As Florida’s coronavirus death toll climbs, Gov. Ron DeSantis questions state’s numbers


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As coronavirus deaths continue to climb in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is questioning the numbers. He says if you die and test positive for coronavirus, that counts as a COVID death in Florida.

8 On Your Side is looking into the governor’s assertions.

DeSantis wants the state to take a second look at the coronavirus death data following a report that one motorcycle crash victim was classified as a COVID death in central Florida.

“A lot of people are like…how is that possible?” Gov. DeSantis said at a news conference in Orlando on Monday. “You get hit by a car, and then you’re attributing it to coronavirus.”

But DeSantis contends that’s how Florida actively classifies COVID deaths, as per federal guidelines.

“I think, though, the reason that’s the case is because what the CDC has said is anybody that tests positive, if they then die, that’s a death amongst cases,” he explained.

“If somebody commits suicide for example, and then they turn up positive, should that be attributed to the coronavirus?” he added. “And for the perspective of the state’s reporting, they’re just going to keep doing it the CDC’s way.”

So what is the exact federal guidance and is it possible that Florida’s COVID death toll is less than what’s being reported?

Dr. Jay Wolfson, a public health professor at the University of South Florida, says it’s really straight forward.

“The CDC put out an additional notice in April making sure that everybody understood, you report those things that led quote directly to death,” he explained. “You’re looking at the immediate causes of death.”

Dr. Wolfson says the CDC has made it clear: Dying with the virus is not the same as dying from the virus. In other words, the feds don’t say to count suicides and crash victims as COVID deaths.

8 On Your Side reached out to Gov. DeSantis’ office on Wednesday morning. We are waiting to see the federal guidance they’re looking at when determining COVID deaths in the state.

Meanwhile, Professor Wolfson believes the death toll in Florida is potentially greater than what’s being reported – not less.

Dr. Wolfson says we should look at the deaths that occurred prior to March. For example, he says, a pneumonia death could have been caused by coronavirus but health officials weren’t looking for COVID at the time.


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