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Florida newspapers sue governor for not releasing weekly White House coronavirus reports

The Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel are suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and his office.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Two of Florida's most well-known newspapers are suing the governor.

The Orlando Sentinel announced Friday it had filed a lawsuit in partnership with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel against Gov. Ron DeSantis for not providing access to the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports "in a timely manner."

Those weekly reports are sent from the White House to the governors of each state and include recommendations for containing the spread of COVID-19 based on the latest trends. It's up to governors to release them publicly. 

The Orlando Sentinel says the governor's office hasn't provided it with any of the task force reports from the month of November, which the lawsuit alleges is a violation of the Public Records Act.

“The state has given us no explanation as to why this crucial health information should be withheld,” Julie Anderson, the editor in chief of the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, said. “We had no choice but to ask a court to intervene to uphold the public records law.”

The public got a glimpse into these incredibly revealing reports in July when Hillsborough County, Florida, was featured in a White House press briefing as one of the country's most dangerous hot-spots for coronavirus transmission.

A short time later, another extensive report compiled for the White House Task Force was obtained by the nonprofit group Center for Public Integrity

At the time, the July 14 report recommended 18 states should scale back reopening including Florida. Back then, recommendations included that Florida should return to more stringent control measures in counties with rising test percent positivity and scale back from Phase 2. 

Suggestions, at the time, also included mandating masks in all counties with rising percent positive rates, keeping bars closed and decreasing indoor dining. Now, months later, those weekly reports seem difficult to track down.

10 Tampa Bay has been trying to obtain the reports on a regular basis since October.

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