As the number of coronavirus cases in Florida continues to rise, Congressman Vern Buchanan on Monday said the pace of testing is still too slow and called for more transparency from health officials.
Two patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in Manatee County, one an 81-year-old woman with a history of international travel, the other a 63-year-old man with no apparent foreign travel of late.
Little is known about how patient contacts are being traced, or what the risk is to the local community. Buchanan said the Florida Department of Health needs to be more open with the public.
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At a newsconference at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton – where officials said no coronavirus patients are being treated – Buchanan said the Florida Health Department needs to be more forthcoming with the public about what's happening and how they are responding.
"We need more access to them. They're trying to control a message out of Tallahassee, I think that needs to be changed. It's just my opinion, I'll probably get in trouble for saying it, but I think they need to be a part of the team effort here," he said.
Buchanan said the State Department of Health is hiring more staff. He plans to speak with them about ways to get more information to the public.
Senator Rick Scott has also raised concerns about transparency, after a person died of coronavirus in Lee County last week before a case there was ever announced.
Buchanan warned that cases are expected to rise, and warned seniors and people with underlying health problems to be extra cautious.
"It is going to get worse before it gets better," he said.
He also criticized the speed of testing.
"Up to you know, five to seven days by the time it goes to Tampa from here and goes up to Atlanta," Buchanan said. "It's just way too long. That's got to change and change quickly."