TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With Florida hitting more than 1,000 new COVID cases for eight days straight, a handful of state Democrats have called on the governor to form a new task force.
State senators Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, and Victor M. Torres, Jr., D-Orlando, sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday.
The three lawmakers said the uptick in cases suggested Florida didn't yet have the pandemic under control.
“We had a task force for the reopening of the state,” Berman said. “The governor took some of their suggestions and relied on them. Now we’re in the next phase, and we don’t have a task force.”
Called a TTSI Task Force, membership would include state department heads, business leaders, and medical organizations.
Three Florida Democrats are calling on the state to form a coronavirus task force to establish goals for testing and contact tracing.
Its priorities, according to the letter:
- Set targets for testing and contact tracing and make sure people have the right metrics for measuring progress on all of these
- Inventory sample collection modalities, assess capacity and fill gaps in sample collection capacity
- Inventory testing capacity in state, develop a supply chain support strategy and gap-filling strategy for test capacity
- Connect test data to contact tracing programs and monitor progress in disease mitigation and suppression for decision-making and public communication
- Set up and run contact tracing programs that successfully connect contacts to tests
- Run public communications programs so that the public understands the importance of participation and how broad confidence and safety are secured this way
- Inventory and assess test funding mechanisms and fill funding gaps
- Build a program of supported isolation
"The goal of the task force is really to bring everyone together," said Berman. "Problem solve the issues that are arising because we are reopening the economy and making sure that we can reopen it safely."
Medical experts we spoke with are positive toward the idea. Florida State’s Public Health Director Professor George Rust said getting officials together to talk is critical at the local level. Statewide could be equally beneficial, he hoped.
"We’re always talking to each other and have regularly scheduled calls to make sure that we’re on top of something," Rust said. "But also that we can respond quickly."
DeSantis' staff had yet to comment on the lawmakers' request as of Tuesday afternoon. However, the Republican governor did downplay the uptick in new cases at a Monday news conference, attributing it to more available testing.
The governor has long touted the positivity rate as a better metric, which is the percent of those that test positive daily. It has remained between three to six percent over the past two weeks. That’s lower than the national average.