COVID-19 infections could reach 5,000 in just days; some deaths not reported to the public for up to two weeks

Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. Microphotography by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases

The number of COVID-19 infections rose by 565 cases between Friday evening and Saturday morning, with a new total reaching 3,763 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health.

If those kinds of increases continue, based on state data, it is likely that Florida will reach the 5,000 mark in a matter of days.

Miami-Dade has already reached that mark — at 1,003 — counting both Florida resident and non-resident cases. Broward is at 814. And Palm Beach County is at 292 cases. Those counties are in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Orange is at 206 and Hillsborough, 195.

The data posted Saturday morning also show 54 deaths, up from 46 Friday evening, in Broward, Dade, Lee, Pasco, Pinellas and Volusia counties.

In some cases, deaths have not been reported to the public for several days and even up to two weeks, data show.

The state health department posts the date when a death is “counted,” but that’s not the same as when a death is made public in the COVID-19 data.

In a Pasco death case, for example, the department posted March 14 as the date the death was counted. The Pasco man was 67. The death was made public in a health department report on Saturday, March 28, two weeks after the death was “counted.”

In a Pinellas death case — a 52-year-old male — the department posted the death date as March 18. The death was made public 10 days later, on Saturday, March 28.

In a Broward case — a 74-year-old male — the department posted the death on March 15. It was made public March 27, 12 days after the death was counted.

Those cases and others could be related to travel situations, or other circumstances.

But the length of time between counting a death and the information made to the public could potentially skew the picture as Florida tries to provide an accurate report of deaths.

The Florida Phoenix has written recently about confusion in the COVID-19 data.

The average age of death in the data is about 75; Nearly three-quarters of deaths are male.

Overall, Broward has the most death cases at 11, followed by Lee County, six deaths and Palm Beach, five deaths.

Clay, Orange and Pinellas, have four deaths cases, and Duval and Miami-Dade have three.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.