A COVID-19 data discrepancy published first by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and then read out loud to media outlets by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is highlighting just how dysfunctional the lines of communication are between two of Florida’s biggest state agencies.
The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) tracks the state’s COVID-19 data, but Fried, who heads up the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), is giving daily COVID-19 briefings.
Rather than request COVID-19 data from the Health Department a few miles away in Tallahassee, the Agriculture Department is relying on COVID-19 data that gets routed from the Health Department through the CDC.
The only actual communication on the matter between the two state departments is in the public forum.
Health Department Communication Director Weesam Khoury said no one from Fried’s agency has reached out to request daily COVID-19 reports.
But a spokesperson for Fried’s office, Erin Moffet, maintains Fried’s near-daily criticism of the Health Department’s lack of public reporting of daily COVID-19 data is the same thing.
“The Commissioner has been calling on FDOH to resume its daily updates and provide the public with timely information since her first COVID briefing on July 28,” read a written statement from Moffet.
But Dr. Shamarial Roberson, Deputy Secretary for Health for the FDOH, said Tuesday that Fried’s office can go through the website just like everyone else.
“In Florida, there’s a very clear process on how you can request data at Florida Department of Health. It is on our website at FloridaHealth.gov,” Roberson said.
Roberson also mentioned the office of communication in the Health Department and said “to my knowledge we have no pending requests from the Department of Agriculture.”
With no communication with the Health Department, Fried, during her daily COVID-19 briefings, is publicizing whatever data for Florida the CDC is reporting, which ended up mattering Monday when CDC data didn’t line up with state reported COVID-19 cases.
By the time the data issue was realized, Fried had publicized the CDC data in her daily COVID-19 briefing to reporters, which showed COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in Florida over the weekend rather than slightly declining as state Health Department data showed.
Roberson said the CDC is going to fix its data set to match what the Health Department is reporting and brushed aside any effects Fried’s COVID-19 briefings are having on the department.
“External factors related to what people are saying or doing is not in our purview, and we stay ready to respond to this pandemic, no matter if cases are up or down,” Roberson said.