Report: Florida officials asked medical examiners to withhold information on coronavirus-related deaths

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Concerns are growing that the COVID-19 death toll in Florida could be higher than what the state is reporting.

This comes after medical examiners were told to stop releasing the data, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.

From the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office in Dania Beach to the main medical examiner's office In Miami, and beyond.

Forensic pathologists statewide are apparently being pressured to restrict the death records of people who have died from COVID-19.

This after the Tampa Bay Times uncovered discrepancies between the death numbers reported by individual counties and the numbers usually given out by the Florida Department of Health on a spreadsheet.

The state’s info was 10% short of what should have been reflected from folks who actually died of complications from the novel coronavirus.

There was no mention of the report at a news conference Wednesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was detailing his plans to reopen the state.

But according to the report, the state health department recently raised privacy concerns about the deceased after engaging in conference calls with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

It’s important to note that Florida is an open records state and the law does allow the age, race, county of residence and any underlying conditions of the deceased to be released publicly.

During the coronavirus pandemic, that information helps analysts and sometimes medical professionals within the community understand the complexities about who is being most affected by the virus.

Advocates have since raised transparency issues, especially at a time when Florida's confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise amid re-opening plans across the state to get the economy back up and running.

The controversy comes just weeks after the legal push to release coronavirus data from nursing homes; the state initially objected, citing privacy concerns, but only when a lawsuit was threatened did the state make the total numbers available to the public.

About the Author: