Florida's 2020 death toll is as many as 8,000 fatalities higher than a usual year's, even beyond the deaths directly caused by COVID-19, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
The sunshine state saw as many as 23,000 'excess deaths' beyond the expected number between January 1 and October 3, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
As of October 3, the state had reported 16,505 COVID-19 deaths.
But the CDC's data suggests the deadly toll exacted on the state since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the US may be much higher.
Many of these excess deaths are likely not directly due to COVID-19, but rather to the shockwaves of the pandemic, including delayed care for chronic conditions, overdoses and suicides.
But counting coronavirus cases and deaths has been a subject of ongoing controversy, particularly in Florida, where families have been denied requests to test deceased loved ones for COVID-19, crooked officials have hidden the severity of the outbreak from view and backlogs of autopsy reports have amassed as systems built to address urgent emergencies have been stretched with the pandemic.
There have been as many as 8,000 excess deaths beyond the 16,571 attributed to COVID-19 in Florida in 2020, according to a Sun-Sentinel analysis of CDC data (pictured: CDC data shows the expected number of deaths, in orange, excess deaths, including those from coronavirus, in blue, and excess deaths not attributed to coronavirus in green)
As of Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health reports 16,571 COVID-19 deaths among residents, and 204 among non-residents.
According to the state's dashboard, a total of 790,426 people have been infected in the state.
Those figures, Dr Stephen Nelson, District Medical Examiner for Florida's 10th Judicial Circuit, insists, are 'very accurate and up-to-date,' he told DailyMail.com.
Or, at least he'd 'like to think so.'
But he admits that they haven't always been.
The Board of Medical Examiners was responsible for counting the state's COVID-19 deaths from the time Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the pandemic, on March 9, until August 14.
Counting the dead during COVID-19 became the group's responsibility as a result of a system put into place following a bizarre conspiracy theory that emerged in the early 1990s.
After Hurricane Andrew slammed into the state's Southern tip, a small faction of Floridian's became convinced that then-governor Lawton Chiles was having bodies of storm victims smuggled to a barge to be sunk in the Atlantic.
Chiles was under fire for his response to the hurricane because he waited five days to request FEMA assistance. Locals suspected he was trying to get rid of evidence of the real death toll in an effort to downplay the devastation caused by Andrew.
Florida's Office of Medical Examiners was the charged with determining the death toll of any disaster after a governor declared state of emergency, in order to wrest some of the narrative control from the state's leader.
But disasters declared state emergencies last a matter of days, or perhaps weeks.
The coronavirus pandemic has remained an emergency for Florida - and most of the US - for over seven months.
So far, nearly 17,000 people (including residents