Federal and state data disagree on Florida's county-level COVID-19 deaths

The Gainesville Sun

The Florida Department of Health reported the number of deaths relating to COVID-19 for each county on a weekly basis but stopped providing that after June 2.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports deaths related to COVID-19 on a daily basis for counties nationwide, but that is drawn from state health departments. Florida is among the very few that no longer provide this on a daily basis.

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While it might seem possible to determine county-level deaths since June 2 by checking the difference between what the state reported through June 2 and what CDC reports through Aug. 28 — the most recent date available — that calculation holds a surprise: in nearly half of all Florida counties, the number of deaths the CDC reports is smaller than what Florida reported June 2.

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The chart below shows the state's cumulative total through June 2 and the CDC's total through Aug. 28 for every county in Florida. The CDC does not provide a number for county-level deaths when that number is smaller than 10, citing privacy concerns.

Having trouble viewing the graphic? If so, click here.

One apparent reason CDC and state health department numbers don't agree is that the CDC bases its county total on the location where someone dies, usually a hospital, according to a Palm Beach County health department official. The state uses the home address of the decedent.

That's not enough to explain the discrepancies, however. The total number of deaths for all counties disagrees significantly. The CDC data show 42,731 deaths statewide through Sept. 1. The state's latest report shows 46,324 deaths through Sept. 2 — a difference of 3,593, about 8%.