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VERIFY: Are we seeing more COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, prisons and among migrant/farm workers?

Florida's governor mentioned those areas as hot spots, but the agricultural commissioner says not so fast.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the increase in positive coronavirus cases has to do with the state targeting individuals who live or work in what he calls “high risk environments."

One group he pointed out were migrant or farm workers.

“When you have workers like that, they’re living in really close confines. Sometimes multi-generational. But the real close extended contact in those living conditions is conducive for having this spread,” said Desantis.

The governor also talked about the number of positive cases in long-term care facilities and our prisons and jails because all three of these areas you find people in close contact for extended periods of time.

So, when it comes to those three areas, what are Florida's cases looking like?

The state has tested more than one million people, and 82,719 of those tests have been positive.

When it comes to nursing homes the state has seen 11,197 positive tests. that is just 14 percent of the overall number.

Prisons make up 4 percent of the overall positive case number.

So, if those two groups combined only make up 18 percent of Florida’s cases, where do the migrant and farm workers fall in?

We don’t know because the state does not release those numbers.

“The governor is mistaken regarding agriculture being a primary driver of COVID-19 in Florida. Commissioner Fried has been in close, regular communication with Florida’s leading agricultural associations throughout COVID-19. There is evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in areas where farms are located, but the vast majority of farm workers left agricultural communities several weeks ago, as harvests have ended,” said Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried in a statement sent to 10 Investigates.

“As the governor continues to prematurely reopen Florida, we’re seeing increases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and positivity in recent weeks, including the state’s highest-ever single-day number of cases just yesterday," Fried added.

The information below was data sent to 10 Investigates from the Department of Agriculture:


Data provided by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) does not support the governor’s argument of cases in “farm communities” and “migrant and farm workers” being a driver of COVID-19. Using the data from DOH’s most recent state report (as of June 16 at 10:00 AM), 2.47% of cases in Florida are cases in non-Florida residents:

  • Total cases: 80,109
  • Non-Florida residents: 1,981

With 12,333 new cases across the state since June 10, naming rural and farm communities as a main driver is not accurate. The governor named three countries as examples of agriculture being a major driver of COVID-19 cases. 

Below are new cases in these three counties as a whole since June 10, per DOH data. 

It’s very important to note that the below data is for each county as a whole, NOT just tests performed on agriculture industry workers.

  • Martin County: 349
  • Collier County: 582
  • Alachua County: 164
  • TOTAL: 1,095 (8.87 percent of total new cases statewide since June 10)

Below are the percentage of total positive cases attributed to each county as a whole, per DOH data:

  • Martin County (Indiantown): 2%
  • Collier County (Immokalee): 3%
  • Alachua County: 1%
  • TOTAL: 6%

"The governor is cherry-picking data in an attempt to blame farm workers and agriculture for the spread of COVID-19, by highlighting a small sample size from one farm," a spokesperson for Fried's office told 10 Investigates in an email.

The spokesperson said the accuracy of the data presented by Gov. DeSantis has been questioned, including his claims about testing at Orlando International Airport. As 10 Tampa Bay reported Wednesday, the airport has corrected DeSantis' statement that 260 workers had tested positive for the virus. Instead, the airport said only two were positive for COVID-19.

10 Investigates reached out to the governor’s office regarding his information as well as the Department of Health for the total number of cases in our migrant and farm workers. We will update this story if we hear back.

RELATED: St. Petersburg will require workers at local businesses to wear masks in areas open to customers

RELATED: After governor's comments, Orlando airport says only 2 employees test positive for virus

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