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'I think we've stabilized': Holding Florida's governor accountable can be challenging

10 Tampa Bay is working to bring you the facts, not fear when it comes to COVID-19.

TAMPA, Fla. — At 10 Tampa Bay we are working around the clock on your behalf to try to get the information you need to make informed decisions. Facts not fear.

But in many cases, state workers, including those in the governor’s office, have not been responding to our public records requests. 

As it turns out, we’re not the only ones getting the silent treatment, and the requests aren’t always complicated.

For example, on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “I think we’ve stabilized where we’re at.”

When the governor says something like that, even as the numbers are increasing, we and others want to know what he means.

But email requests and phone calls still have received no response as of Wednesday.

It’s just one instance of things we’re working on.

Over the past couple of weeks, 10 Tampa Bay has reached out to the governor’s office and the department of health on several issues, like an email sent to the governor’s office three days ago asking for a response regarding the Ocala Mayor who refuses to direct his local police department to enforce the state‘s alcohol ban at area bars.

So far - we’ve heard nothing.

It’s a frustration felt by state lawmakers, too.

“Candidly, there have been numerous calls for data transparency since the beginning of this pandemic,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) Orlando said. “I have email receipts. Contacting the governor’s office, asking about discrepancies and data. Asking for more data.”

Another example?

We sent a pair of emails on June 24 and 25 asking for details about the availability of ICU beds and how the governor’s office is tracking and reporting them.

Fast forward two weeks, the state’s intensive care unit capacity is stressed. Hospitals say the information we've asked for is vital for them to identify trends.

“And it is very difficult to get hospitalization rate off of the department of health website,” Dr. Kirk Voelker at Sarasota Memorial Hospital said.

Wednesday, we sent a copy of those same questions to the governor’s office along with another regarding contact tracing. We followed up with a phone call and another email just to confirm they got it.

The governor's office said the contact tracing program is paid for with federal Cares-Act dollars but did not say how the $138 million allocated to Florida was being spent.

We have submitted a follow-up public records request again asking for that information

Recently, Gov. DeSantis, faced with transparency questions, said, “You guys have been on the conspiracy bandwagon for months.”

The governor has publicly downplayed and dismissed such questions, which some consider a lack of transparency.

But it doesn’t mean we’ll stop asking.

“We want to have open-door communication between the governor’s office and what we’re seeing on the ground,” Eskamani said. “Because our constituents deserve that.”

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