Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration — from state health and emergency management officials on down — have resisted sharing all they know with the public.
Instead, he and his team have chosen public relations over public records, deciding what information they want to release, First Amendment experts say.
They’ve carefully choreographed and strategically staged news conferences and photo ops spotlighting various achievements in the battle against the virus.
Meantime, they’ve slow-walked or refused requests for vital information that Florida residents want to know about contact tracing, infection rates at schools and nursing homes, weekly White House advisories, agreements with pharmacies and grocery chains, and variant data.
It’s not just the typical beef between the media and those they cover. People worried about the safety of their children’s schools or the number of infections at their parents’ nursing homes have been clamoring for information since the pandemic began.
“This is a meat-and-potatoes, kitchen table issue to them,” said Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida College of Journalism. “It really has come down to the public insisting on greater transparency.”
These records can help track one of the most deadly diseases to confront humanity and how the government has responded to this historic pandemic, including its use of billions…