PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — An official with the Florida Dept. of Health says she's confident in the state's process of counting COVID-19 deaths following a study that found the virus may have had a bigger impact on deaths in the state than official data suggests.

“I want the public to know that we are committed to providing timely, factual data to the public, and we will continue to do this. The people of Florida deserve that, and we will deliver that," said FLDOH Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Shamarial Roberson.

What You Need To Know

  • Study published in AJPH found the impact of COVID-19 on deaths in Florida is likely significantly greater than data suggests

  • FLDOH deputy secretary for health says she's confident in state's process for counting deaths

  • Read study here:

The study Analysis of Excess Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the State of Florida was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers from the University of Utah used modeling and historical mortality trends to calculate how many deaths likely would've occurred in the state between January and September of 2020 had there not been a pandemic.

They compared that to the total number of deaths during that time and the deaths from COVID-19 alone. Results showed the state saw 19,241 excess deaths from March through September, 15.5% higher than historical trends. Of those, 14,317 were from COVID, and 4,924 were from all causes.

"Total deaths are significantly higher than historical trends in Florida even when accounting for COVID-19–related deaths," authors wrote. "The impact of COVID-19 on mortality is significantly greater than the official COVID-19 data suggest."

Roberson said "excess deaths" is a forecasting tool used to predict deaths in a given population.

“The way some people have mischaracterized this study is that it means that we’ve miscounted deaths. That is not the same. It is completely different," said Roberson.

For COVID-19 to be an eligible option for cause of death, Roberson said the person must have tested positive for the virus via PCR or antigen testing within 30 days of death, per federal guidelines. Roberson noted the study is based on provisional data and doesn't take into account factors including Florida's growing population and data on other causes of death.

The state is expected to release its own annual mortality report in June.