Charlotte County Dems Chair asks why COVID case data is not released

Editor’s note:  our Charlotte County Democratic Executive Committee Chair, Teresa Jenkins, sent the following letter on Sept 20th to our Charlotte County Commissioners and to Dr. Pepe, Charlotte County Department of Health, to request the  release of timely and accurate data on COVID-19 daily cases to the public and to media. She awaits their response.

I am writing to respectfully request your assistance with the release of timely and accurate data on COVID-19 daily cases to the media and to the public.

Daily reports of Charlotte County’s Covid-19 incidences, deaths, hospitalizations, and available hospital and ICU beds are necessary for our residents, public agencies, and businesses to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, according to Charlotte County’s Department of Health Director, Dr. Joseph Pepe, and as reported by the Daily Sun on September 14, 2021: “Charlotte County had 16 deaths in this third and latest COVID surge, but they haven’t shown up, yet, in the state or federal reports.”

Our neighboring Lee County Health System and the Sarasota and Manasota Memorial Hospitals routinely provide status reports to the media, while our Charlotte County Bayfront Hospital System claims “patient privacy” prevents them from sharing the same kind of aggregate and responsible public information.  And what is the current case, death and ICU bed situation at Fawcett Memorial and Englewood Community Hospitals?

Equally concerning is Governor DeSantis’ unwillingness to provide daily tracking and his administration’s recent change in how it reports deaths. Deaths are now counted according to the day of death rather than when it is reported. According to Dr. Pepe, this can mean a delay in critical data reporting, and it allows the state to go back and change death statistics. The public deserves better and more timely information!

According to https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/charlotte-florida-covid-cases.html, Charlotte County has had 34 deaths in the last two weeks, or is that 34 deaths since June as reported in https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article254271183.html?

Likewise, that same NY Times article reported a county-wide average of 147 new cases per day and a high 23 percent positivity rate. Thankfully, we finally seem to be on a downward trend. An interactive chart on that same NY Times page reports that there are 53 Covid patients and three available ICU beds at Bayfront, 68 Covid patients and 0 available ICU beds at Fawcett, and 22 Covid patients and one available ICU bed at Englewood.  That all sounds rather frightening!

I have no idea if the NY Times or Miami Herald data is accurate.  Yet why must I search for local information from distant data sources and media? We, the public, need consistent, timely and accurate reporting by our local health system and county officials.  Without responsible forms of public information, how are you able to recognize dangerous trends and respond accordingly?

If COVID-19 cases were widely known and disseminated, perhaps more Charlotte County residents would willingly wear a face mask and receive the lifesaving, cost effective vaccine; long before needing the expensive Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment.

Therefore, I ask that you take the necessary steps to issue timely and accurate data on COVID-19 daily cases to the media and to the public.  Thank you.

Respectfully,

Teresa M. Jenkins

Chair, Charlotte County Democratic Executive Committee

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