COVID-19 death toll could be higher than Florida’s data shows, CDC says

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – There are new concerns that more people in Florida may be dying from the pandemic than we thought.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our state’s official death toll could be off by thousands.

Researchers are not saying that Florida is being deceptive, but what does constitute a coronavirus death?

Right now, Florida is reporting 16,709 people have died directly from the virus. But new research from the CDC finds the true death toll may be much greater. Researchers believe more than 6,152 Floridians died this year than expected. They too are alleged victims of the pandemic.

8 On Your Side spent the day analyzing this complex CDC data.

We asked Jason Salemi, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology at USF, to help us crunch the numbers and understand COVID-19’s true toll on our community.

“We believe these people would be alive if it were not for the pandemic, what caused their death?” asked Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“It’s things like heart failure, pneumonia or influenza, stroke diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease,” said Professor Salemi.

“What do these diseases have to do with COVID-19?” asked Saeidi.

“It could have been that because of COVID-19 these individuals didn’t go and seek the healthcare that they needed either from their primary care doctor or in a hospital,” said Professor Salemi.

So, the feds COVID-19 death toll is higher than Florida’s death toll because, unlike Florida, they include deaths that were indirectly caused by the virus.

Professor Salemi thinks Florida should not change how it’s reporting deaths.

“I think their job is to accurately identify deaths in which COVID-19 is listed as a cause of death,” said Professor Salemi. “I do not believe that each state should be reporting on excess deaths because it is a more complicated process than it might seem to be.”

According to the CDC report, it’s also likely Floridians have died from COVID-19 but that information wasn’t put on the death certificate.

So, it wasn’t counted in the state’s official numbers.

Right now, it’s unknown how often true under-reporting has happened.

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