Put your tray tables up and strap yourself in, because it's time for a lesson in abject media malfeasance.
The Miami Herald on Thursday ran with this shocking and arresting headline:
Florida COVID update: 901 added deaths, largest single-day increase in pandemic history
It's obvious what the paper is trying to communicate: That the state on Wednesday recorded a staggering 901 deaths, a brutal toll and a razor-sharp indictment of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis's handling of the pandemic there. In particular the number is plainly supposed to indicate that the pandemic is spiraling out of control as deaths skyrocket to unimaginable numbers.
Unsurprisingly, the 901 figure was spread far and wide on social media. Here's a viral post from a Florida Democratic activist:
Here's one from a major Florida newspaper:
Here's one from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried:
Here's one from anti-DeSantis activist Daniel Uhlfelder:
We could do this all day, but you get the point: People are rightfully freaking out over the apparently worsening pandemic in the state, as exemplified by 901 Floridians having died on a single day.
Here's the thing, though: The 901 figure is bogus, at least as far as it's meant to symbolize an entire day's worth of deaths. It's not. Not even close.
Rather, the numbers represent the cumulative deaths gathered from a dataset stretching as far back as March of 2020.
Florida didn't report 901 deaths on a single day; it reported 901 deaths from a set of over three dozen days.
It's not surprising that it's done this way: Public health authorities are always working on a lag when it comes to reported deaths. If ten people die from COVID-19 on a Monday, the health department might only report one of those deaths on a Tuesday, then two on Wednesday, then the remaining seven on Thursday as death certificates come in and are confirmed. This is done on a rolling basis and then updated in bulk at certain intervals – a policy DeSantis' opponents allege is meant to hide total deaths... you know, for like a few weeks?
To get an idea of where all the deaths occurred, here's a dataset breakdown of the 901 deaths announced this week:
As you can see, Wednesday's actual reported deaths at the time numbered just eight. That number will almost surely increase as more information is submitted to the state, of course, but at the time it was the only hard data associated with that date in question.
Basically, the numbers were adjusted across the last three weeks once the totals were known (you can see the change and percent change as two of the columns). The gross total for the entire pandemic was then updated on August 16 from 42,731 to 43,632, which the Herald falsely reported was 901 deaths on a single day.
A better headline would have been:
"Monthly reporting update shows 901 additional people died of Covid in Florida over the past few weeks"
Instead, they flat-out implied that "DeathSantis" is going around covering up insane numbers and that COVID is killing everyone due to his policies. Some lefties even agreed with this tactic.
There's nothing wrong with this kind of accounting, so long as it's given the proper context—which the Herald failed to do in its headline, and which countless liberal activists and critics also failed to do when repeating the base number without qualifying it.
This is why people despise the media and trust nothing of what they read in newspapers and see on news programs.
This is why the media's credibility is in absolute tatters. As well it should be!
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