FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: Medical examiner explains how COVID-19 death is determined

(UPDATE) On Saturday, Kent Donahue, from Dr. Pino's office, said the motorcyclist's death "was reviewed and he was taken off the list for COVID fatalities."

Two days after a FOX 35 investigation, health officials confirm that a motorcycle death that was initially counted among COVID-19 fatalities has been removed from the state's data. 

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said it was reviewed and removed, but he didn't know exactly when. 

FOX 35 began investigating this on Thursday after Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said that a man who had coronavirus but died in a motorcycle crash had been added to the COVID death data. 

At the time, he said he had asked the state to remove it from its numbers, but he didn't know if it ever was. 

After reporting on this Thursday and Friday, officials notified FOX 35 on Saturday that they verified the death is no longer being counted.

(OLDER STORY VERSION) Health officials say they are still trying to figure out whether a man killed in a motorcycle accident was added to the state’s COVID-19 death count.  

On Thursday, Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said someone who had coronavirus but died in a motorcycle accident may have been added to the COVID fatalities. He was asked if that person was removed.   

“I don’t think so. I have to double-check,” Pino said. “We were arguing, discussing, or trying to argue with the state. Not because of the numbers. It’s 100…it doesn’t make any difference if it's 99. But the fact that the individual didn’t die from COVID19…died in a crash. But you could actually argue that it could have been the COVID-19 that caused him to crash. I don’t know the conclusion of that one.”

FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: Questions raised after fatal motorcycle crash listed as COVID-19 death

FOX 35 News reached out to the Medical Examiner’s Office because they sign off on COVID-19 deaths.T he chief medical examiner says someone in their 20s with COVID was killed in a motorcycle accident June, but that person’s cause of death was not listed as coronavirus.   

“We only ascribe COVID deaths if COVID is the cause of death or contributed to the cause of death. We don’t put it on the death certificate if they died with COVID-19. So for instance, someone in a car accident, overdose of if they’re shot,” said Dr. Joshua Stephany, chief medical examiner for Orange and Osceola counties.

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Dr. Pino’s office says it’s still working to verify if the case he told us about Thursday is still in the state’s data. The department of health’s office in Tallahassee has not responded to our questions about this but in a statement officials say a "COVID death" is determined if, "COVID19 is listed as the immediate or underlying cause of death, or listed as one of the significant conditions contributing to death. Or, if there is a confirmed COVID-19 infection from a lab test – and, the cause of death doesn’t meet exclusion criteria – like trauma, suicide, homicide, overdose, motor-vehicle accident, etc."

We also requested another interview with Dr. Pino for further clarity on these comments. His spokesperson told us he was not available.