Rep. Soto urges US House committee to investigate Florida’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths

Letter alleges ‘possible inconsistent pattern in the calculation of deaths’ around general election

FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2002 file photo, ventilator tubes are attached a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. California reported more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases and 293 deaths on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, setting new daily records as hospitals struggled to keep up with the surge. Southern California and the state's Central Valley regions that together include 23 counties and most of the state's nearly 40 million residents had exhausted their regular supply of intensive care beds and many hospitals were tapping into their "surge" capacity. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Jae C. Hong, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep Darren Soto, a Democrat who represents Florida’s Ninth Congressional District, is asking that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce investigate possible inconsistencies in Florida’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths around the time of the general election.

Soto, along with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, wrote a letter on Friday to Chairman Frank Pallone requesting the investigation.

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In the letter, the House members cited a report by a Florida newspaper that mentions a “possible inconsistent pattern emerged shortly after early voting began in Florida.”

The letter goes on to allege that the Florida Department of Health excluded long-backlogged deaths in its daily coronavirus counts on Oct. 24 and began including them again on Nov. 17.

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“This change in the calculation of deaths resulted in significantly lower death tallies immediately before the election,” the letter reads. “Additionally, this change came within three days of Governor DeSantis’ announcement of audits of all COVID suspected deaths before inclusion in the daily numbers.”

The state announced Oct. 21 that it would conduct a more thorough review of all coronavirus fatalities.

“To maintain the highest level of safety, the residents of Florida must have complete transparency on the methodology and calculation of the daily COVID death tally,” the members wrote. “As cases surge nationwide, Floridians must be assured of truthful reporting by their Department of Health.”

The letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Alcee L. Hastings, Ted Deutch, Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Al Lawson, Jr.

News 6 has reached out to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office for comment and is still waiting to hear back.

The letter comes as Florida continues to report thousands of new coronavirus cases each day. On Friday, the state reported more than 13,000 cases for the second consecutive day, bringing the state’s overall total to 1,181,483 cases since March.

According to the latest numbers, at least 20,690 people have died in relation to the coronavirus across the state, including 289 non-residents who died in Florida.