TALLAHASSEE, Fla — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried held a briefing at the Florida State Capitol Wednesday to discuss the surge of COVID-19 cases across the state.
She presented the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the first of what will be regular briefings by the commissioner, according to a release from her office.
The announcement coincides with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent reversal of its mask guidances for vaccinated individuals.
Citing new information about the delta variant's transmission among vaccinated people, the CDC recommended Tuesday that fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging. This means in Florida, virtually everyone needs to mask up.
Why is the state's agriculture commissioner stepping in to share COVID-19 information?
Fried, who is running for governor, said she's "filling the current information-sharing void" that currently exists in the state.
She highlighted the fact that the Florida Department of Health ceased daily COVID-19 reporting nearly two months ago. It's something the state says it has "no plans" to resume either.
"The people of Florida need and deserve access to regular timely updates as it relates to the ongoing pandemic. Not secret meetings or sporadic information sharing," Fried said.
The commissioner encouraged vaccinations as well as a "back-to-basics" approach to slowing the spread of the virus, like wearing a mask, washing your hands, and social distancing when possible.
Fried even shared ways for parents to encourage their kids to wear masks, a stark contrast to Gov. Ron DeSantis' opposition to mask mandates at public schools in Florida.
In response to the commissioner's briefing, a spokesperson for DeSantis it is regrettable that Fried would imply the Department of Health is acting improperly with its COVID reporting, adding that the information Fried is reported by DOH to the CDC every day.
"The data is publicly available, though it’s not clear why Fried is presenting it with her own commentary, because she isn’t a doctor, epidemiologist, or public health specialist," the spokesperson wrote.
The state appears "red hot" on the newest map published by the CDC that shows every corner of the state dealing with high transmission of coronavirus.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 73,199 new cases overall for the week of July 16-22 — an average of 10,000 new cases a day. The percent positivity of new cases climbed to a new months-long high of 15.1 percent.
Visit the Florida Department of Health's website to find a vaccine location near you.
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