Florida state officials not releasing medical examiners' coronavirus death data

In Florida, state officials are not releasing the list of deaths from the new coronavirus compiled by medical examiners after earlier reports found that the list showed a higher death toll in the state than official numbers indicated, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The state medical examiners commission previously released the list of COVID-19 deaths compiled by medical examiners in real time. In early April, the Times found that the medical examiners' list showed a death count that was 10 percent higher than number released by Florida's Health Department. At the time, state health officials said the list needed to be reviewed and could be redacted.

But state officials have now withheld the medical examiners' list for nine days, according to the Times.

Stephen Nelson, MD, chairman of the state medical examiners commission, told the newspaper that the commission stopped publishing the list after the state health department intervened, saying that it plans to remove causes of death and case descriptions. But the list is meaningless without that information, he said.

A health department spokesperson confirmed to the Times that it had spoken with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which provides administrative support to the medical examiners commission, about "privacy concerns for the individuals that passed away related to COVID-19."

The move comes at a time when the state is eyeing a reopening, though its death count continues to rise, the Times reports.

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