Community organizations call on the Florida Legislature to investigate Governor DeSantis’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
MIAMI, FL — Earlier today, a coalition of community organizations including the New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, Organize Florida, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, released the following statement regarding recent revelations that the Florida Department of Health may be actively censoring COVID-19 data in an effort to prop up the governor’s political agenda:
“The prospect of censoring scientists and limiting public access to data in the midst of a global pandemic rattles the core of our democratic institutions. At a time when more than 2,000 Floridians have lost their lives to this virus, and the ongoing plan to prematurely re-open businesses in Florida is exposing millions more to the risk of COVID-19, the implications of censoring public health data could not be more severe.
“In a democracy, transparency is paramount—even more so during a public health crisis. That’s why we are calling on the Florida Legislature to establish two independent joint oversight committees pertaining to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first committee should be tasked with investigating the recent allegations that have surfaced surrounding the abrupt and inexplicable removal of Rebekah Jones, the architect of Florida’s COVID-19 interactive database. Her ouster bears the hallmarks of a government crackdown on vital information, led by Governor DeSantis’ administration, and demands a swift and thorough response to preserve the integrity of the public health department.
“The second committee should be tasked with investigating the persistent and prevalent problems with Florida’s unemployment insurance system. The governor has claimed to have started his own investigation, but given that he knew the system was broken a year ago and did nothing to fix it, we have no faith whatsoever in his ability to hold himself accountable.
“In times of crisis, public access to information is critical to mobilizing a population and empowering them to make responsible decisions that serve the interests of society as a whole. The government’s apparent crackdown on public health data threatens Floridians’ ability to make informed decisions to protect their own health, their families’ health, and the health of the state.
“We call on House Speaker Oliva, Senate President Galvano, and all members of the legislature, to immediately establish two bicameral, bipartisan, independent oversight committees, to hold the executive branch of the Florida government accountable for its failures and do what is right for the public health of all Floridians.
Meanwhile, we will keep asking Governor DeSantis to act now as thousands of people send him messages demanding #ReliefNotReopen and their unemployment checks.”
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The New Florida Majority (NewFM) is an independent political organization working to increase the voting and political power of historically marginalized and excluded constituencies toward an inclusive, equitable, and just Florida. For more information, visit www.newfloridamajority.org or follow us on twitter @NewFLMajority