Q&A – Has Florida Underreported COVID-19 Deaths?

Today’s entry: Is there anything to the report that Florida deliberately underreported thousands of COVID deaths or is this another DeSantis hit by the news media?

Bottom Line: Possibly both. Today’s note came on back of recent research published in the American Journal of Public Health. In a story first reported by Yahoo News, the key statement from the findings calls into question the number of attributed COVID deaths.

Here’s the breakdowndirect from the study:

Objectives.To determine the number of excess deaths (i.e., those exceeding historical trends after accounting for COVID-19 deaths) occurring in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods.Using seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average time-series modeling and historical mortality trends in Florida, we forecasted monthly deaths from January to September of 2020 in the absence of the pandemic. We compared estimated deaths with monthly recorded total deaths (i.e., all deaths regardless of cause) during the COVID-19 pandemic and deaths only from COVID-19 to measure excess deaths in Florida.

Results.Our results suggest that Florida experienced 19 241 (15.5%) excess deaths above historical trends from March to September 2020, including 14 317 COVID-19 deaths and an additional 4924 all-cause, excluding COVID-19, deaths in that period.

Conclusions.Total deaths are significantly higher than historical trends in Florida even when accounting for COVID-19–related deaths. The impact of COVID-19 on mortality is significantly greater than the official COVID-19 data suggest.

That’s pretty straightforward. If true, Florida has underreported deaths by about 15%. In real time, that’d mean Florida has underreported deaths by approximately 5,171 in total. The question becomes whether the methodology adds up. In my opinion, the answer is yes. But it’s not necessarily what it’s being spun to look like.

It’s no secret Governor DeSantis has become a national political figure and the perceived leader of the Republican Party this side of Donald Trump. That makes him a key target. Yes, Florida has underreported COVID-19 related deaths, no it’s not unusual. This is a case where the story is real but the context isn’t explained or established which leaves the uniformed with a perception that’s likely worse than the reality. 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

Photo by: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

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