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    Florida officials deleted data, stats from dubious COVID analysis: report / ArsTechnica · Friday, 7 April - 22:05

Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo speaks at a press conference.

Enlarge / Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo speaks at a press conference. (credit: Getty | Paul Hennessy )

Florida health officials deleted key data and statistics from a state analysis on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, falsely making them appear unsafe for young men, according to draft versions of the analysis obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through public records requests .

The final analysis, which was widely criticized for its poor quality and dubious conclusions , was the basis for a statewide recommendation by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo last October that young men, ages 18 to 39, should not receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The analysis—posted on the Florida Department of Health's website with no authors listed—claimed to find "an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination."

Ladapo, who has a history of fearmongering about COVID-19 vaccines , touted the analysis, saying in a press release at the time that "these are important findings that should be communicated to Floridians.”

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    Florida surgeon general wrong on vaccines and bad at his job, CDC and FDA say / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 March - 20:23 · 1 minute

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo speaks at a press conference in Rockledge, Florida, on August 3, 2022.

Enlarge / Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo speaks at a press conference in Rockledge, Florida, on August 3, 2022. (credit: Getty | SOPA Images )

At the height of the pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis repeatedly promoted COVID-19 vaccines , saying correctly that "they're safe, they're effective," and they "are saving lives." With hundreds of millions of shots given worldwide at this point, the extensive international data on the vaccines' safety and efficacy have strongly and consistently backed DeSantis' statements. The vaccines are estimated to have saved over 14 million lives in 185 countries just in the pandemic's first two years .

But amid growing rumors of a 2024 presidential bid, DeSantis reversed his stance on the life-saving shots, abruptly questioning their efficacy and making unfounded claims about their safety. In December, his about-face culminated in a call for a grand jury to investigate any alleged " crimes and wrongdoing " related to the vaccines.

Though the swing appears more aimed at scoring political points than protecting Floridians' health, DeSantis' hand-picked surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, has hewed closely to the governor's anti-vaccine rhetoric and health misinformation. Since his appointment as Florida's top doctor in late 2021, Ladapo has made false claims about vaccines, encouraged vaccine hesitancy, opposed masks, downplayed the health effects of COVID-19, and promoted ineffective COVID-19 treatments, such as ivermectin .

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    Florida governor threatens to withhold vaccine from area that criticized him / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 18 February, 2021 - 20:15 · 1 minute

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Enlarge / Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle )

As large swaths of the country face snags in COVID-19 vaccine distribution due to crippling snow and ice, some communities in Florida may face snags due to political windstorms from their governor, Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis was criticized this week after the Sunshine State unveiled plans to open a “pop-up” clinic near Tampa that would offer vaccine doses only to residents in affluent, mostly white, mostly Republican areas of Manatee County. The clinic will vaccinate 3,000 residents of just two ZIP codes in the county, which were reportedly hand-selected by DeSantis and County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh—instead of being selected using the state’s vaccine lottery system.

Plans for the clinic were born from a deal struck between DeSantis, Baugh, and real estate developer Rex Jensen, according to the Bradenton Herald. DeSantis reportedly reached out to Jenson, who agreed to host the clinic on his development, Lakewood Ranch. The master-planned community covers much of the two selected ZIP codes served by the clinic. The ZIP codes also overlap with Baugh’s district.

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    Florida posted the password to a key disaster system on its website / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 9 December, 2020 - 18:29 · 1 minute

The words

Enlarge / Florida's apparently being a little too welcoming at the moment. (credit: iLLiePhotography | Getty Images )

Florida police said a raid they conducted Monday on the Tallahassee home of Rebekah Jones, a data scientist who the state fired from her job in May, was part of an investigation into an unauthorized access of a state emergency-responder system. It turns out, however, that not only do all state employees with access to that system share a single username and password, but also those credentials are publicly available on the Internet for anyone to read.

The background

Jones on Monday shared a video of the police raid on her house as part of a Twitter thread in which she explained the police were serving a search warrant on her house following a complaint from the Department of Health. That complaint, in turn, was related to a message sent to Florida emergency responders back in November.

About 1,700 members of Florida's emergency-response team received the communication on November 10, according to the affidavit ( PDF ) cited in the search warrant for Jones' home. The message urged recipients to "speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it's too late."

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    Florida police raid home of former state coronavirus data manager / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 8 December, 2020 - 18:51

Workers removing a sign from a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Orlando, Fla. in October, 2020.

Enlarge / Workers removing a sign from a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Orlando, Fla. in October, 2020. (credit: Paul Hennessy | NurPhoto | Getty Images )

Police on Monday raided the Florida home of data scientist Rebekah Jones, who alleged in May that she was fired from her job collating COVID-19 data for the state because she refused to "manipulate" data to make the governor's agenda look more favorable.

"At 8:30 this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech," Jones said in a Twitter thread on Monday afternoon. Her initial post included a 30-second video of armed officers pointing guns up a staircase and shouting for Jones' husband and children to come down before another officer shouted, "search warrant!" loudly to no one in particular.

"They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids," Jones added. "They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country. They took evidence of corruption at the state level."

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    Judge rules Florida can’t force all schools to reopen amid pandemic / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 25 August, 2020 - 18:39 · 1 minute

A school classroom filled with empty desks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Mayu Tanaka | EyeEm)

Florida's state government cannot force schools to reopen this month, a judge ruled yesterday. The state's order to reopen K-12 schools disregarded safety risks posed by COVID-19 and gave schools no meaningful alternative, according to the ruling issued by Judge Charles Dodson of the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County.

On July 6, Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order stating, "Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students." Schools that don't meet this requirement could lose state funding. Corcoran, Governor Ron DeSantis, and other state officials were then sued by the Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers' union; the NAACP; and several individual teachers and parents.

After summarizing the health risks of reopening schools during the pandemic, the judge wrote that the state's order to reopen schools "takes none of that into consideration. It fails to mention consideration of community transmission rates, varying ages of students, or proper precautions. What has been clearly established is there is no easy decision and opening schools will most likely increase COVID‐19 cases in Florida. Thus, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success in procuring a judgment declaring the Order is being applied arbitrarily across Florida."

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