Five members of Florida’s U.S. House Democratic Delegation are accusing Gov. Ron DeSantis of hiding and manipulating the state’s coronavirus data.

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Five members of Florida’s U.S. House Democratic Delegation accused Gov. Ron DeSantis of hiding and manipulating the state’s coronavirus data to further his efforts to downplay the severity of the pandemic and justify reopening the state.

During a virtual press conference on Thursday, U.S. representatives Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Debbie Murcasel-Powell took turns slamming DeSantis with what appears to be the party’s latest ammunition its ongoing effort to discredit DeSantis’ handling of pandemic.

“We had to fight with the state when they tried to block information about the nursing home cases and deaths in nursing homes, we had to fight with the state over medical examiner numbers and why they’re not including deaths from people who are not from Florida,” said Deutch, adding that the public is entitled to accurate data to understand how decisions are being made. “It’s one thing after another.”

The governor’s office did not comment on Thursday’s press conference.

Democrats’ data offensive comes several days after the scientist who said she created Florida’s COVID-19 data portal claimed she was fired on May 5 for for refusing to manipulate data to support the state’s reopening.

Rebekah Jones said in an email to FLORIDA TODAY that she single-handedly created the state’s online coronavirus dashboard as a way for Floridians and researchers to see what the coronavirus situation was in real time.

Jones’ accusations were picked up by CNN and MSNBC, casting suspicion on the data.

DeSantis dismissed concerns about Jones’ firing and questions about the state’s data at two press conferences this week. As for Jones, DeSantis said she was not the chief architect and was dismissed because did not listen to her superiors and “a bunch of different reasons.” Jones was arrested in 2019 when a man told police he was a victim to be a victim of revenge porn by Jones in June 2019.

Questions about how the administration has handled data surfaced weeks before Jones’ accusations became public. A consortium of news organizations, including The Palm Beach Post, filed a lawsuit in April to force the state to make public the number of coronavirus deaths at prisons, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Other data concerns have also been raised. When the CDC released test data that conflicted with the state’s, the CDC admitted it was lumping together anti-body tests with tests to diagnose active infections.

“It looks like data is being manipulated and we don’t have enough data to understand the government’s decision to reopen,” said Miami-Dade Rep. Donna Shalala. “Floridians want that information and the government is withholding it and the question is why?”

Wasserman Schultz accused DeSantis of an intentional cover-up.

“He is intentionally hiding information from the public so they don’t know that they should be really uncomfortable with reopening,” Wasserman Schultz said. “There is no question this is intentional.”

DeSantis defended the state’s policy on releasing coronavirus data and the online dashboard.

“Our data is available, our data is transparent, in fact Dr. Birx has talked multiple times about how Florida has the absolute best data,” said DeSantis, at a press conference with Vice President Mike Pence in Orlando on Wednesday.

Cstapleton@pbpost.com

@StapletonPBPost

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

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For more information:

– Florida Department of Health coronavirus web page

– CDC coronavirus web page

– Florida DOH coronavirus hotline (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday) is 866-779-6121 or email COVID-19@flhealth.gov

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