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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tampa Bay Times analysis reveals higher COVID-19 death toll in Florida

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2020 at 7:07 PM

click to enlarge Coronavirus testing at the Orange County Convention Center on April 1, 2020 - PHOTO BY DAVE PLOTKIN
  • Photo by Dave Plotkin
  • Coronavirus testing at the Orange County Convention Center on April 1, 2020

The Tampa Bay Times teamed up with health researcher Troy Quast from the University of South Florida to understand why there has been hundreds of unexpected deaths that have not been counted toward the tally of COVID-19 deaths within the state of Florida.

Based on analysis, the epidemic's death toll may be between 17 and 58 percent higher than public figures currently show. This higher projection is based on a spike of deaths caused by natural causes in Florida between March 22 and April 25.

As of current, Florida's health department counts just over 2,413 deaths from COVID-19. With the spike of recent unexpected deaths due to natural causes, it is believed that some such deaths may be due to unreported COVID-19 deaths. This spike has been noted because the analysis that Quast has conducted compares the number of deaths each week to the average number of death for that same week over the last six years, with population growth being accounted for.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and historic averages shows that there are between 1,358 and 1,831 more deaths than expected from natural causes in Florida during the five weeks leading up to April 25.

“The testing for coronavirus is not 100 percent accurate,” Quast told the Times. “You have false positives and false negatives.”
The surge in unexpected deaths could be due to the fact that Florida might have admitted fewer patients than usual because of the surge of COVID patients. Assistant professor in the health sciences department at the University of Central Florida Eunkyung “Muriel” Lee said that these naturally caused deaths may have occurred because the epidemic kept those with chronic conditions lacking appropriate and necessary treatment. Additionally, according to The Associated Press, emergency room visits in Florida has dropped 50 percent since the pandemic began.

The Times highlights that expects say that there could be a decrease in COVID-19 deaths as physicians and medical examiners get better at identifying the virus. However, there is fear that there may be another wave of infection as Florida continues to open.

As of Saturday, there are 54,029 positive COVID-19 cases in Florida, with 1,236 new cases reported Thursday and 769 on Friday, and a total of 2,447 deaths statewide. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. has seen 1.67 million confirmed cases and 98,889 deaths as of May 29 since Jan. 20. On Wednesday, the U.S. surpassed 100,000 Americans who have died from the virus.
click to enlarge Map of coronavirus cases in Florida by county, May 30, 2020 - IMAGE VIA FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Image via Florida Department of Health
  • Map of coronavirus cases in Florida by county, May 30, 2020
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