A few years ago, I wrote about Rebekah Jones, the creator and manager of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard. After refusing to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen,” Jones was fired and her division at the Florida Department of Health was ordered to stop working on the dashboard. Unfortunately, not all Florida health officials have Jones’ integrity when it comes to data accuracy and transparency.
Joseph Lapado, whom Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointed Surgeon General in late 2021, is now under fire thanks to a Tampa Bay Times investigation. In October, Lapado announced that young men should not get vaccinated for COVID-19, despite firm federal guidance to the contrary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Lapado relied on a Florida analysis that showed the risk of cardiac-related deaths substantially increased for certain age groups following vaccination. Local infectious disease epidemiologists, including Lapado’s colleagues at the University of Florida, criticized the guidance as “badly flawed.”
The critics pointed out that not only was the Department of Health’s guidance directly contradicted by the same data on which it relied, but the guidance relied on a study where benefits were not even measured. In addition, Lapado ignored “explicit, significant limitations” that were included in the study, and his team arrived at a conclusion that ran counter to larger studies from around the world.
Having recently reviewed early drafts of the analysis through a records request, the Times discovered that the analysis initially stated that catching COVID-19 could increase the chances of a cardiac-related death much more than getting vaccinated. However, this fact conveniently did not make it into the final version. Instead, Ladapo insisted that the risk of men ages 18 to 39 having cardiac-related complications outweighed any benefits to the COVID-19 vaccine.
If this is how DeSantis is as governor, just imagine him as President of the United States. People who believe in facts, truth, and the sanctity of data would have no place in a DeSantis administration. On the contrary, lackeys who have no trouble ignoring or manipulating data to fit a political narrative—even at the expense of their constituents’ lives—would enjoy the greatest job security. America deserves better than Ron DeSantis.