Northwest Florida Daily News by Carl Hiaasen
May 13, 2020
Two months into the pandemic, the state of Florida last week finally agreed to release a list of fatalities attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
The information was carefully compiled by medical examiners — actual forensic doctors — and then massively gutted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
As a result, the list is full of gaps that leave many questions about how and why more than 1,300 victims have died.
Among the crucial data blacked out are the names of those who’ve died with COVID-19, the circumstances of their deaths, the types of illness triggered by their coronavirus infection and the probable cause of their deaths (often there are multiple factors).
What remains in the spreadsheet are the barest of basic facts, most of which are already known:
Date of death, county of death and the age, gender and race of the deceased. Also noted is the “probable manner of death,” which is usually listed as “natural” when it’s not a car accident, suicide or homicide.
Florida has 21 medical examiners, and normally they would have released all the information that the FDLE redacted. But ever since COVID-19 swept into the state, the DeSantis administration has tried to block the public from learning significant details about the spread of the virus.
The cover-up effort hasn’t been subtle, and Floridians can’t be blamed for wondering if the motive is to make the human toll of COVID-19 appear lower than it really is.
Early on, state officials refused to identify the nursing homes and assisted-living facilities hit hardest by the virus, or provide the number of deaths at each of those locations. Only the threat of lawsuits pried the data loose.
A similar battle took place over documenting COVID-19 cases in the prison system.