Florida Man Killed in Crash Listed as COVID-19 Death, Raising Doubts Over Health Data

As novel coronavirus cases in Florida surpass 350,000, doubts over the accuracy of the official figures reported have been raised after a death was wrongly reported by the state health department to have been due to COVID-19.

A person in their 20s, who was killed in a motorcycle accident, was initially reported to have died from COVID-19, according to Dr. Raul Pino, Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, Miami's WSVN reported.

"We were discussing or trying to argue with the state. Not because of the numbers. I mean, it's 100. It does not make any difference if it's 99, but the validity that the fact that the individual didn't die from COVID-19, died in a crash," Pino argued.

"But you could actually argue that it could have been the COVID-19 that caused him to crash, so I don't know the conclusion of that one," he added.

Pino confirmed all COVID-19 deaths are certified by the medical examiner .

"The only thing that I could say to people is that the data that I provide you with is the data that we consume from the state. We offer you the best data that we have," he noted.

The latest death was reviewed by the Florida Department of Health in Orange County and removed from the state's tally of novel coronavirus deaths, which currently stands at 4,982, according to the latest report from the Florida Department of Health.

The department issued a statement explaining how COVID-19 deaths are determined, which noted: "COVID-19 is listed as the immediate or underlying cause of death, or listed as one of the significant conditions contributing to death. Or, if there is a confirmed COVID-19 infection from a lab test — and, the cause of death doesn't meet exclusion criteria, like trauma, suicide, homicide, overdose, motorcycle accident, etc."

Newsweek has contacted the Florida Department of Health and state government for further comment.

The daily death toll in Florida has seen several dramatic spikes this month, including last week when the state saw a record number of 156 new fatalities on July 16, according to data compiled by Worldometer.

Back in May, Rebekah Jones, a data scientist who worked for the state health department, claimed she was allegedly fired after refusing to "manipulate" the state's virus figures in a bid to support the reopening of the state.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis argued Jones was fired because "she didn't listen to the people who were her superiors," Florida's The Palm Beach Post reported.

Jones has since launched her own website FloridaCOVIDAction.com, claiming much of the virus data on the state health department website is not clearly presented and details are "buried in a PDF."

"I decided to stop wallowing in self-pity and do something constructive, something useful with the skill set I've been using for so long," Jones told The Palm Beach Post last month. "People have a right to know what's going on in a straightforward nonpolitical kind of way," she said.

Miami Beach Florida coronavirus July 2020
Miami Beach police officers direct people out of the entertainment district on July 18, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. Getty Images

Most Florida counties entered phase one of reopening on May 4. The state's daily case count has mostly been increasing from around May 27 and began rising on a sharper incline from about mid-June, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Several reopened bars in Florida were closed again after customers tested positive for the virus.

Over 14.5 million people across the globe have been infected since the virus was first reported in Wuhan, China, including 3.7 million in the U.S. More than 8.1 million globally have reportedly recovered from infection, while over 606,200 have died as of Monday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The graphics below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

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The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.

States with most COVID-19 cases
The U.S. states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. STATISTA

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. states and the European Union.

New COVID-19 cases in U.S. vs EU
Average number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the European Union. STATISTA