Florida Department of Health Emails Between State and Federal Officials’ Regarding Coronavirus

Email communications from the Florida Department of Health in response to American Oversight’s request for communications sent by top public health officials. These records span from Feb. 1 to March 25, 2020, and contain key terms related to coronavirus testing and response. Details on the records are below.


Documents received November 2020

On March 14, 2020, Royal Caribbean paused all global operations. Public reporting indicated that in the spring of 2020, Royal Caribbean opposed CDC guidelines for allowing potentially coronavirus-infected crew members to disembark. These documents show some confusion among Royal Caribbean representatives and health officials about the process for disembarking passengers in mid-March. 

March 17, 2020: Eleni Kalisch, Royal Caribbean’s vice president of federal relations, had said that guests arriving in Miami would be met and screened by Dr. Barth Green, whom she said was “the Global Coordinator for CDC.” CDC official Michelle Weinberg replied, asking for more information: “Could you kindly clarify Dr Green at CDC? Is that CDC as in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or is that a typo? If yes, we do not know him. … Most importantly, you need to work with and have the approval of the Florida State and Local Health Departments.” According to a later communication, Green, a professor at the University of Miami, had no affiliation with the CDC. 

Later that night, Kalisch wrote to a group of CDC and Florida health department officials: “Slight change of plans. Upon arrival at [Miami], Royal Caribbean will now be arranging individual charter flights for the passengers who are cleared by CDC to return to their home cities/states. Our team has asked that CDC provide something in writing tomorrow that we can provide to the charter companies indicating that the passenger(s) boarding the charter flights have been cleared to fly commercially.”

Weinberg responded: “Please clarify your request and the plan – which passengers are you referring to? The air ambulance passengers or the ones who are not ill and are coming in the larger charter? As I wrote earlier, CDC will not be conducting any health screening.”

These documents also include communications regarding Florida Health Department officials’ apparent resistance to using the CDC’s DCIPHER system to track Covid-19 data. Other emails between Kalisch and Florida health officials are here.