In a March austerity measure, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state representatives voted to close A.G. Holley State Hospital in Palm Beach County, the state's only tuberculosis hospital, citing a decline in Florida TB cases since 2010.
But according to an April 5 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida was suffering one of the largest uncontained TB outbreaks in 20 years -- and the largest spike nationwide -- resulting in 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, mostly among the homeless.
The hospital closed three months after the federally-issued report anyway, prompting questions: what did the state know, and when did they know it? And why was the outbreak kept secret?
According to the Florida Times-Union, Duval County health officials contacted the CDC for help in February after witnessing a sudden 16 percent increase in TB cases, mostly confined to the local homeless population.
But politicians closed A.G. Holley in Lantana 6 months ahead of schedule on July 2, the Associated Press reports, allegedly never catching wind of the CDC's April 5 report.
According to the Palm Beach Post, whose repeated requests to see the report went unanswered until reporters showed up in person in Tallahassee, the CDC's Dr. Robert Luo found:
"The high number of deaths in this outbreak emphasizes the need for vigilant active case finding, improved education about TB, and ongoing screening at all sites with outbreak cases."
The report also found that some 3,000 people may have had close contact with contagious patients in Jacksonville, where according to the AP report county officials decided to keep the outbreak quiet because it was largely among Jacksonville's homeless population.
In other words, it was not an ideal time to be closing one of only four hospitals in the country that specializes in treating difficult TB cases. The airborne infectious disease, once known as consumption, affects a patient's lungs, but can eventually impair the brain, kidney, and spine.
Although it was A.G. Holley's policy to keep patients admitted until they were completely free of TB, the hospital's early July closing meant that 18 TB patients were released into the general population under the care of their own county's health departments after officials deemed them no longer contagious, according to an earlier report by the Post.
Contagious patients from A.G. were sent to Miami's public Jackson Memorial Hospital and eventually Shands in Gainesville, as many of the afflicted are uninsured.
In 2009, a Peruvian student in Lantana was found affected with a drug-resistant strain of TB, igniting new fear about the disease. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden told CBS News:
"Drug resistance is starting to be a very big problem. In the past, people stopped worrying about TB, and it came roaring back. We need to make sure that doesn't happen again. We are all connected by the air we breathe, and that is why this must be everyone's problem."
Click below for some of Scott's other recent controversies:
Doctored Newspaper Front Page
Florida Governor Rick Scott's Facebook managers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/rick-scott-facebook_n_1417499.html?utm_hp_ref=rick-scott" target="_hplink">posted an image containing a doctored <em>Miami Herald </em>headline</a>, prompting the paper's managing editor to demand it be removed. The post, since deleted from the Governor's social media page, swapped in the headline "New Law Helps Put Floridians Back To Work" in place of the paper's original headline from 2007, "Murders Highlight Rise In Crime In Guatemala" -- making it appear an editorial from the governor had run above the fold on the <em>Herald</em>'s front page.
Non-Transparent Transparency Program
After Florida Governor Rick Scott encouraged journalists to access his emails through his transparency program Project Sunburst in lieu of filing public records requests,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/31/rick-scott-emails-omitted-project-sunburst_n_1723747.html" target="_hplink"> it was revealed that emails to his official email account weren't in fact included</a> -- Project Sunburst was only displaying emails sent to a second account that appears on Florida Tea Party websites. As a result at least one news report included a positively-skewed view of Scott after his Lt. Governor made anti-gay comments.
"Prayers" In Public Schools
Scott approved <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/florida-house-inspirational-messages-bill-approved_n_1313368.html" target="_hplink">SB 98, which means that Florida students are now allowed to deliver "inspirational messages" </a>that include everything from prayers to manifestos at mandatory school events.
Refuses Affordable Care Act
In a statement, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/01/florida-health-care-law_n_1641990.html?utm_hp_ref=miami&ir=Miami" target="_hplink">the governor said the healthcare law would not aid</a> economic growth in his state "and since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that's the right decision for our citizens."
Scott met with King Juan Carlos of Spain during his economic development mission and immediately managed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/rick-scott-king-of-spain-elephant_n_1542066.html?utm_hp_ref=rick-scott" target="_hplink">to bring up the uncomfortable topic of the monarch's disastrous elephant hunting trip to Botswana</a>.
Ads On State Trails
In the midst of old-growth live oak hammocks, wild orchids, and vistas of Lakes Wales Ridge in Lake Kissimmee State Park, Florida hikers may soon see signs boasting "Buster Island Loop, brought to you by Pollo Tropical." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/rock-scott-ads-state-trails_n_1502972.html" target="_hplink">Governor Rick Scott approved a bill </a>permitting advertising on state greenways and trails, which went into effect July 1, 2012.
The Governor is in a legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department over the state's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/rick-scott-florida-governor-voter-list_n_1628607.html?utm_hp_ref=rick-scott" target="_hplink">effort to remove non-U.S. citizens from lists of registered voters </a>ahead of this year's presidential election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Reverses Ban On Dying Animals Artificial Colors
Just before Easter, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/07/rick-scott-approves-artif_n_1409749.html" target="_hplink">Florida Governor Rick Scott approved an agricultural bill, which permits animals to be dyed neon green and dayglo pink</a>.
