FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida, which has reported the deaths of more than 16,400 people from COVID-19, now says the public may not be able to trust any of those numbers.
The state Department of Health on Wednesday ordered an investigation of all pandemic fatalities, one week after House Speaker Jose Oliva slammed the death data from medical examiners as “often lacking in rigor” and undermining “the completeness and reliability of the death records.”
House Democrats then blasted the House Republicans’ report as an insult to coronavirus victims and an attempt “to downplay the death toll.”
The political battle over COVID-19 death reporting — and now the new review — follows Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push for a full reopening of the state’s businesses and tourist attractions and a picture of the virus being so under control, Tampa should host a packed Super Bowl in early February.
Health officials on Wednesday announced that “fatality data reported to the state consistently presents confusion and warrants a more rigorous review.” The review is necessary to “ensure data integrity,” they said.
The state delayed the release of its daily coronavirus data about cases and deaths for over five hours because of the developing situation.
In a news release, officials highlighted concerns about 95 deaths reported to the state on Tuesday.
The department said 16 of the deaths occurred more than two months after the person tested positive, and 11 people died more than a month ago.
And in five cases, there was a three-month gap between the time of infection and death.
Palm Beach County had 50 of the COVID-19 deaths in the latest report, which shattered the previous one-day record of 27 deaths reported Aug. 7.
The state says it just learned about an 85-year-old Palm Beach County woman who died Sept. 27 — 3 1/2 months after she was diagnosed with COVID-19. In another case, an 87-year-old county woman died Oct. 1, more than three months after her positive test on June 25.