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Delayed death reporting prompts review of COVID-19 fatalities by surgeon general

After late release of coronavirus data Wednesday, DOH says there are no plans to change reporting frequency or information

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he stands with State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees during a news conference Monday, March 2, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he stands with State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees during a news conference Monday, March 2, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health now plans to conduct a review of all coronavirus fatalities after 95 deaths were reported to the state Wednesday, including 16 that happened more than a month ago and others that tested positive for the virus but died months later.

Health officials normally report the state’s COVID-19 data daily around 11 a.m. in the form of several reports and a dashboard that shows new deaths, cases and hospitalizations along with overall testing numbers. On Wednesday, however, hours went by after 11 a.m. with no update, prompting concern from the public about transparency and potential changes in reported COVID-19 information to the public.

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Just before 5 p.m. the Florida Department of Health issued a statement saying Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees had called for a more through review of all fatalities reported to the state.

“Of the 95 fatalities reported to the state on October 21, 2020, 16 had at least a two-month separation between the time the individuals tested positive and passed away, and 11 of the fatalities occurred more than a month ago,” the statement said, adding that COVID-19 deaths “consistently presents confusion and warrants a more rigorous review.”

Eleven of the 95 deaths reported to the state within the past 24 hours occurred more than a month ago, according to the DOH. There is also some question about when the people who died tested positive for the coronavirus. Five deaths happened at least three months between their first positive test in July and their deaths.

The state released the full list of deaths reported to the state Wednesday and when the DOH was first informed of their positive coronavirus test.

People do and have tested positive for the virus multiple times.

“During a pandemic, the public must be able to rely on accurate public health data to make informed decisions. To ensure the accuracy of COVID-19 related deaths, the Department will be performing additional reviews of all deaths. Timely and accurate data remains a top priority of the Department of Health," Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said in a statement.

The state released the newly reported hospitalizations, cases and testing numbers for Wednesday around 5 p.m.

Below is a breakdown of the most recent data provided by the Department of Health.


Cases

The Florida Department of Health reported 2,145 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the state’s overall total to 762,533 cases since March.

Deaths

The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday reported 105 people have recently died from COVID-19. As of Wednesday’s coronavirus report, 16,413 deaths across the state have been related to the coronavirus, a number that includes 203 non-resident deaths in Florida.

As mentioned above, state health officials have always maintained that virus fatalities are often delayed in being reported to the FDOH, with some deaths not reported for a month or more.

Hospitalizations

Currently, there are 2,125 people with the virus hospitalized in Florida, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

The state reported 276 new hospitalizations on Tuesday, meaning the state has seen a total of 47,628 patients admitted into a hospital since March in relation to COVID-19.

According to the interactive infographic found below, hospitalizations continue to vary day-by-day. Though medical facilities across the state are not overwhelmed, health officials hope to have this statistic decline as flu season approaches.

Positivity Rate

For tests reported to the state within the past 48 hours for people who tested positive for the first time, the most recent rate available was 6.74% for testing results reported Tuesday.

The percent of positive results has ranged from 3.43% to 7.87% during the past two weeks. Health officials say a community will need to keep the positivity rate at 5% for two weeks to show it has a handle on the virus.

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If you are having trouble viewing the dashboard on mobile, click here.

Below is a Central Florida county-by-county breakdown of COVID-19 for Oct. 21.

CountyCasesNew CasesHospitalizationsNew HospitalizationsDeathsNew Deaths
Brevard10,59675966113522
Flagler1,99851654370
Lake8,2662670362180
Marion10,522131,04163390
Orange43,1121691,514125332
Osceola13,62868757101861
Polk22,061802,294155931
Seminole9,8181672722360
Sumter2,784132743830
Volusia12,0804293093155

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