Crist Urges CDC to Release Omicron Data DeSantis Withholds

Washington, DC – Following reports that the State of Florida is withholding COVID-19 data on the vaccination status of those infected, hospitalized, or deceased by COVID-19, U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D–St. Petersburg) sent a letter to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the agency to release vaccination status data as soon as possible.

As cases of the highly infectious omicron variant rapidly rise, the data is necessary for researchers, scientists, and policymakers to fully understand how the omicron variant is spreading and how best to keep Floridians safe and our state open. 

“The DeSantis Administration has repeatedly failed to protect Floridians from the COVID-19 virus. Now, the Governor wants to make it even harder for you to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe from omicron,” said Rep. Crist. “But this is just the latest in a series of steps the Governor has taken to hide data, subvert the rights of businessowners and individuals to keep their communities open safe, and put Floridians at greater risk of contracting the virus. It’s unconscionable! After two years of this pandemic, can the Governor please stop playing politics with Floridians’ lives?

"Today, I'm asking CDC to release the data Governor DeSantis is hiding, so that Floridians have all the information they need to properly protect themselves and their loved ones from omicron. Floridians deserve nothing less than the truth.”

A PDF of the letter can be found here, with text appearing below:

December 23, 2021

The Honorable Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd. 
Atlanta, GA 30333

Dear Director Walensky,

Thank you for your critical service to our nation during this pandemic.  I write today regarding reporting from the Tampa Bay Times that the State of Florida has repeatedly refused to share data on the number of vaccinated individuals who have been infected by, hospitalized with, or died of COVID-19.[1]  The article goes on to report that the CDC is deferring to the state’s decision to withhold data.  In light of the State of Florida’s repeated failure to keep its citizens safe from the virus, I urge the CDC to release data on breakthrough cases in Florida as soon as possible.

You may be aware that on February 9, 2020, I wrote to your predecessor, urging transparency and information around COVID-19.  In the letter, I highlighted that the Chinese government enabled early spread of the virus by keeping its people and the world in the dark.  Now that we’re facing an intense outbreak of the highly infectious omicron variant, time and information are of the essence.  Our researchers, scientists, and policymakers at all levels should have a full understanding of what we know about the variant so far, as well as how it is impacting vaccinated and boosted Floridians.  Additionally, accurate data on breakthrough cases will be essential for Floridians to assess their own personal risk and take actions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

The State of Florida claims that withholding this data is necessary to protect the personally identifiable health information of Floridians.  Nonsense.  I’m proud that our state has some of the strongest transparency and open government laws in the nation.  In fact, Florida’s public access laws clearly state that data can be made public “when necessary to public health.”[2]  If this isn’t necessary to public health – especially in the face of an Omicron-driven surge – then nothing is.

Sadly, lack of transparency, obfuscation, and elevating disinformation have been the hallmark of the DeSantis Administration’s response to this once-in-a-century crisis.  As you know, Florida has refused to provide regular, useful data on COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccination rates for months – even as the state once again became the global epicenter for infections and deaths.  In August, Florida Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health to get them to release the data.[3]  The matter remains in court.  Beyond just the data, Governor DeSantis has taken repeated actions to limit the ability of businessowners, schools, and local officials to take steps to curb the spread and keep our communities open and safe.

Deferring to an Administration that has consistently put politics over people throughout the pandemic may not be in the best interest of public health.  As we know, COVID-19 respects no borders – especially state borders within our country.  A state that has repeatedly failed to protect its citizens from this virus should not get the final say on critical data.  For the health and safety of all Floridians, I urge the CDC to release information on breakthrough cases in Florida as soon as possible so that we can best protect ourselves from an Omicron-driven surge.  Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Charlie Crist

UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN

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