Miami Herald by Mary Ellen Klas & Lawrence Mower
April 18, 2020
As Florida’s elder care facilities are becoming increasingly lethal incubators of the novel coronavirus, state officials revealed for the first time Saturday that 303 facilities in 45 counties have staff or residents who have tested positive for the deadly respiratory infection.
The facilities were named in a list released by the Florida Department of Health after Gov. Ron DeSantis reversed the agency’s policy and ordered the state’s surgeon general to release the names of the facilities.
“I have now directed him to determine that it is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where a resident or staff member is tested positive for COVID-19,’’ DeSantis said at an afternoon press conference at the Old Capitol building.
DeSantis has been under increasing pressure from advocates such as AARP and families of residents who have been barred by the pandemic from visiting their relatives and said they needed the information to be assured that their loved ones are safe. A coalition of news organizations has also threatened to sue him for violating the state public records law.
But the measure was opposed by the industry, such as the Florida Health Care Association, which represents 300 nursing homes. It argued releasing the information would violate patient privacy.
As DeSantis has marshaled the forces of state government to fight the novel coronavirus, he has repeatedly been accused of withholding information, ranging from no-bid purchase orders worth millions of dollars for protective masks, to sluggish reporting of the case count and testing data, to failing to be forthright about the toll the disease has taken on the state’s prison system.