GOP governor blasted for ‘leaking’ Florida records to fuel coronavirus conspiracy theory: report
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (screengrab)

Governor Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) office leaked Florida records to fuel coronavirus theory that Florida is counting deaths that were not directly associated with COVID-19.

In late October, a conservative blogger named Jennifer Cabrera visited Florida’s Capitol and was "mysteriously allowed to examine a month’s worth of COVID-19 death certificates — records that the state is not willing to concede are public and that it is not releasing to academics and journalists seeking to better understand the toll of the coronavirus pandemic," reported the Miami Herald.

Following her visit, Cabrera penned a post on her blog with her husband, Len, claiming that the state is over-counting COVID-19 deaths.

"Of the 11,460 records that listed COVID-19 as the immediate cause of death, 8,058 (70%) listed no other causes," they wrote. "According to the report, these records were completed incorrectly, listing COVID-19 in Line a as the immediate cause of death rather than listing the result of COVID-19, such as pneumonia or acute respiratory disease syndrome (ARDS). While this does not imply the deaths were not caused by COVID-19, incorrectly-filled death certificates do not allow a clear distinction between deaths from COVID-19 and deaths with COVID-19."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said the opposite: that deaths are actually being under-counted nationwide.

“There has been this constant drumbeat of ‘Oh, most of the COVID deaths aren’t really COVID deaths.’ It’s been a conspiracy that’s been ongoing from a lot of right-wing media,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. “Anyone who understands medicine knows it’s crap. If you ascribed that theory to heart attack deaths, you’d say they died from underlying conditions like hypertension or diabetes. It’s like, what? It’s still a heart attack. It doesn’t make any sense. ... The people who are pushing this argument clearly haven’t spent any time in a hospital or know anything about infectious diseases.”

Cabrera told the Miami Herald that a third-party organization had provided her with the records, which had been photocopied and redacted. She was not allowed to take pictures or make copies.

“I cannot tell you who showed them to me,” she told the Herald in an interview. “I can tell you we were put in a conference room with a babysitter. ... They were interested in having somebody take a look at them and provide feedback on how deaths from COVID were being characterized and that’s all I’ll say about that.”