Democratic leaders press Gov. DeSantis for answers and transparency

Democratic leaders press DeSantis for answers as Florida's latest jobless numbers come in
Democratic leaders press DeSantis for answers as Florida's latest jobless numbers come in

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Democratic members of Congress from South Florida criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday for a lack of transparency as the state reopens during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The common thread here with DeSantis is callousness, indifference and a lack of candor,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “I’ve referred to Governor DeSantis as Governor Disaster, but I think Governor Darkness is probably a more appropriate moniker.”

On Wednesday in Orlando, the Republican governor lashed out at the media for reporting that he has kept data secret about the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, the number of deaths from the disease and other relevant information that has been critical to reopening the state.

The governor insists that he has been totally transparent.

DeSantis was asked about the state’s transparency in its reporting after Rebekah Jones, who had been a data scientist for the Florida Department of Health, raised questions about just that this week.

Standing beside Vice President Mike Pence, DeSantis said Jones is not an epidemiologist and is not the chief architect of “our web portal.” He also focused reporters’ attention on Jones’ pending July 17 stalking case in Leon County criminal court over alleged revenge porn.

“I have asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that and continue on,” DeSantis said.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said Thursday that the governor didn’t clarify his involvement in Jones’ removal.

“Yesterday during the governor’s angry tirade against the press, he forgot to mention any details of his own involvement in the firing of his DOH employee,” Deutch said. “We still have a lot of questions, and it’s right for us to ask them, and it’s fair for us to expect that we’re going to get clear answers.”

The criticism comes as the latest unemployment numbers were reported Thursday.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, Floridians filed 223,927 jobless claims last week, after 223,082 were filed the week before. Those figures suggest some stabilization in job losses as Florida businesses have started reopening after being closed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Only California and New York had more new claims filed last week than Florida. The state’s tourism industry has been hardest hit, with almost a quarter of the workers who’ve filed jobless claims coming from that industry.

Nationally, more than 2.4 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week.

Roughly 38.6 million people have now filed for jobless aid since COVID-19 forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces.

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