Florida professor says COVID-19 death counts need more transparency

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is reporting a record number of deaths from COVID-19, listing 156 deaths from the virus on Thursday. 

“These numbers are not daily numbers that are reported. They’re data dumps and that’s the important thing to keep in mind,” Dr. Rebel Cole said. 

The Florida Atlantic University professor said people are misunderstanding the data. Before Thursday's record, the state reported that Saturday was a record day for coronavirus deaths.    

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“Well, 120 people didn’t die on Saturday. Those people died over the last two months, but they were actually recorded by the DOH on Saturday,” Dr. Cole said. 

Thursday's number of 156 is in the right-front corner of the FDOH’s dashboard, where site visitors will notice an asterisk next to the number. It takes a few clicks and some digging through the digital dashboard to get to what that asterisk means. 

"The Deaths by Day chart shows the total number of Florida residents with confirmed COVID-19 that died on each calendar day (12:00 AM - 11:59 PM). Death data often has significant delays in reporting, so data within the past two weeks will be updated frequently," the site reads.

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Dr. Cole explained that the data gets released by the state all at once. 

“So, we don’t know who died yesterday. We don’t know who died last week, because it often takes it up to a month for a death certificate to make it into public record.  We need transparency,” he said. 

Dr. Cole says he and his colleagues at FAU have been working on a data dashboard of their own, which they intend to release to the public next week.