'Significant' increase in Florida pneumonia deaths are likely COVID-19 related: CDC officials
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (screengrab)

According to a report from the Daily Beast, officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believe that a "statistically significant" increase in pneumonia-related deaths in Florida may be related to the COVID-19 virus.

With Florida being one of the first states to re-open after most of the country went into an almost complete shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, reports of deaths in the state have been under more scrutiny than usual as health experts attempt to get their arms around the health crisis.

The report from the Beast's Erin Banco states, "According to the data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, since the beginning of the year there has been a total of 1,519 deaths in Florida where pneumonia and influenza were listed as the underlying cause. By comparison, in the same time period last year, Florida recorded 1,207 such deaths. The CDC has historically counted pneumonia and influenza deaths together. CDC officials told The Daily Beast that most of the deaths included in that category are pneumonia. "

According to Bob Anderson, the chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch in CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, that increase is "statistically significant" and the death total was likely tied to COVID-19.

"The increase has sparked a conspiracy theory on the left, that Florida is deliberately trying to undercount coronavirus fatalities by labeling them as something else. There’s no evidence to suggest any such underhand efforts, or that the state is unique across the country," Banco wrote but cautioned, "But officials, including Anderson, do believe that a portion of the pneumonia and influenza deaths in Florida involved patients who were infected with, but never tested for, COVID-19. In such scenarios, though the virus likely contributed to the death, it may not have been recorded as the cause of death by the physician, coroner or medical examiner."

According to Anderson, "We’re definitely experiencing an underreporting issue nationwide. [In Florida] most likely what we’re seeing are folks dying without having been tested and the best evidence that the doctors or whoever is filling out the death certificate had pointed to the person dying of pneumonia.”

Anderson went on to note that reported "pneumonia and influenza deaths for 2020 are lower than reality because the death certificate reporting system lags by several weeks, especially in states that do not have digitized systems to process the papers."

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