With Florida coronavirus outbreaks, state representative wants at-risk prisoners released

Dianne Hart on Primary Election Day, 2018

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Some of the major hotspots for coronavirus cases in Florida are in jails and prisons.

That’s why State Representative Dianne Hart (D-Tampa) has asked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and State Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch to release inmates who are at high risk for COVID-19.

“Florida is spiking. Our [coronavirus] numbers are going up every day. And I know that if my numbers outside [prison] with free people are going up, and we already have our numbers going up inside of our facilities, we don’t have nearly as many officers as we need to protect people inside of our facilities. There’s no social distancing that can possibly be done.

“But we have people with very severe health conditions. And those are the people that I’m calling on the governor to take a look at releasing. I’m not telling you, ‘just release any and everybody.’ I’m saying, ‘if that person is extremely ill, very vulnerable, let’s put an ankle monitor on that person.’ We have many people that are past 65-years-old that are extremely vulnerable.”

“I’m asking the governor, please, let’s release somebody. Let’s not wait until we have lost thousands inside of our facilities. If you know, from April to now, it went from 208 [positive cases] in April to almost 1600 in June, in just a couple of months. So, I am pleading with the governor to release some [vulnerable prisoners].”

You’re also talking about people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease that put them more at risk for COVID-19.

“Absolutely, those are the people we are asking for: lung disease, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, extreme cases of asthma. There’s some high blood pressure patients there. There’s some cancer patients in our facilities. We run the gamut in the State of Florida in our medical facilities. So, there’s just so many people that are extremely ill. We need to figure out how we’re going to protect them.”

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Another day, another record for new positive coronavirus cases in Florida: 3,207 new cases were confirmed Thursday, shattering a record set Tuesday.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that even though the Tampa Bay area accounts for 13 percent of Florida’s population, about one-fifth of the new cases are here. The two largest counties in our area also set single-day record highs for new coronavirus cases Thursday: Hillsborough with 337 and Pinellas with 203. Models predict danger ahead for Florida – one model suggests more than 18,000 Floridians could die from COVID-19 by October. At least 3,061 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in Florida so far.


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information from the Associated Press was used in this report