It was a thunderous oratory flourish – the kind that made headlines across the state and the nation.
Back in August, in Panama City, Gov. Ron DeSantis took square aim at President Joe Biden and shredded him over his pandemic policies.
“I think the question is, we can have a free society, or we can have a biomedical security state,” DeSantis said, “and I can tell you, Florida, we’re a free state. People are going to be free to choose to make their own decisions about themselves, about their families, about their kids’ education.”
That will most certainly be a Republican line of attack in 2022 and 2024, and it might just feature DeSantis as the standard bearer: It’s the free state of Florida against the “biomedical security state” of Biden’s America.
“If you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida,” DeSantis rumbled, “I’m standing in your way.”
There’s just one problem, DeSantis’ version of freedom includes him deciding which data you have access to in order to draw your own conclusions from.
In Marion County over this summer, the state failed to report COVID-19 fatalities directly to us for more than three months as hospitals and morgues filled up. A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health tells us via email: “We were no longer provided that data (on county deaths) as of June 3.”
During that three-month summer black out in reporting deaths, Marion County lost almost 700 residents to COVID. The endurance of our hospitals and their ICU’s were stretched—primarily with the unvaccinated.
We asked the local health department to help us figure out how many COVID deaths Marion County had experienced in total this year and they were unable to answer the straightforward question.
A look through the county’s Facebook page shows they haven’t shared community COVID data through that platform since April.
The New York Times COVID data tracker has Marion County holding sixth place in the highest number of deaths per capita for the State of Florida and tenth place for the sheer number of deaths in our state (1,738) regardless of our county’s population.
Which leads us to the question—who should you be relying on to give you information about a more deadly COVID variant that was ravaging our community?
The blame game for this goes back and forth, as blame always does. The state shifted its daily reporting to the CDC to a weekly submission, and the CDC failed to adjust to the shift. Blame Washington, blame Tallahassee, blame Atlanta, where the CDC is located. Regardless of fault, the state should have made sure we got the numbers we needed.
The free state of Florida went dark on us during the darkest time yet in this pandemic.
If we are going to make our own decisions, as the governor promises, we shouldn’t have to make our own data. Withholding information protects us in no way at all; in fact, it suggests the government only wants us to receive good news.
The irony is that Gov. DeSantis loves data. In his Panama City speech, he said “the data is clear” about how natural immunity is just as good, if not better, than the vaccine. (The data is actually unclear on that point … but that’s an argument for another editorial.)
If the governor wants us to scoot past the liberal media, right to the truth, then he can give us the data. Instead, we got nothing.
Gov. DeSantis is about empowering Floridians. But it doesn’t take a quotation on a mural to tell you knowledge is power. When we don’t have the knowledge, we don’t have the power.
What else is the state hiding? That’s a question without a satisfying answer, and it shouldn’t be.
If you’re one of the people who rightfully ridiculed the disgraced former New York governor for hiding nursing home data, you should probably apply some added scrutiny here at home. If you’re motivated to go to the polls to vote out the Nanny State next year, make sure you’re not being treated like a baby.
Could a few Marion County lives have been saved with a little more real-time information? Maybe. We’ll never know.
But what’s the strategy for when the next COVID variant arrives?