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Florida Medical Examiners Commission changes COVID-19 death workflow to reduce workload

This means families may be able to hold funerals, close out their loved ones' affairs sooner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some families in Florida have been waiting to bury their loved ones who died from COVID-19.

Florida’s Medical Examiners Commission has stepped in to resolve the delay, with the commission on Friday passing a motion that says “Florida medical examiners need not accept jurisdiction of COVID-19 related deaths.”

“What this will do is really help the families of those that have died of COVID to get their bodies of their loved ones released quickly for funeral purposes,” said local Public Defender Charlie Cofer, who’s a member of the commission.

The motion was approved 7-1.

The Medical Examiner’s Office for District 4, which covers deaths in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, has seen a workload increase due to COVID-19 but it does not have a backlog.

The District 4 Medical Examiner’s Office has handled 483 COVID-19-related cases since March.

Miami-Dade County’s examiner has seen an increase in workload and a backlog, delaying the release of bodies. Miami-Dade reported a backlog of approximately 650 COVID-19-related deaths to be reviewed.

Cofer said this new motion will help decrease workloads for examiners, too.

“It’ll get the reporting of COVID-19 deaths in a more timely fashion. Also, it will help the medical examiners to focus on what they normally do,” Cofer said.

Examiners and their staff were doing normal autopsy reviews and COVID-19 cases, but that will stop immediately.

The commission hopes that any workload stress to medical examiners’ offices in Florida will decrease almost immediately in most districts.


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