Tampa Bay Times by Kathleen McGrory, Rebecca Woolington, and Connie Humburg
May 6, 2020
After weeks of withholding it from public disclosure, state officials on Wednesday released the list of coronavirus deaths being compiled by Florida’s medical examiners.
But the document was redacted to remove the probable cause of death and the description of each case.
The omissions make the list meaningless, said Dr. Stephen Nelson, the chairman of the state Medical Examiners Commission.
“You have to take the word from the government that these are deaths related to COVID-19,” said Nelson, who is also the chief medical examiner for Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.
“It loses transparency,” he said.
The list never included the names of the dead, which many experts and medical examiners have said is also public in Florida.
The move came several hours after attorneys for a coalition of media organizations, including the Tampa Bay Times, sent a letter demanding the state release the information.
As of early last month, the list was being released as it was updated. The Times used it to report on April 11 that the state’s official count of deaths, produced by the Florida Department of Health, was about 10 percent lower than the medical examiners’ count.