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Florida outbreak is ‘much worse’ than Gov. DeSantis is letting on: Former COVID-19 data chief

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Ron Desantis looking sad during Florida debate
Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist who in May claimed that she was fired for refusing to manipulate state coronavirus data to meet the Republican governor’s reopening criteria, has issued a new warning: The ongoing outbreak is “much, much worse” than it has been painted by the administration. In a Monday interview with MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Jones, who built the state government’s coronavirus data portal, identified a number of failures since she left her state job. Florida recently posted the highest daily caseload in a single day across all 50 U.S. states.For instance, the southern state combined antibody test data with viral test data. Salon reported in May that the practice, which can obscure hotspots and misrepresent percentages, warps data not only at the state level. It may also trickle up to the national level at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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A number of states have now revised this practice after criticisms of juked stats, but Florida apparently has not joined them. The recent surge in cases threatens to disrupt plans to fully reopen its economy.

Jones also said the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) only began to release hospitalization data at the county level last week, and the information contradicts the state department of health’s data.

The AHCA numbers, which are available on Jones’ own data portal, show that many counties have more people hospitalized than reported by the DOH. Jones wrote in an op-ed last week that the misuse of DOH hospitalization data stretches from bloggers all the way up to The New York Times.

“Taking the number of people hospitalized today versus the number reported yesterday doesn’t tell you how many more people were hospitalized in the last day,” she said. “It tells you how many reports of hospitalizations DOH received, which could include hospitalizations from cases back in March. The same is true of death data, as well.”

Jones noted that the state did not release testing and case numbers in either jails or state prisons. Further, she said the health department stopped publishing testing demographic data after her firing in May.

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“We have no idea if recent surges in cases by age, gender, race or ethnicity are truly spikes,” she said, “or if they’re proportional to the number of people being tested within those demographic groups.”

On Sunday, Florida set a national record when it posted more than 15,300 cases in one day. As of Monday, the state had recorded nearly 270,000 total cases and more than 4,300 deaths due to COVID-19. If Florida were a country, it would currently rank ninth worldwide in cases.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Jones has accused of interfering with state data in the interest of his own political reopening agenda, dismissed the surge as a “blip” in a Friday news conference.

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“We’ve got the census today. I think between 10 and 12 or 13,000 — somewhere like that — beds are available,” DeSantis said in reference to the delayed release of county hospitalization data. “There’ll be articles saying, ‘Oh, my gosh. They’re at 90%.’ Well, that’s how hospitals normally run.”

DeSantis explained that his state has had “a lot of different blips.”

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“We’re now at a higher blip than where we were in May and the beginning of June,” he said.

Protesters shouted down DeSantis at a Monday press conference, demanding he resign. They yelled, “Shame on you!” and “You’re doing nothing!”

On June 15, the day DeSantis announced that Florida would fully reopen K-12 schools come August, Scott Pritchard, the lead epidemiologist on Florida’s COVID-19 response team, quit the DOH after 15 years of service. A former department employee told The Miami Herald that Pritchard left because he was afraid DeSantis would blame him when cases “started exploding.”

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And cases have begun to surge. A nurse at Cleveland Clinic in Pembroke, Fla., told The Daily Beast that “counting [COVID and] non-COVID patients, we went from seeing 100 people to 200 people a day. That is how many come in to get checked.”

AHCA data shows that Cleveland Clinic had 25 available beds, nine of which were for adult ICU patients, as of Monday.

DeSantis’ defiance in the face of data and death stands out even among conservative governors, such as Texas’ Greg Abbott. On June 30, as Florida cases spiked, DeSantis declared that his state was “not going back” to tighter statewide constraints. Since then, Abbott, his own state at crisis levels, has shuttered bars, cut restaurant capacities and issued a statewide face-mask mandate. DeSantis, his critics suggested, has done little except cheerlead further reopening.

The Harvard Global Health Institute recommended last week that several states, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, invoke mandatory stay-at-home orders. Fifteen others should consider it, the researchers said.

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The New York Times released its own study chronicling global daily infections between June 28 and July 5. Arizona and Florida were the two most affected areas in the world. South Carolina was third, followed by Bahrain and Louisiana.

The U.S. reported at the national level the first weekly increase in deaths since mid-April last week. To date, the U.S. has recorded more than 3.3 million cases and more than 135,000 deaths.


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WATCH: COVID truther goes on wild rant about communism after getting pulled over by cops

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A South Carolina woman this week was caught on video going on a wild rant about Jesus and communism after a police officer pulled her over because her anti-vaccination signs were completely obscuring her car's rear window.

The video shows that the woman was driving a car that was covered in signs that protested not just economic shut downs, but also simply testing people for COVID-19.

After the officer pulled her over, she demanded to see his badge number and started yelling at him.

The officer tried to calm her down and told her there was no reason to be upset.

"Oh, no reason to get upset just because we're in communist Greenville, South Carolina?!" she yelled back. "I am not being disorderly! I have freedom of speech! You're being disorderly!"

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Here’s how Trump is driving millions of American seniors into poverty

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Donald Trump’s inept handling of the coronavirus pandemic is condemning millions of older Americans to get by on much smaller incomes and forcing many into permanent poverty, a new study shows.

These people can anticipate shorter lives with less robust health, while taxpayers will bear the burden of care for many years of increased welfare benefits and subsidies.

The pandemic forced 2.9 million Americans ages 55 to 70 to leave the workforce in just March through June, a study by the Retirement Equity Lab at The New School found.

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Endangered Republicans follow Trump’s lead and turn to racism as Senate majority is in doubt

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Republicans are hoping to save their election chances by stoking fear and anger against the Black Lives Matter movement.

Taking their cues from President Donald Trump, GOP congressional candidates in safe seats are painting the civil rights movement as "Marxist" and anti-family, while Republicans in swing districts are portraying their Democratic opponents as "left-wing radicals," reported Politico.

The Trump-endorsed Bill Hagerty, who's running for Senate in Tennessee, told the website that the BLM movement wants to see the "destruction of the nuclear family," and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) has attacked WNBA players for supporting the movement's message, which she has repeatedly claimed is Marxist.

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