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Florida's COVID death count under new scrutiny following study

Impact of COVID-19 on mortality 'significantly greater' than data suggest, study says
Posted at 2:32 PM, Mar 30, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The number of COVID-19 deaths in Florida is facing new criticism following a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis has on multiple occasions touted how Florida has handled the coronavirus pandemic as opposed to states that have had stricter measures.

A study released March 10 found the state should have counted 4,924 excess deaths from COVID-19, but they were ruled as having been caused by something else, effectively lowering Florida's COVID death count.

"The impact of COVID-19 on mortality [in Florida] is significantly greater than the official COVID-19 data suggest," the study concluded.

Yahoo News reported that Moosa Tatar, who led the research team looking at Florida's coronavirus deaths, said he chose to focus on the Sunshine State because of how quickly DeSantis lifted restrictions.

Florida has never had a mask mandate and was among the first states to fully reopen every business to 100 percent capacity in late September.

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 29, 2021.
Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 29, 2021.

"I am sure that COVID-19 is responsible for most of these excess deaths [in Florida]," Tatar was quoted in the Yahoo News report.

Tatar's study has not been accepted by all health experts and has been rebuked by Lauren Rossen, a statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who found nothing exceptionally suspicious in the report.

Meanwhile, other health experts including Dr. Vin Gupta, a frequent contributor to MSNBC programs, called DeSantis' handling of the pandemic "foolish," saying most of Florida's COVID-19 cases and deaths were avoidable.

This isn't the first time Florida and DeSantis have been criticized for data related released by the state related to COVID-19.

Former Florida Department of Health analyst Rebekah Jones was ousted from her position last year after saying the state wasn't accurately counting coronavirus cases.

Jones' home was later raided in December by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after officials said someone was illegally accessing the state's emergency alert health system.

The latest data released Tuesday by the state of Florida shows that there have been more than two million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 33,983 deaths.

WPTV is seeking comment from DeSantis on the latest report from the American Journal of Public Health.