‘All natural cases for the most part:’ Medical Examiner discusses coronavirus death toll

News 6 obtains copies of COVID-19 death records from 9 counties

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Medical Examiner for Orange and Osceola counties stands by the more than 300 reviews his team has made on coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

“These cases are all natural cases for the most part,” said Dr. Joshua Stephany.

Stephany said in order for a death to be classified as a coronavirus-related death, the person who died needed to test positive for COVID-19, they needed to have a CT scan that showed inflammation in the lungs and chest and they needed to exhibit some symptoms.

“Obviously, you have to be COVID-positive. There has to be a progression of symptoms,” he said. “People don’t just drop dead from COVID with no symptoms right away. You have to have a shortness of breath, a fever, cough and things like that.”

News 6 obtained copies of more than 1,000 death reports from medical examiners across Central Florida after some people on social media questioned the daily death numbers being reported by the Florida Department of Health.

According to those records, many people died of pneumonia, many were intubated and some died within hours of arriving at the hospital.

Stephany said his team reviews the medical records sent by the person’s doctor to confirm COVID-19 deaths, and they take a second look at some of them.

“We did have a motorcycle accident. The person died of a trauma, and they just happen to have COVID. We did not attribute COVID to the cause of death in that case because it didn’t contribute to that case,” he said. “Clearly that person died with COVID and not of COVID.”

There were more.

“We had another traffic accident -- or a motorcycle accident -- where the person was subsequently hospitalized for a long period of time, got pneumonia. It happened to be COVID pneumonia, and they died,” he said. “In that case, we did contribute it to COVID pneumonia.”

Stephany took issue with people claiming the numbers being provided by health officials are false.

“It’s kind of disrespectful and it’s horrible,” he said. “People have family members out there, and it does them a disservice to answer those peoples’ comments or remarks.”

As of Tuesday, FDOH has reported 7,526 deaths from the coronavirus.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.