A second governor to rise to a more prominent status during the COVID-19 Pandemic for the way he handled things in his state is now facing criticism that he may have undercounted the number of deaths there from the virus.

Research from the American Journal of Public Health argued that Florida has undercounted deaths by thousands of cases, which casts new doubt on Governor Ron DeSantis, who often spoke out against mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and lockdowns. The research, according to Yahoo News, stated that when comparing the number of estimated deaths for a six-month period from March to September to the actual number which occurred, a figure known as “excess deaths” occurs—and Florida’s number came to 4,924 of those deaths.

Researchers, including Yale School of Public Health Epidemiologist Daniel Weinberger, stated that a spike of 400,000 deaths across the U.S. during 2020 correlated with the pandemic, and it’s possible that states undercounted deaths for a number of reasons, including poor testing ability earlier on and different methodologies for how to classify a death as being COVID-related, since many deaths were also in people who had comorbidities, which left medical examiners sometimes unsure of whether or not a death was caused by the underlying condition or COVID-19.

In the case of Florida, it is believed the excess deaths were likely COVID-related, and that Desantis’ decisions to lift restrictions quickly, as well as his public disdain for mask mandates and other mitigations techniques and strategies, didn’t help matters. Other research showed that in areas of the country that were Republican strongholds and more pro-Trump, who was President at the time, tended to take the pandemic less seriously and as a result, excess deaths were not always attributed to the coronavirus as a result.

Overall, according to data from Johns Hopkins, Florida stands as the state with the third-highest number of total COVID-19 cases, lagging behind only California and Texas at just over two million, as well as the fourth-highest total number of deaths, lagging behind California and Texas again, as well as New York.

DeSantis is the second governor to face scrutiny over how deaths were counted after New York’s Andrew Cuomo also became the target of criticism and investigation because of undercounting deaths in nursing homes. The two Governors were notably polar opposites with how they handled the pandemic, with Cuomo enforcing strict measures throughout the state, including capacity limits at businesses and mask-wearing.

Cuomo is also facing separate scandals regarding cases of alleged sexual harassment and whether or not he made sure members of his family received COVID-19 tests ahead of the general public when they were scarcer.

DeSantis has also been scrutinized for other ways of handling the pandemic, including his vaccine rollout plan, as well as his desire to fly flags at half-mast following the death of Conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh.

News of the alleged undercounting of deaths also saw many head to social media in droves to further criticize the Governor.

The news also came on the heels of DeSantis stating he would refuse to let coronavirus “vaccine passports” be used in his state. In a news conference broadcast by Tampa Bay 10, he said he would design some sort of function or law that prevented businesses from refusing service to customers who couldn’t prove they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are not supporting any vaccine passports in the state of Florida,” he said. “It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.”

According to the Florida Department of Health, as of March 29, more than 8.5 million doses of the COVID vaccine had been administered, with more than 5.6 million vaccinated.

Florida is also the site of an uptick in case numbers of COVID-19 after the loosened restrictions saw an influx of Spring Break revelers in the Miami area. The New York Times reports the state is averaging a new 5,000 cases per day, particularly among young people. According to CNN, cases are up 14% in the state, with other states also seeing rises.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his handling of the public health response to COVID-19
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his handling of the public health response to COVID-19. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JOE RAEDLE