TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A new state audit report found gaps in COVID-19 data released by the state of Florida.
The report was released by Florida’s Auditor General, and found that state officials sometimes delayed the release of important information, including the number of deaths.
The report found certain COVID-19 data was inaccurate in 2020. State Auditors said data was critical to the state’s COVID-19 response and may have impacted how officials dealt with the disease.
The Florida Auditor General’s Office found that the number of deaths reported by the state did not match the number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded by Florida’s office of vital statistics. As a result, thousands of deaths may not have been reported accurately in 2020.
According to the report, state data was sometimes incomplete and failed to include information on demographics. In other cases, positive test results were not entered correctly.
“We’re owed policy changes that prevent this kind of thing from happening again,” said Rebekah Jones, a former state data scientist. “The public is entitled to critical information during a crisis that has been my fight for the past two years. If the situation is worse than the state is telling us, then we have a right to know that.”
Jones was the data scientist who helped create Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard. Jones claimed she was asked to manipulate COVID-19 data two years ago. She was later fired. It’s important to note the auditor general’s report was conducted separately from Jones’ allegations.
“I hope that every person in the state government who is seeing this report and reading it feels empowered now to come forward,” said Jones.
The report found the state Department of Health did not routinely check the data for any discrepancies.
Additionally, auditors say the department’s records did not always contact trace. State health officials said often times they did not have enough staff to make that happen.
In a response to the audit, Florida’s Surgeon General, Joseph Ladapo, agreed with the findings. He said the Florida Health Department has created an action plan in response to the report which will be completed by the end of the year.