The Fight for Information In A Global Pandemic
Across the United States, nursing homes have emerged as hotspots for coronavirus.
That has huge implications for a number of places, but particularly for states like Florida — where people over 65 make up a fifth of the total population.
The Miami Herald has been trying to find out how many people in elder care facilities have tested positive for the illness, and which areas have been hit hardest. But they’ve run up against a roadblock: their own government.
The office of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis hasn’t just refused to release the data; it applied pressure to The Miami Herald‘s law firm to get them to abandon a planned public records lawsuit. The political pressure succeeded, at least in part. The Herald still plans to file the lawsuit this week, but through a different firm.
Miami Herald publisher and executive editor Aminda Marqués González said on Saturday:
“We are disappointed that the governor’s office would go so far as to apply pressure on our legal counsel to prevent the release of public records that are critical to the health and safety of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens […] We shouldn’t have had to resort to legal action in the first place. Anyone with a relative in an elder care facility has a right to know if their loved ones are at risk so they can make an informed decision about their care.”
Critics slammed Gov. DeSantis for his response to the pandemic. He didn’t issue a stay-at-home order until April 1st, he’s repeatedly dismissed the advice of medical experts, and he was sharing misinformation about Covid-19 as recently as last Thursday – when he claimed no American under 25 has been killed by the virus.
The Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller has been covering elder care in Florida for more than 20 years. We talk to her about her reporting, which led to the lawsuit she’s now a plaintiff on — and how the Herald isn’t the only local newsroom fighting to get the right data.
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