Florida Governor Warns of More Nursing Home Deaths to Come

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned that more Covid-19 deaths may be coming at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, even though cases and hospitalizations appear to be easing across the state.

“Over the next couple weeks, I’m concerned of seeing kind of a tail where we start to see some of these long-term-care deaths,” DeSantis said Thursday from Tallahassee.

Florida Governor Warns of More Nursing Home Deaths to Come

Florida has one of America’s largest 65-and-over populations, and many of the elderly live in group settings. DeSantis said protective measures have meant that it takes longer for Covid-19 to breach long-term care facilities. Earlier in the pandemic, he said, deaths in those places continued well after the first peak in fatalities in the general public.

“The LTCs just kind of kept going,” he said. “And I think it was because you did have a lag -- it took a little longer for the infections to get in there.”

DeSantis has often sought to add his interpretation to the state’s Covid-19 fatality data, which is just now starting to reflect the true toll of a case surge in June and July.

Deaths often trail Covid-19 infections by weeks, and it generally takes even longer for fatalities to be reflected in official data. Even as many metrics are improving in the Sunshine State, it reported a record 276 deaths Monday among residents.

DeSantis said news reports that focus on newly reported deaths mislead the public about the state of the pandemic. DeSantis, an ally of President Donald Trump who resisted a statewide mask order, has recently been making the case for reopening schools, even as many large districts start the year online.

“It could present a picture to folks that trends are occurring that may not be,” DeSantis said.

He said reporters should instead focus on deaths by date of occurrence, which currently indicate that they may have peaked weeks ago. But data from recent days is highly incomplete and subject to large and continuing revisions, making it at least equally susceptible to misinterpretation.

States report reams of data on Covid-19 cases, tests, hospitalizations and deaths, and most experts agree that each statistic has its pitfalls, and the data has to be interpreted holistically.

Around the same time Thursday, Florida debuted an overhauled version of its daily Covid-19 report. It now relegates the number of newly reported deaths to the fourth page, back from the first. It also provides new analysis, including deaths by both date of occurrence and date reported to the state. The most recent tally for the latter was 151 deaths, about 10 times higher than the former.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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