Florida probably registered closer to 50,000 COVID deaths, says health institute

IHME believes the death toll is 41% higher than what state records show.

Florida probably registered closer to 50,000 COVID deaths, says health institute
PHOTO VIA ADOBE

Scientists at a renown institute estimate that more than 50,000 people have died in Florida with COVID-19, higher than the state’s official count of 35,783 dead residents.

Last week, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) began publishing its estimates for COVID-19 deaths rather than just reporting official death tolls. That estimate is computed based on an analysis of weekly excess deaths, those above what is expected on average.

Data released Monday shows the Florida Department of Health (DOH) places the death toll at 35,783. However, IHME puts its current projection at 50,277, which it expects to grow to 53,037 by the start of September. That would continue a tapering Florida has seen since March and since vaccines have become more readily available.

Excess mortality is a metric for all deaths, regardless of their cause. To account for that, IHME attempts to estimate what percentage of excess deaths COVID-19 is directly responsible for, weeding out other influences like delayed treatments, worsening mental health and the reduced transmission of other contagious diseases.

“Estimating the total COVID-19 death rate is important both for modeling the transmission dynamics of the disease to make better forecasts, and also for understanding the drivers of larger and smaller epidemics across different countries,” according to the institute.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has criticized models, including IHME’s. Nearly a year ago, he said the model had not been accurate and didn’t reflect the nuances of each state and country.

“I think what I’ve found on these models is that they have assumptions that are totally unreasonable, but then also they have no appreciation for how individual states are dealing with this,” DeSantis said.

However, IHME’s excess deaths analysis takes into account local metrics. That puts Florida on slightly better footing than the national average.

Florida’s death toll received a 41% increased based on IHME’s modeling. However, its estimate for the United States hit 905,289, 58% larger than the 574,043 listed in federal reports when the new model launched Thursday.

In an interview last month with Florida Politics, DOH Deputy Secretary for Health Shamarial Roberson dismissed excess death reporting, calling it instead more reliable and true to look at what is actually observed.

Unlike other emerging diseases that epidemiologists may use excess mortality figures for, COVID-19 is heavily tracked. Additionally, excess death models might not take population growth into account.

IHME is affiliated with the University of Washington. Under President Donald Trump, members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force highlighted the model.

This article first appeared at Florida Politics.

Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow @cl_tampabay on Twitter. 

Scroll to read more Florida News articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]