State senator sounds the alarm about Florida's concealment of COVID-19 death statistics

State senator sounds the alarm about Florida's concealment of COVID-19 death statistics
Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., joins President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, in the Cabinet Room of the White House Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, during a discussion with Governors-Elect from around the nation. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In Florida, state officials have forbidden county medical examiners from releasing statistics on deaths from COVID-19. And in an op-ed for the Palm Beach Post on Monday, Democrat Lori Berman, who represents Boynton Beach in the Florida State Senate, argued this information should be readily available to the public.

"Shockingly, Florida’s county medical examiners are being prohibited by state officials from releasing COVID-19 death statistics," she wrote.

“Recently, it was reported that the death count tallied by the Medical Examiners Commission was at one point 10% higher than the number released by the Florida Department of Health,” Berman explains. “Shortly after this discrepancy came to light, state officials cited privacy concerns to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency providing support to the Medical Examiners Commission, and blocked the report from further release.”

Berman adds, however, that a list from medical examiners “never contained the names of COVID-19 victims” but rather, “contained demographics, cause of death, and case summaries — far from private information.”

In her op-ed, Berman goes on to note that in Florida, Dr. Stephen Nelson (who heads the Medical Examiners Commission) “said state officials now plan on axing cause of death and case descriptions from the list entirely.” And keeping that information under wraps, Berman stresses, is doing the public a major disservice in Florida.

"Without an accurate depiction of the impact of this pandemic on our state, our leaders cannot make informed decisions on public policy," she says.

“By prohibiting the release of death statistics from the medical examiners, state officials are not being truthful with the public,” Berman continues. “But public trust and knowledge are mission-critical in times of crisis."

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