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DeSantis: Florida reporting county-level COVID data ‘may not be a bad idea’

DeSantis’ comments may signal a reversal from the way the state has reported cases for more than two months.
Governor Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during a roundtable discussion with theme park leaders about safety protocols and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday, August 26, 2020. Executives from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando participated.
Governor Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during a roundtable discussion with theme park leaders about safety protocols and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday, August 26, 2020. Executives from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando participated.
Published Aug. 12
Updated Aug. 12

TALLAHASSEE — After weeks of hesitance from the state to release more detailed coronavirus case data, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signaled a willingness to reverse Florida’s stance.

Cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing across the state, but the trends are uneven, the governor said. Some areas may soon see case numbers peak and start to fall off, he said, while other areas continue to rise.

Given the regional pandemic differences, DeSantis said it may be time for Florida to report more detailed information than the case data published daily by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — data the state shares with the federal government, but not directly with the public.

“It is a huge state, and I think that these waves are not necessarily uniform,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Jacksonville touting the state’s efforts to get monoclonal antibody treatments to at-risk COVID-19 patients. “With these daily cases, those are reported publicly every day to the CDC so people have access to that. But in terms of breaking it down by county, that may not be a bad idea going forward. I know we used to look at that a lot.”

DeSantis’ remarks come weeks after experts began calling for the state to resume sharing more coronavirus data so citizens could be informed about the state of their communities.

On June 4, the state stopped publishing daily county-level case, death and hospitalization reports, and moved to a more general weekly report. The state also used to publish a daily spreadsheet detailing the county, age, gender and hospitalization status for every COVID-19 patient in the state, as well as information on whether the patient died or had been admitted to an emergency department.

The governor’s office in June cited the sharp decline in cases and the widespread availability of vaccines — which have been shown to prevent the worst effects of the disease — as reasons for why it stopped sharing the detailed daily data.

The state has stopped publishing detailed breakdowns of who is getting vaccinated. Before June 4, Florida published county-level breakdowns of people’s vaccination status by age and race or ethnicity. The current weekly reports only provide state-level vaccination data.

The state still reports daily case, testing and death figures to the federal government, which then posts them publicly.

It’s unclear what additional data the state may resume reporting or when the reports will resurface. Emailed requests for comment to the governor’s office on Thursday were not returned.

Earlier this week, DeSantis signaled he may be willing to directly report Florida’s case numbers to the public after the CDC incorrectly reported Florida’s case data for the weekend of Aug. 7 and Aug 8. The figures have since been corrected.

“We’re trying to decide if it makes sense to at least put out something,” DeSantis said Monday. “Stay tuned on that. We’ll see what happens.”

In early July, Florida coronavirus cases began to spike once again. An unprecedented increase in hospitalizations quickly followed. On Thursday, the Florida Hospital Association reported 15,358 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, another record high.

At Thursday’s event in Jacksonville, DeSantis announced the deployment of new mobile “rapid response units” meant to deliver COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments to infected people in the early stages of the disease. The first unit is starting in Jacksonville, and there are plans to expand to other parts of the state.

The antibody treatments, such as the one produced by Regeneron, have shown promise in reducing hospitalizations in people who use the treatment early.

Times staff writer Ian Hodgson contributed to this report.