The Florida Department of Health will investigate the state’s 16,000 coronavirus deaths due to questions about the integrity of the data, according to an announcement issued Wednesday.
State health department officials said the “fatality data reported to the state consistently presents confusion and warrants a rigorous review.” The review is meant to “ensure data integrity.”
“During a pandemic, the public must be able to rely on accurate public health data to make informed decisions,” Scott Rivkees, the surgeon general for Florida, said in the statement.
Among the 95 deaths reported Wednesday for instance, 16 had more than a 2-month separation between the time of testing positive for COVID-19 and passing away, and 5 cases had a 3-month gap. In addition, 11 of the deaths occurred more than a month ago.
The health department then listed data for all 95 cases, including the age, gender, county and the dates of test positivity and death. Palm Beach County had 50 of the COVID-19 deaths.
“To ensure the accuracy of COVID-19 related deaths, the department will be performing additional reviews of all deaths,” Rivkees said. “Timely and accurate data remains a top priority of the Department of Health.”
Last week, Jose Oliva, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, said medical examiner reports were “often lacking in rigor.” House Democrats then said Republicans were trying to “downplay the death toll,” according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel .
Fred Piccolo Jr., a spokesman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, told the newspaper Wednesday that officials have struggled to obtain timely data. Labs sometimes report test results from weeks before, he added.
“It’s really one of those things that you gotta know if someone is dying of COVID or if they’re not,” Piccolo said. “Then you can legitimately say, here are the numbers.”
Florida Department of Health, “Florida Surgeon General Implements Additional Review Process for Fatalities Attributed to COVID-19 to Ensure Data Integrity.”
South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Florida to investigate all COVID-19 deaths after questions about ‘integrity’ of data.”
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This article first appeared on Medscape.com.