A newly obtained report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force shows Florida leaders were urged to take immediate and strict action in response to the worsening coronavirus pandemic — action that was ignored, and even criticized, by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The report, which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity after the Governor’s Office refused to release it to the media, defined Florida as a red zone for new cases and testing positivity rate. According to the report, 99% of all Florida counties have moderate or high levels of community transmission.
The document makes clear that strict mitigation strategies need to be implemented, stating, “mitigation efforts must increase, including the implementation of key state and local policies with an additional focus on uniform behavioral change.” The report suggests for changes such as requiring face masks, physical distancing, hand washing, as well as preventing gatherings outside of households and more aggressive testing.
The report also calls for leaders to significantly reduce the capacity limits or close indoor gathering spaces, like bars and restaurants.
These strict mitigation measures have been scrutinized by DeSantis, who has been vocal about the state not needing such mitigation strategies, pushing for reopening.
In late September, DeSantis made the decision to lift all state-level restrictions on businesses. At the state level, that mostly applies to restaurants and bars, both of which had been operating at 50% capacity.
At the same time, DeSantis’ office refused to publicize reports from the task force that recommended nearly the opposite public response.
The Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun Sentinel sued the Governor’s Office earlier this week to get the office to release the reports. The suit alleged that the governor’s office had not released any of the weekly reports issued during the month of November.
This news comes after Senate Democrats Thursday blasted Gov. DeSantis’ efforts both to slow the virus’ spread and to provide transparent leadership that could increase trust in government, all midst a resurgence of the pandemic in Florida.