Random Drug Testing
The governor passed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/27/drug-testing-florida-state-workers-lawmakers_n_1300331.html" target="_hplink">a law permitting state agencies to randomly drug test employees every 3 months</a>.
49,000 Voters Discouraged From Polls
Florida took center stage in the 2012 elections, when voters around the state had to wait in line at the polls for up to nine hours. Gov. Rick Scott (R) initially denied that there was any problem, saying it was "very good" that people were getting out to vote. But a new study shows that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/rick-scott-not-favored-by_n_2328614.html?utm_hp_ref=rick-scott" target="_hplink">tens of thousands of people were actually discouraged from voting because of the long lines</a>. According to an analysis by Theodore Allen, an associate professor of industrial engineering at Ohio State University, as many as 49,000 individuals in Central Florida did not vote because of the problems at the polls.
Dismal Approval Rating -- Even Amongst GOP
Most Florida voters, including Republicans, would like to see Gov. Rick Scott (R) challenged in 2014, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/rick-scott-not-favored-by_n_2328614.html?utm_hp_ref=rick-scott" target="_hplink">according to a poll released by Quinnipiac University</a>. More than half of voters said Scott didn't deserve a second term, and 55 percent, including 53 percent of Republicans, wanted another candidate to challenge the governor in a primary. Scott's approval ratings, though improved from 2011, were also underwater.
Cost Taxpayers $1 Million In Legal Fees
Governor Rick Scott's long list of controversial legislation -- including tweaking the state's pension plans, require drug testing of those on welfare, cutting teachers' pay, and purging voters -- may have cost Florida taxpayers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/31/rick-scott-costs-florida-_n_2388780.html" target="_hplink">upwards of $1 million in legal bills</a>. The latest legal bill tallies at $190,000 after a federal court ruled that Florida has to pay the attorney fees as Scott fights for the right to drug test state workers. The Orlando Sentinel found that Scott has already cost taxpayers nearly $900,000 in attorney fees as he fights for his conversational legislation, making this latest legal bill tilt the tally over $1 million.
First-Time Drug Offenders
Florida Governor Rick Scott <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/gov-rick-scott-vetoes-bil_n_1414758.html">vetoed a widely popular bill that would send certain non-violent drug addicts to treatment after serving half their sentences</a>. “He said it was a 'public safety’ issue. No it’s not,” said bill sponsor Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) according to the Miami Herald. “These are non-violent drug offenders.” The bill, a rare common sense favorite during a legislative season that saw Scott approve dying animals and Jay-Z lyrics debated on the House floor, was opposed by only four state lawmakers.
Docs. vs. Glocks
Gov. Scott <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/docs-vs-glocks-appeal-ric_n_1720370.html">pushed back when a federal judge ruled</a> a law gagging Florida physicians from asking patients if they owned guns unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge cited the government-imposed gag order as a violation of free speech protection under the First Amendment.
Campaign finance reports show Florida Governor Rick Scott -- who framed recent evidence-defying efforts to purge state voter rolls, limit registration and reduce early voting hours as a protection of "honest" elections -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/rick-scott-hired-boletera-boletero_n_1890552.html">hired an alleged Miami-Dade absentee ballot broker during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign</a>. Scott's campaign paid a $5,000 "contract labor" fee to 74-year-old Hialeah resident Emelina Llanes, who was identified as a so-called boletera to the Miami Herald and by El Nuevo Herald, multiple Miami-Dade watchdog blogs, and former Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños.
Closes TB Hospital
In an austerity measure, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state representatives <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/florida-tuberculosis-outbreak-kept-secret_n_1658916.html">voted to close A.G. Holley State Hospital in Palm Beach County, the state's only tuberculosis hospital</a>, citing a decline in Florida TB cases since 2010. But according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida was suffering one of the largest uncontained TB outbreaks in 20 years -- and the largest spike nationwide -- resulting in 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, mostly among the homeless.
Gives Out Number For Sex Hotline
Florida governor Rick Scott <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/rick-scott-phone-sex-hotline-meningitis_n_1954060.html">accidentally sent constituents seeking information on a fungal meningitis outbreak to a phone sex hotline</a>.
Vetoed Funding For Mass Animal Deaths Research
The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University was counting on $2 million in state funds to study the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/indian-river-lagoon_n_3472190.html?utm_hp_ref=rick-scott" target="_hplink">dead pelicans, manatees, and dolphins piling up at Indian River Lagoon, described as a 'killing zone</a>.' Scott vetoed the funding.
Sped Up Death Penalty
Scott <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/death-penalty_n_3459048.html?utm_hp_ref=rick-scott" target="_hplink">signed a law that will speed up Florida's execution process</a>. The governor now must sign a death warrant within 30 days of the Supreme Court certifying that an inmate has exhausted all appeals. The execution date must be six months from the date of the warrant.