COVID-19 Data Misrepresented by Florida Governor
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the Florida Department of Health had commenced an inquiry into the state’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths, after Governor Ron DeSantis suggested that the official reports overstate the number of deaths. According to the report, Governor DeSantis and members of his staff repeatedly questioned the accuracy of the COVID-19 death rates, with his press secretary Fred Piccolo Jr. tweeting: "we can tell you definitively that Florida is counting deaths that were not directly caused by COVID-19.” Mr. Piccolo has also sought to downplay the COVID-19 pandemic in other ways. On one occasion, he erroneously tweeted: “we had one COVID death in Florida yesterday . . yes you read that right. One.” In fact, on the day in question, there were 47 deaths.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and other independent public health experts suggest that Florida’s total death toll from the pandemic is actually understated. Experts noted that Governor DeSantis’ administration has used a COVID-19 infection rate that gives “more weight to negative test” results, and thus skews the results. Governor DeSantis has used the skewed rate to justify reopening schools and businesses. In response to criticism, Mr. Piccolo denied that Governor was attempting to question the official death toll, stating “[n]o one in the administration is trying to cast doubt on the number of COVID deaths, we are trying to get to the facts.”