Florida Changed Its COVID-19 Reporting Methods

  • Florida’s new methodology makes it incorrectly appear as if COVID-19 deaths are declining.
  • Epidemiologists told the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald that the new methodology was not as accurate, calling it “extremely problematic.”
  • Florida is currently averaging hundreds of COVID-19 deaths each day, according to New York Times data.

The Florida Department of Health changed its methodology of reporting COVID-19 deaths to the CDC on August 10, which made it appear that the pandemic is in decline, an analysis by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald found.

Instead of its previous methodology, which counted deaths the date they were reported, Florida is now tallying the count based on the date of death, which is delayed while deaths are evaluated and death certificates are processed, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald reported.

When deaths are finally tallied, they create a spike where there once existed a downslope, according to the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

Epidemiologists said the new methodology was not as accurate or beneficial for long-term studies of the disease, as well as “extremely problematic” because it creates an “artificial decline” in recent deaths, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald reported.

“When you have big surges in deaths, the deaths by date reported will always show an increase while deaths by date occurred will go down,” Salemi told the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. “Someone could have died yesterday and we may not know about it for a week, or two weeks.”

Under the new methodology, death trends reported by DOH are significantly lower when first reported and do not immediately reflect the number of deaths that day, a change that economist Tim Harford told the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald is a “statistical sleight of hand.”

New York Times COVID-19 data shows that Florida is currently averaging more than 20,000 new cases and hundreds of deaths each day.

On August 27, a judge ruled that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did not have the power to issue an executive order banning mask mandates in the state.

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