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Florida — home of UFC’s next three events — is suppressing COVID-19 death data

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The medical examiners list at times showed a higher death toll than the state’s official figures. 

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Florida — home of the UFC’s next three shows, as well as weekly WWE tapings — has been suppressing COVID-19 death data being compiled by medical examiners.

State officials have stopped releasing the list of coronavirus-related deaths gathered by medical examiners, which at times was 10 percent higher than than the figure released by the Florida Department of Health.

The news was first reported by Tampa Bay Times, which added that the data has now been withheld for more than nine days. State officials have not provided any more information, though one medical examiner claimed that officials planned to remove causes of death and case descriptions, which would render the list “meaningless.”

The report added that Florida’s health department held talks with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement regarding “privacy concerns for the individuals that passed away related to COVID-19,” the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus. Yet as the death toll continues to climb in Florida, the discrepancy between the two figures has become a concern.

The news comes at an interesting crossroads for Florida, which revealed plans to re-open the state despite rising death tolls. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the first phase of the state’s “Smart. Safe. Step-By-Step” plan will go into effect on Monday, May 4 once the stay-at-home order expires. Restaurants will be allowed to offer outdoor seating with six feet distancing between tables, while retailers will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity. Gyms, salons and movie theatres will remain closed.

The Florida Governor’s Office also deemed the WWE an “essential service,” which gave other professional sports the green light to hold events in Florida. They are now on the same list as hospitals, banks, pharmacies and grocery stories.

Shortly following the WWE resumed production in Florida, the UFC announced that it planned to hold three shows in the span of eight days in Jacksonville, Florida. The first event is UFC 249, which is scheduled for May 9.

The promotion announced that the events will be closed to the public and will be limited to only essential personnel. The events are also sanctioned by the Florida State Boxing Commission.

“Health and safety protocols will be in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all individuals who are helping to make these events possible,” the Florida State Boxing Commission’s executive director, Patrick Cunningham, said in a statement. “With this triple date feature of UFC events coming in May, Florida is continuing to build a strong collaboration with UFC that sets the foundation for more opportunities that we hope UFC will choose to host in our state in the months to come.”

As of Thursday, there are more than 33,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida, including 1218 deaths. The United States has more than 1 million confirmed cases — approximately one third of the total worldwide figure — and nearly 62,000 deaths.