House Democrats on Tuesday accused House Speaker Chris Sprowls of glossing over the pandemic during his opening remarks at the 2021 Organization Session.
Speaking at a press conference after the session, House Minority Leaders Bobby DuBose and Evan Jenne said they wished Sprowls had offered more details about his plan to manage COVID-19 and the state unemployment system.
“I didn’t really hear anything substantive on COVID other than an admission that it’s been a tough time for Floridians,” Jenne said. “But I would argue that it’s probably a lot more than just a tough time, especially if your family member is one of the 17 or 18,000 people who have already died with COVID.”
During his speech, Sprowls briefly spoke about the pandemic and its economic impact. The bulk of his speech spanned across topics including patriotism, culture, law and order, and more. He mentioned the pandemic eight times.
DuBose, standing alongside Jenne, echoed the sentiment.
“We would have liked to hear a plan and a direction,” Dubose said. “This isn’t anything new. We’ve had almost a year to live through this and we need to offer the residents of Florida a plan and we didn’t hear that.”
Later, Jenne proposed that the first step to containing the virus should be securing a “real stream of data” and COVID-19 information.
Jenne claimed the state does not accurately know how many people have died with COVID-19 in Florida. Without accurate numbers, he contended, people cannot make informed choices.
“People are going to make decisions for themselves and their family,” Jenne said. “They deserve to have the full picture of what is really going on not just in the state and the nation, but in their individual communities.”
Last week, state health officials made more than 40,000 COVID-19 diagnoses among Florida residents after weekly cases increased throughout October. Officials also raised the pandemic’s death toll by 397 that week. As of Monday, 889,864 people have tested positive in Florida and 17,775 have died.
Earlier this month, Sprowls announced plans for a new House committee to look at the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and plan for future emergencies.