Fact Check: There Was NO Shooting Death Of A Child In Florida Counted As A COVID-19 Death

Fact Check

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: There Was NO Shooting Death Of A Child In Florida Counted As A COVID-19 Death No Such Case

Did the death of a child shot and killed in Florida get added to the state's COVID-19 death tally? No, that's not true: Trump 2020 campaign adviser Brad Parscale made the claim in a tweet (archived here) on July 23, 2020. The tweet, which appeared on Parscale's Twitter feed as Trump 2020 director of digital advertising and data, did not provide specifics of the case to which Parscale referred, nor did it give the name of the police officer he says told him about it.

The medical examiners in Florida counties with recent child shooting deaths said none of those shooting death victims was added to their counties' tallies of COVID-19 deaths.

The tweet opened:

"I talked to a police officer today. He said a child was shot and killed in Florida. The child had covid after blood testing. He was marked as a covid death. If this is true, this madness must stop."

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:

Lead Stories reached out to President Trump's campaign, seeking the source of Parscale's claim and similarly sought clarification directly on Parscale's Twitter feed. Lead Stories received no reply by the time of this writing, but will update this story, if necessary, when Parscale or the campaign respond to questions.

As the tweet refers to the victim as "he," Lead Stories reviewed by hand the July 23, 2020 edition of Florida's state list of more than 5,500 COVID-19 deaths and found only two cases -- a Dade County 11-year-old who died July 1 and a Pasco County 17-year-old who died June 19 -- of male minors in the COVID-19 toll.

The 11-year-old is the youngest person yet to die in Florida of COVID-19. Although Florida law restricts medical examiners from releasing names and other identifying information about minors, the Florida Department of Health did confirm to local journalists that the child had severe underlying health conditions in addition to COVID-19. The 17-year-old was not identified, either, although a local television station reported on June 22, 2020 that Wesley Chapel High School had reported the COVID-19 death to its student body. No news reports of shootings related to those deaths could be found online, nor were there shooting deaths matching the age and hometowns.

Lead stories extracted from the July 23, 2020, update of Florida COVID-19 deaths a list of all minors included in the list. There are only five.

2020-07-23 (11).png

In Broward County, where Brad Parscale has a Fort Lauderdale home, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak told Lead Stories that a shooting victim found to have COVID-19 would not be added to the county's tally of COVID-19 deaths:

If they die of the injury, no. We wouldn't even put it down as contributing. If they got a real bad head injury, we don't really care about the COVID.

Mallak, whose office recently handled the shooting death of a 4-year-old male, said even if a person gets a non-fatal injury and two or three weeks later dies of COVID, his office would likely still call it homicide and not a COVID death. In the case of elderly Floridians who get COVID-19, suffer dizziness due to loss of lung function and die of injuries caused by a fall, the cause of death would almost always be the accident and not COVID-19, Mallak said.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Dean Miller

Lead Stories staff writer Dean Miller has edited daily and weekly newspapers, worked as a reporter for more than a decade and is co-author of two non-fiction books. After a one-year Harvard Nieman Fellowship, he served as Director of Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy for six years. As Senior Vice President/Content at Connecticut Public Broadcasting, a dual licensee, he oversaw radio, TV and print journalists, and documentary producers. He moved west to teach journalism at Western Washington University, edit The Port Townsend Leader and write the twice-weekly Save The Free Press column for the Seattle Times. Miller won the 2007 national Mirror Award for news industry coverage and he led the team that won the 2005 Scripps Howard first amendment prize. 

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