Gov. DeSantis and Ag Commissioner trade jabs after the governor attributed Fla. case spike to farmworkers

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 19:57:30-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Governor’s office is taking shots Wednesday at Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried.

A statement from Governor Ron DeSantis’ office says Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Nikki Fried is “not a good listener.”

Fried’s office had said, “the Governor is mistaken regarding agriculture being the primary driver of COVID-19 in Florida.”

Fried’s office also said, “the vast majority of farmworkers left agricultural communities several weeks ago as harvests have ended.”

But when we asked Gov. DeSantis’ office for a response. They said Fried misunderstood Gov. DeSantis.

They said agriculture areas are one of three high-risk environments for COVID-19 to spread.

The Governor’s Director of Communications also said “it is surprising to learn Commissioner Fried is unaware of what is occurring in the agriculture community as she is the Commissioner of Agriculture.”

And they added picking season for avocado and tropical fruits is beginning.

The Executive Director of Farmworker’s Self-Help in Pasco County says they’ve only seen two cases.

“We’ve done everything to educate our community to tell them about distancing, to tell them about wearing masks. To tell them about being safe when they are in the vehicle,” said Margarita Romo.

The Governor’s office took another jab at Fried saying “It is our understanding that Commissioner Fried’s agency has a space dedicated for their staff at the EOC if they want to use it and they have access to information provided by the Department of Health and the Division of Emergency Management.”

This back-and-forth started when Gov. DeSantis attributed Florida’s latest COVID-19 spike to farmworkers and long-term care facilities.

“I think the No. 1 outbreak we’ve seen is in the agriculture communities,” he said. “There was just a big case dump in North Central Florida there was a watermelon farm. You’ve had farm communities in Collier, Palm Beach, Martin, Levy, Hendry, and what happens is these are workers that are working close together once one gets it, it tends to spread very rapidly throughout those areas.”

DeSantis said the state is concerned about farmworkers who begin to leave around this time of year to work elsewhere.

“We’re talking with some of the other states to let them know. We also have our Department of Health is working with our agriculture, our growers to mitigate any of the spread,” he said.