Fried goes after Gov. DeSantis, calls for daily COVID case numbers, more testing sites

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday morning continued her criticism of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling for the governor to increase the number of testing sites in the state and bring back daily case number updates.

“We know that there is not enough testing sites across our state again,” said Fried, the only statewide Democrat and an announced candidate for governor against DeSantis next year. “There’s long lines. I was hearing reports out of Jacksonville, two locations in which they can get tested and there are two, two and a half-hour long wait, and people outside had heatstroke, that now they’re having to deal with heatstroke and people getting sick. So we need to be stepping up right now, having more testing sites encouraging people to get vaccines.”

Since early June, the state reports COVID-19 case numbers only once each week.

Fried spoke about the record hospitalizations across Florida and Jacksonville hospitals like Mayo Clinic and Ascension St. Vincent’s Hospital that are being strained due to the surge in the delta variant and the low vaccination rate. Currently, only 52% of Floridians have had at least one shot and the number is under 40% in several counties, including three in Northeast Florida.

RELATED: 12 COVID-19 deaths in 4 days at UF Health Jacksonville | Duval County students must opt-out to avoid wearing masks

On Wednesday, Florida reported more than 12,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Nearly 2,500 of them were in ICU beds.

Criticizing DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates, Fried said schools should be able to make their own decisions about mask requirements and urged Florida residents to get vaccinated to protect their neighbors. Fried said she is looking to have the federal government supply funding that DeSantis threatened to withhold if a school district mandates masks for students.

DeSantis on Thursday afternoon reiterated his stance that masks should not be mandated in schools.

“What are the harmful effects of putting a kindergartener in a mask for seven hours? Have they talked about the emotional, the academic, the physiological?” DeSantis said. “I don’t think it’s acceptable. So I think the fairest thing to do is just say let parents make the decisions.”

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