Coronavirus: What's in the censored Florida Medical Examiners COVID-19 database?
EDITOR'S NOTE: We are providing information about the COVID-19 crisis that state leaders don’t want you to see. Normally, this is the kind of exclusive reporting we would limit to subscribers only. We chose instead to make this story more broadly accessible because of the importance of its content. But quality, fact-checked reporting isn’t free. Collecting and verifying news is a costly and time-consuming endeavor and perhaps has never mattered more than it does now. Please show your support for quality reporting like this by subscribing.
Below is the information the state of Florida does not want you to see.
The USA TODAY Network — Florida and other news sites have obtained the Medical Examiners Commission’s data of COVID-19 deaths as part of a public records request. The Florida Department of Health had blocked the commission from releasing the spreadsheet. When the state agreed to release it last week, state officials attempted to redact the narratives with details about each death and the cause of death. The DOH had said they were concerned about privacy. However, that information has always been public in Florida.
The USA TODAY Network — Florida, like other news outlets, was able to access the redacted or "blacked out" columns, and that’s part of what we’re making available now in this searchable database. The database does not include names, and we’ve removed the medical examiner case identification numbers.
It's important to note that this information is not standardized among Florida's 25 district medical examiners, so it will vary by case and county.
Before the DOH clamped down on releasing the full data, FLORIDA TODAY had obtained the first 601 COVID-19 deaths unredacted, which you can explore here.
This new database covers the 1,489 COVID-19 deaths across Florida as of 11 a.m. on May 6.
The data provide grim insight into the early failures of state officials and the medical system to contain and respond to the virus. FLORIDA TODAY's analysis of the initial 600 deaths found patients denied testing until their second or third hospital visit, deaths from untraceable cases, meaning contact tracing either didn't happen or fell apart immediately, and deadly clusters of infection at nursing homes and cruise ships.
The data provide key insights for leaders, policymakers and the public.
You can search by county, race and age group. You can also see if a nursing home or long-term care facility was involved in the case.
This report was made possible by the work of Laura L. Davis from USA Today Network Regional Investigations, Abigail Brashear of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Jim Waymer and Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of FLORIDA TODAY and Mike Stucka of the USA Today data team.