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After more than a month of waiting, Florida’s next health secretary ’likely’ to start in June

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 18:18:30-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the state deals with its highest number of hepatitis A cases in at least the last five years, Florida's health department still lacks a leader. But, perhaps, not for much longer.

Governor DeSantis' office is telling us in a statement that Dr. Scott Rivkees will likely start next month as head of the state health department and surgeon general.

This comes after more than a month of waiting and wondering what Rivkees status is.

The doctor, who currently heads pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, came under fire for being the subject of a university sexual harassment investigation, shortly after his April nomination.

Some wondered if the allegations were the cause of the delay.

The governor's office saying, instead, it was Rivkees's need to finish some work at UF.

Florida law will allow Rivkees to work in the spot for two session before needing Senate confirmation, which would likely be taken up next session.

The doctor would be taking over as the state faces its worst outbreaks of hepatitis A in recent memory— some of the cases showing up in restaurants and diners around the state, alarming customers and grabbing the attention of owners as far north as Tallahassee, now taking precaution.

"It's a concern for us because it's my business. It's my livelihood," said Coosh Willis, the owner of Coosh's Bayou Rouge. "We want to make sure we're doing the right things."

In an effort to quell those concerns— the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association has been working with the state health department to educate members on best prevention techniques.

While the CDC says transmission from an employee to patron is "unlikely" — simply washing hands regularly reduces the risk even further. The association's leader told us she wanted to assure customers the state's restaurants are safe.

"Don't be concerned. I don't think that there is anything to worry about. The industry is taking this very seriously," said Carol Dover, the FRLA President.