TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida's agriculture commissioner discussed the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state, one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified its mask-wearing guidance to protect against the Delta variant.
Nikki Fried held a news conference in Tallahassee to fill what she calls the "COVID information sharing void that currently exists" in Florida.
Fried, who is a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, advised local governments to be informative to the public regarding hospital capacity and vaccine availability.
The commissioner said she will be reviewing the latest CDC guidelines and federal guidance and work to share those details along with the latest coronavirus numbers with residents on a regular basis.
"While some are trying to downplay this increase [in COVID cases] by focusing on hospitalizations rather than diagnosis, Florida's rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations also rose by more than 50 percent ... last week," Fried said.
She continued to criticize Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for his response to the pandemic.
When asked about the governor's policy on vaccines, she described it as "confusing" and urged him to be consistent on messaging.
"If you aren't vaccinated, roll up your sleeves and get the shots today," Fried said. "Lockdowns, we know, should not be considered at this point."
The CDC announced Tuesday that everyone should wear a mask indoors, regardless of a person's vaccination status, in areas of substantial or high transmission.
Fried reiterated those guidelines and asked Florida residents to abide by those protocols because of the recent spike in cases.
The Florida Department of Health stopped releasing daily coronavirus numbers in June and instead only provides weekly data, even though Florida leads the nation in variant cases.
"The people of Florida need and deserve access to regular, timely updates as it relates to the ongoing pandemic, not secret meetings or sporadic information sharing," Fried said.
The commissioner compared the regular sharing of information related to the pandemic akin to daily briefings when a hurricane is approaching the state.
"Can you imagine if it's hurricane season and we have a report saying, 'A hurricane is coming,' and that is all the information you get?" Fried said. "That is what is happening in the state of Florida."