Florida Department of Health underreporting COVID-19 deaths in Orange, Osceola counties

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — In some ways, the financial reimbursement or loads of supplies received in each community are based on the number of COVID-19 cases.

But 9 Investigates uncovered a discrepancy in the way coronavirus deaths are recorded, and the Florida Department of Health is underreporting the actual number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Orange and Osceola counties.


9 Investigates requested the list of COVID-19 deaths from the medical examiner’s office several days in a row, and noticed that something seemed off: The numbers were a lot higher on that list than what the department of Health was reporting.

“Even though some of the infection may have happened here, or the person may have passed away here, it counts where the person resides,” Orange County Health officer Dr. Raul Pino said.

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The medical examiner’s list shows 42 people have died in Orange County from COVID-19, and 13 have died from Osceola County. However, the Florida Department of Health is reporting only 30 people have died in Orange County, about a dozen less.

The Department of Health is reporting seven deaths in Osceola County, which is six less.

Pino said it would make sense if everybody recorded the data in the same way. He said the data is constantly being reviewed, but the reality is, when someone is being cared for in our hospitals and dies in Orange County but lived somewhere else, that death is being counted for where they live.

When asked if he’s worried that some of the numbers could slip through and not be counted when they should, Pino said, “That could always happen.”

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Pino said beyond the death count, he’s more concerned about the number of positive cases not being accurately recorded.

"When you have 12,000 test kits performed, and you have five different labs reporting and the data comes electronically … it can happen,” Pino said.

Pino said it’s not just the numbers that are counted differently, it’s race and ethnicity, too.

He said it can be very confusing to follow when being Latino is counted as a race. He said the Department of Health does it that way to match the national census data.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.