Florida's health department is reportedly withholding the list of coronavirus deaths compiled by the state's medical examiners, which at times has shown a higher death toll than the official record, The Tampa Bay Times reports.
The state Medical Examiners Commission had been releasing the data in real time, including demographic information, probable cause of death, case summaries, and medical and travel history (names are not included), but the commission's chair, Dr. Stephen Nelson, said the health department stepped in and told him it planned to remove causes of death and case descriptions. The policy change reportedly occurred after the Times reported the commission's count was 10 percent higher than the state's.
Nelson said the list is meaningless without the information. A spokesman for the health department said only that the department "participated in conference calls" about "privacy concerns" of individuals whose deaths were related to COVID-19.
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It's reportedly not the first time the agency has tried to tinker with medical examiners' work during the pandemic, having previously tried to restrict access to death records in Miami-Dade County. "It's just shocking me to the level of interference," said Barbara Petersen, president emeritus of the First Amendment Foundation. Read more at The Tampa Bay Times.
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