releases weekly reports on influenza and mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika.

However, he noted that the Governor’s Office is “definitely seeing an uptick in positive tests,” which come as other parts of the country are seeing a resurgence. He attributed the recent to the increased availability of rapid tests, which he said could be reigniting public interest in testing, and the step to Phase Three of the reopening strategy.

“Right now we’re doing this every day as long as we need to,” Moscoso said.

Saturday’s report showed 4,044 new diagnoses and 87 deaths, making it the first time in eight weeks that cases have increased by more than 4,000. With an additional 2,539 cases reported Sunday, 755,020 people have tested positive and 16,168 have died, including non-residents in the state.

Florida’s coronavirus reporting has been a contentious topic, with media outlets asking for more transparent data and state and federal officials touting state’s virus reporting as exemplary.

The latest battle unfolded when the state posted data on cases in schools for three consecutive days in late August but scrubbed the reports from its public-facing archives on the fourth day. In late September, the state began publishing weekly case data that broke cases down by school and higher education institution.

Following reports about the possible change to weekly updates, Democratic Sens. Lori Berman and Janet Cruz issued a joint statement calling the tidbit from Piccolo a “political stunt” and a page from President Donald Trump‘s “tired playbook of obfuscation.”

“Even as new daily coronavirus cases are creeping up again, the DeSantis administration has offered up a trial balloon to move Florida from daily COVID reporting to weekly reporting,” the Senators said. “They stated that staffing costs are constraining, but there is perhaps no greater use of public funds.”

DOH and DEM first released a joint COVID-19 report on March 16. Between March 19 to April 24, the state released both a morning and evening report each day. Since then, the state has released one report each day, except for Oct. 10, when a glitch and duplicate data forced officials to delay and ultimately scrap that day’s report.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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