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Fried Hosts Meeting Highlighting Topics Left Off Cabinet Agenda

Steve Cannon
AP Photo

The Florida Cabinet meets this morning for the first time since May. Yet, topics like voting rights, unemployment, and an update on the coronavirus aren’t on the agenda. Cabinet member and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried requested those issues be added on but she says Governor Ron DeSantis decided to leave them off. So Fried hosted what she calls a ‘cupboard’ meeting Monday to discuss them.

For an update on the coronavirus pandemic, Fried brought former Department of Health scientist Rebekah Jones. Jones was fired for what she says was refusing to manipulate data. She now runs an independent tracking website.

“Cases are trending upward for every single age group in the state especially those who are under the age of 35. We’ve seen an astronomical increase in pediatric cases, we’ve seen additional pediatric deaths which the state has not been transparent about," said Jones.

Jones, on a video conference with reporters, says the number of COVID-19 cases in public schools across the state is likely higher than what’s been reported.

“We already know that there are more than 2,000 cases in schools, said Jones. "Schools only opened up three weeks ago and there are already 2,000 confirmed cases in schools and that’s only half the districts reporting in the state.”

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) tackled unemployment. The Miami Democrat says the legislature should reconvene to fix Florida’s unemployment system. It’s struggled to keep up with the demand for benefits amid the pandemic.

"The DeSantis administration has still not prioritized out of work Floridians and small businesses as well. The Governor has not used executive authority to fix the system," said Rodriguez. "He and Senate President and the Speaker of the House refuse to call us back as a legislature to fix the unemployment system."

The faulty system has led to delayed payments and rejections.

Fried herself also criticized DeSantis for not acting on clemency hearings. The Florida Cabinet is also the state’s clemency board. And it too hasn’t held many meetings.

"In the age of teleconferencing, there is no reason that your Florida cabinet and clemency board should not have met routinely throughout this pandemic. If it were a priority it would’ve happened," said Fried.

Usually, the state clemency board meets once every quarter. So far in 2020, they’ve met once.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.