Florida NRA leader questions local coronavirus stats, suggests they're 'deliberately deceptive'
The woman who has personified the National Rifle Association in Florida is concerned that local coronavirus figures aren't accurately telling the story of the virus in the state's capital.
Marion P. Hammer, the NRA's longtime lobbyist in Florida and a former NRA president, wrote an email to county officials, which she forwarded to the Tallahassee Democrat on Monday.
“Publishing the cumulative number without publishing the current number of active cases is deliberately deceptive,” said Hammer, also the executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida, in the email.
Specifically, she said the number of patients currently being treated is far less than the cumulative figure over several months.
Hammer cited a news story in Tallahassee Reports, estimating that nearly 400 infections were counted in Leon County since the crisis began — but that fewer than 90 active cases were currently being treated.
“We want to know what the truth is,” she told the Democrat. “I mean, I have a daughter who has diabetes and whose immune system is compromised. She’s scared to death to go out.”
Hammer’s latest message to county officials marks her second alarm involving the coronavirus.
Tax Collector Doris Maloy announced plans May 13 to resume office operations next Monday, but without issuance of first-time permits for carrying concealed weapons.
Hammer notified the county last week that Gov. Ron DeSantis included firearms transactions in his executive order for resuming “essential” business. She said it would be illegal for the state to exclude first-time permits from transactions at Maloy’s office.
Maloy said she was only trying to balance health safety for her staff and the public with duties of issuing licenses — which involves fingerprinting for first-time applicants.
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health could not be reached Monday. But Leon County is publicly disclosing the best available data on COVID-19 infections, County Administrator Vince Long said.
“At Leon County, we use national and state health metrics compiled by the Florida Department of Health’s epidemiology team to inform our ongoing response to this global pandemic,” he said in a prepared response to Hammer’s inquiry.
“Now is not the time to make up science on the fly,” he said. “That is why our county bases decisions on vetted data like cumulative cases, rolling averages of new cases, and the daily rate of percent-positive tests — all so we can quickly react and slow the spread of the virus.”
And Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, replying to Hammer’s inquiry, said state figures on current cases and deaths “are posted daily and updated frequently.”
Hammer said she was not accusing anyone of under-reporting the numbers. But she said how many patients are still being treated is the more significant statistic.
“I’m 81 years old, and I have to be careful,” she said.
This story originally published to tallahassee.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.