On pandemic’s six-month mark, data dump reveals 4K unreported cases

Flag of the state of Florida with burned out hole showing Coronavirus name in it. 2019 - 2020 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) concept, for an outbreak occurs in Florida, USA.
Tuesday brought 7,569 new diagnoses, but more than half of those were old news.

As Florida enters its seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health reported 7,569 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. But more than half of those come after a private lab released nearly 75,000 results dating as far back as April.

Those new cases cover results returned between Monday morning and Tuesday morning. But for all-day Monday, DOH received 7,643 results.

Without the backlog from Quest Diagnostics, only 3,773 people tested positive. The excess 3,870 were reported to individuals on time, but not to the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, DOH and the Division of Emergency Management announced that the state would cut ties with Quest after the “egregious dump” of data into the state’s system.

Last month, DeSantis said he told DOH to enforce consequences for labs that broke the law by not reporting results. Quest, one of the state’s largest COVID-19 testers, has been a repeat offender in releasing tardy results.

“The law requires all COVID-19 results to be reported to DOH in a timely manner,” DeSantis said. “To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible. I believe that Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in.”

The latest update marks the second time the department has placed an asterisk over a day’s results. Last month, DOH noted a batch of data released by Niznik Lab Corp, prompting the stricter enforcement.

Overall, 631,040 people have tested positive in Florida since the first cases were reported on March 1. That includes 6,924 non-Floridians.

The death toll grew 190 since Monday’s report. DOH confirmed 189 resident fatalities but removed two from its logs. At least another three non-residents died.

In total, 11,374 Floridians and 147 non-Floridians have died with COVID-19 in Florida.

Also skewed by the Monday release was that day’s testing positivity rate. The report lists the positivity rate as 6.8% but notes the rate should have been 5.9%.

Buying the state’s revised positivity rate, the seven-day average of the state’s positivity rate dropped from 5.8% to 5.5%.

Ten percent is the state’s self-imposed target threshold, but some medical experts have pointed to 5% as when services like schools could start reopening.

Because of inconsistent reporting and the lag times for confirming cases, DeSantis has shifted his focus to emergency department visits.

“I’ve been preaching, be wary of some of these test results because it’s about when the lab puts it in, they don’t do all the negatives,” DeSantis said. “But this is the most egregious dump we’ve had.”

The week of July 5 saw 6,255 emergency department visits with flu-like illnesses and 15,999 for illnesses like COVID-19. For the week of Aug. 16, those visits dropped to 1,889 and 3,559 respectively for a seventh consecutive week of decline.

Overall, 38,859 Floridians have been hospitalized, an increase of 364 since Monday’s report. But the Agency for Health Care Administration reports that 3,624 people are currently hospitalized with the disease, down 111 from 24 hours earlier and the lowest since the agency began reporting that metric.

DOH has received results from 4.7 million Floridians and 19,581 non-residents tested for the virus. On Monday, it received 127,993 results, including the nearly 75,000 from Quest.

As schools reopen, DOH is tracking cases in the state’s youth. But the department hasn’t updated the report since Wednesday. That report showed a total of 48,928 cases among children 17 and younger.

Surgeon General Scott Rivkees told reporters Monday that the report is published weekly on Wednesdays. But the department began publishing it daily at the beginning of August.

That followed the department removing a separate report on schools and higher education institutions Tuesday, according to the Florida Times-Union.

The last of those reports, published last Monday, showed 206 cases associated with daycares, including 121 people 18 years old or older. For primary and secondary schools, that count was 559, including 370 older than 18. In post-secondary schools, DOH had identified 155 cases.

The youngest person to die in Florida was a 6-year-old Hillsborough County girl.


Editor’s note on methodology: The Florida Department of Health releases new data every morning around 10:45 a.m. The total number reported in those daily reports include the previous day’s totals as well as the most up-to-date data as of about 9:30 a.m.

Florida Politics uses the report-over-report increase to document the number of new cases each day because it represents the most up-to-date data available. Some of the more specific data, including positivity rates and demographics, consider a different data set that includes only cases reported the previous day.

This is important to note because the DOH report lists different daily totals than our methodology to show day-over-day trends. Their numbers do not include non-residents who tested positive in the state and they only include single-day data, therefore some data in the DOH report may appear lower than what we report.

Our methodology was established based on careful consideration among our editorial staff to capture both the most recent and accurate trends.

Staff Reports

One comment

  • PeterH

    September 2, 2020 at 10:13 am

    We are witnessing Republican incompetence everywhere! It’s absolutely unbelievable that the GOP at the National and State level thought they could ‘wish’ the virus into submission. Spinning is what Republicans do best! This mess will be left for Democrats to clean up.

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