Lawmakers push Florida Health for more COVID-19 data

'I just feel as though she's not allowed to answer a question,' Sen. Janet Cruz says
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Posted at 5:49 PM, Oct 13, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Members of a Senate panel Wednesday pushed for more COVID-19 data from Florida health officials.

It comes after the department switched from daily to weekly virus reports during the summer just before the Delta surge hit.

Several lawmakers on the Senate Health Policy Committee questioned the change while getting an update on the state's fight against the virus.

Melissa Jordan, the division director at Community Health Promotion, said the department continues to provide daily case data to the Centers for Disease Control and hasn't "found it necessary" to return to more frequent reports.

Melissa Jordan speaks before a Senate panel regarding the latest battle against COVID-19 in Florida.

Jordan went on to say that daily reporting can sometimes be "misleading."

"Just because a lot of reporting from a laboratory happens on one day, it kind of bumps up cases," Jordan said. "That can be a little misleading for local responses. Sometimes, those seven-day average trends are a better measure of how communities are doing overall."

Despite the response, some lawmakers were left unsatisfied.

State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, wanted more. She had also asked Jordan whether the health department was embracing herd immunity and felt she didn't get an answer.

"I just feel as though she’s not allowed to answer a question," Cruz said. "She came with a script. She had to stay on script. Times like this I wonder, 'Who is the elected senator?'"

Jordan did offer data showing cases and hospitalizations continue to trend downward. Florida's age-adjusted mortality rate, she said, was below the nation's.

State Sen. Janet Cruz
State Sen. Janet Cruz

Supplies also weren't an issue, Jordan said. That's despite recent concern from Florida's governor over federal allotments of monoclonals.

"We do have sufficient supply across the state for vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments," Jordan said.

There was a brief mention of policy, too.

Committee Chair Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens, said some lawmakers are mulling a bill to fight a forthcoming vaccine mandate for big businesses from President Joe Biden.

Federal officials are finalizing the specifics right now. In general, the White House-backed policy would apply to businesses with 100 or more employees. Workers would need to get shots or face weekly testing.

"I'm against government mandates," Diaz said. "That’s a discussion that could be had — that needs to be further had, and that would be the will of the body."

The Florida Hospital Association addressed lawmakers as well. President Mary Mayhew stressed the need for more nurses. The state, she said, faces a shortfall of more than 59,000 nurses by 2035.