Tags: 2020 Elections | Coronavirus | coronavirus | deaths | florida

Gap in COVID-19 Deaths Appeared in Florida Before Presidential Election

patient transferred from ambulance to hospital
Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, Florida on December 10, 2020. (CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Wednesday, 16 December 2020 11:15 AM

A pattern in Florida’s COVID-19 death tally reportedly suggests the state manipulated a backlog of unrecorded fatalities to present more favorable death counts ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday the issue revolves around the state’s handling of a lag between the date of death and the date Florida reports it in the public count.

The state generally quit including long-backlogged deaths in its daily counts on Oct. 24, 10 days before the Nov. 3 election, and resumed including them on Nov. 17, the news outlet reported.

The result was that daily death numbers publicly reported as Florida went to the polls for early voting and on Election Day were lower than they otherwise would have been, the Sun Sentinel reported.

“It’s hard to know if there was a limitation around election time or random other things were happening,” Scott David Herr, a Florida computer scientist who tracks the daily coronavirus data, told the Sun-Sentinel.

“The Department of Health hasn’t explained why lags have been inconsistent. When they keep changing whatever is going on behind the scenes, when the lags keep changing, that is where it gets confusing.”

Public health experts say pandemic deaths are typically under-reported, but Republicans have complained Florida’s death counts were exaggerated by fatalities from other causes counted in the totals. Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed similar skepticism, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

According to the news outlet, by Oct. 21, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees announced Florida would add another layer of review on deaths before releasing totals, saying many took place more than a month before being reported or months after the person tested positive for COVID-19.

Afterward, deaths that occurred more than a month earlier vanished from the state’s daily tallies, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

In the month that preceded the change, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 20, the state included in its daily tallies 1,128 deaths that occurred at least a month earlier — accounting for 44% of the deaths announced during that time.

In the week before the election, the health department included just one such death in its daily tallies.

On Nov. 17, two weeks after the election, Florida’s daily death counts again began to consistently include deaths that occurred more than a month before, and a large number of deaths that had occurred more than two months before, the Sun-Sentinel reported, citing independent analysis.

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US
A pattern in Florida's COVID-19 death tally reportedly suggests the state manipulated a backlog of unrecorded fatalities to present more favorable death counts ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election...
coronavirus, deaths, florida
396
2020-15-16
Wednesday, 16 December 2020 11:15 AM
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