Oct 18, 2021 - COVID
Florida's secret delta toll
Illustration of a market arrow breaking through a pile of coronavirus cells.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Roughly 4,500 Tampa Bay residents — an average of about 36 per day — died from COVID-19 over the four months the Florida Department of Health did not share daily pandemic information with citizens.

Driving the news: The data is now available and gives a clearer picture of the heartbreaking toll of the latest record-breaking spikes from the delta variant — which is only now subsiding — between June and October.

Flashback: When the pandemic started, the state's health department produced detailed daily reports on the COVID toll.

Yes, but: In early June, Gov. Ron DeSantis' office decided COVID cases had receded to the point where making information public daily was no longer necessary.

  • The state's COVID dashboard came down and officials began issuing complicated weekly reports, but not useful information on county-level vaccinations and infections.
  • Florida is the only state that releases data once a week and it does so in a way that makes it harder to access and analyze, per the Tampa Bay Times.

Reality check: Cases skyrocketed. Florida went from 1,000 infections to more than 21,000 a day by August. Deaths peaked at 372 on Sept. 1.

  • But for three months, the CDC portal showed no fatalities in Florida counties.

The bottom line: ​​As of Oct. 15, Florida was up to 57,859 total COVID deaths.

What we’re watching: DeSantis has been quiet lately as his approval rating slid and COVID spiked, but on Friday he touted his pandemic governance to the Sarasota GOP.

  • DeSantis, who tried to stop local governments and businesses from requiring vaccines or masks, didn't address the COVID numbers or his opponents for Florida governor but focused his criticism on President Joe Biden.
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