Florida Phoenix by Issac Morgan
February 18, 2020
Amid concerns about what residents know and don’t know about the deadly coronavirus, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees appeared before a state Senate committee Tuesday and told lawmakers he can’t provide information about suspected cases of the global virus.
“Are you saying [that] you cannot release information on persons being tested [for the coronavirus]?” asked South Florida State Sen. Lori Berman.
“Per statute, we cannot,” said Rivkees, Florida’s chief health officer and head of the Florida Department of Health.
Another doctor, John Sinnott, appeared at the committee and said there are suspected coronavirus cases in the state.
“So far there are no (confirmed) cases in Florida, but a few under investigation,” said Sinnott, who is chairman of the University of South Florida College of Internal Medicine.
Sinnott was asked by the committee about the number of people from Florida who’ve been to China. He answered, saying that China officials told him the number was 16,000.
It’s not clear if all those visitors could have been potentially infected. And in any case, the Florida Health Department would not disclose non-confirmed cases.
Rivkees had earlier explained in his presentation to the Senate’s Health Policy committee, that, “Per Florida statute, patient confidentiality is strictly upheld and is very highly valued by the state… and information will only be released if necessary by the state health office or designee. Thus per statute, we cannot comment on persons under investigation.”
In response to Democratic State Sen. Darryl Rouson, who represents parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Rivkees said, “If there is a confirmed case, it will absolutely be reported to the public.”