The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) stopped publicly releasing COVID-19 death data on a county-by-county basis in June, and it took the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than three months to once again begin publishing that data themselves.
The FDOH took down the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard on June 4, and instead began reporting data on cases, hospitalizations, deaths and more in a weekly report released Fridays after 5 p.m. Some data, including deaths broken down at a county-by-county level, had been available to the public previously but was not included in the new weekly reports.
Why did the number of people dying of COVID in Florida counties go missing this summer?https://t.co/eEYXTUGgl3
— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) October 17, 2021
When asked about the county-level data, the FDOH referred inquiries to the CDC, according to the Tampa Bay Times. However, the CDC did not report deaths at the county level between June 4 and Sept. 17, either, leaving the public completely in the dark regarding how many of their neighbors were dying from COVID-19.
FDOH blamed the CDC for the mix-up. “The issues Florida has had with data displayed by CDC has caused great confusion and allowed misinformation to perpetuate in our state,” FDOH spokesperson Weesam Khoury told the Tampa Bay Times. According to the Times, the CDC continued for months to try and pull data from the state’s now-defunct COVID-19 data dashboard despite having other ways to access the data from Florida.
During the early days of the pandemic, the state issued detailed daily reports on COVID-19 deaths, cases and hospitalizations. In June, when officials made the shift to weekly reports and abandoned the publicly available dashboard, officials seemingly determined that the pandemic was receding to a point that daily reports were no longer necessary.
“COVID-19 cases have significantly decreased over the past year as we have a less than 5 percent positivity rate, and our state is returning to normal, with vaccines widely available throughout Florida,” Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, said at the time of the change. (RELATED: Negative DeSantis Media Coverage Evaporates As Declining COVID Trends Continue In Florida, Political Pundits Say)
The FDOH informed the CDC about the issue with their reporting on Sep. 4, according to the Times. CDC officials told the Times that Florida was not providing the necessary data to the agency for publication, but the FDOH provided emails proving that was not the case.
Neither the Florida Department of Health nor the CDC responded to requests for comment on this story.