Last week, University of South Florida epidemiology professor Jason Salemi published a Twitter thread responding to several questions about COVID-19 data in Florida.
Salemi, who has a Ph.D. in epidemiology, developed his own COVID tracking dashboard. The Florida Department of Health’s COVID dashboard has been under scrutiny throughout the pandemic due to concerns that Florida’s COVID death count has been misreported.
Salemi tweeted, “Recently, I’m being asked repeatedly to comment on a serious topic. Is Florida intentionally underreporting/misrepresenting COVID-19 deaths? I don’t ‘pick sides’ or play politics. I honestly try to describe what the data are telling us, and that involves my interpretation.”
In addition, the issue has become political. Former gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham posted on her Twitter account in December 2020 that the DeSantis “administration have been manipulating and hiding #COVID data from the people of Florida from day one of this crisis.”
Salemi could not confirm whether or not the Department of Health is inaccurately reporting COVID data, but he gave his opinions based on his experience working on his COVID dashboard.
“Clearly, early on DoH was not reporting COVID-19 deaths occurring among non-residents of the state,” Salemi said. He said he thinks this was the wrong thing to do because of Florida’s high population of visitors but that this is a common practice for surveillance reporting.
Salemi also commented on the “reporting lag” for COVID deaths — the length of time between a death occurring and when it is reported. He said the lag has varied, but lately most reported deaths have happened within two weeks to a month.
Salemi concluded that he does not think that Florida has intentionally underreported or misrepresented COVID deaths. He added that COVID death reporting is not perfect, but he believes that it is not worse in Florida than in other places.