Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) has filed a lawsuit against the administration of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis after state authorities refused to comply with a public records request from Smith for information regarding cases of COVID-19 in children. Smith submitted that request on July 23 of this year, and the state Representative says that following “weeks of slow-walking” by the state, authorities eventually “officially denied access to these records and falsely stated they were ‘confidential’ under state law, even after making those same records available for nearly a year on the [Health] Department’s daily COVID dashboard.”
Smith hopes to compel state authorities to release the information that he’s after and to get officials to restart daily reporting of the details in question, which include “daily local COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations, case counts and more,” the Representative says. As he pointedly put it:
‘All Floridians have the right to receive critical public health data in a timely manner in order to make informed decisions to protect the health and safety of their families. The DeSantis administration has consistently refused to release COVID-related public records, which not only hurts our efforts to contain this deadly virus, it is also unlawful.’
Check out his full statement below:
I just filed a lawsuit against the DeSantis administration for refusing to lawfully comply with my public records request for critical COVID-related public health data. Floridians deserve transparency and accountability and I’m not taking NO for an answer.
My full statement👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/4H1ZGFOo5q
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) August 31, 2021
As Smith referenced, information about the spread of COVID-19 among children in Florida could be critical in helping parents to make informed decisions about the best courses of action for their children’s care. DeSantis and his administration have already proven, though, that the well-being of vulnerable children isn’t exactly at the top of their priorities list. The governor’s team continues to fight the imposition of mask mandates in schools, although wearing masks in schools could be one of the only ways that immuno-compromised or otherwise vulnerable kids can safely attend school with present circumstances in place. It’s not forever — but for now, all children under 12 aren’t even approved to receive vaccines against COVID-19, so masks can help in the meantime.
Pretending as though it’s an issue of “freedom” is deceptive — it’s a literal matter of life and death. It’s not just some kind of a theoretical question without real-world implications. DeSantis recently sustained a loss in his efforts to block mask mandates in schools thanks to federal Judge John Cooper, who concluded that Florida law “does not support a statewide order, or any action, interfering with the constitutionally provided authority of local school districts to provide for the safety and health of children, based on the unique facts on the ground in a particular county,” as reported by Miami Herald journalist Mary Ellen Klas. DeSantis already announced plans to appeal.