Massive one-day spike in COVID-19 data sends South Florida numbers surging

nurse holds a swab for the coronavirus / covid19 test
More data will be needed to show whether this is a one-day increase or the start of another wave.

Tuesday’s COVID-19 report from the Department of Health (DOH) showed South Florida experiencing the largest one-day spike in positivity rate since at least May. It’s unclear whether the massive surge is a one-day spike due to how data is being reported or the sign of a massive wave in the region.

For context, Monday’s DOH report showed South Florida’s tri-county area — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — with a 10.3% positivity rate. That means just shy of 10% of the tests reported to the state came back positive.

On Tuesday, that number skyrocketed to 23.5%, more than doubling. That’s an increase of 13.2 percentage points day-to-day. In data dating back to May 12, when detailed county reports were widely released, the day-to-day numbers never jumped more than 6 points, and rarely jumped by more than 3 points.

The region’s positivity rate has doubled day-to-day before. Looking at the day-to-day percentage increase, Tuesday’s rise has been topped before. But those prior changes were when the numbers were at far lower levels — for instance, going from a 0.7% positivity rate on May 19 to a 4% positivity rate on May 20. That was a more than four-times increase, but a bump of just 3.3 percentage points.

Such a massive one-day shift in the share of tests coming back positive is an anomaly, in other words. A statement from the DOH blamed lags in reporting during the holidays, according to a statement cited by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. That statement said Tuesday’s spike “should be interpreted with caution” and that results could be skewed due to low numbers of test being conducted and delays in processing.

Indeed, Tuesday’s report featured just over 14,400 tests recorded. That’s the lowest since early November — when testing was slowed due to Tropical Storm Eta — and is a drop of around half from this past weekend, when test numbers were already low due to the Christmas holiday.

Just how much those delays may have impacted the data will become clearer in the ensuing days, as more tests are recorded. To be clear, if Tuesday’s trend holds, that would put the virus’s spread near levels seen at the peak of this summer’s spike, which caused dozens of people per day — sometimes more than 100 — to lose their lives just in the tri-county area alone.

Tuesday’s report easily reversed the positive trends seen through Monday, as South Floridians ready to celebrate the New Year. Overall, 4,452 new confirmed cases were recorded in Tuesday’s report across South Florida. The region also saw a small uptick in hospitalizations from day-to-day, though week-to-week numbers remain slightly down.

Here are some of the weekly numbers for the previous three weeks throughout the South Florida tri-county area:

Miami-Dade

— Dec. 8-14: 21 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 11 newly-reported deaths per day, 2,193 new confirmed cases per day, 8.8% positivity rate

— Dec. 15-21: 34 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 13 newly-reported deaths per day, 2,305 new confirmed cases per day, 8.7% positivity rate

— Dec. 22-28: 24 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 10 newly-reported deaths per day, 2,032 new confirmed cases per day, 9.4% positivity rate

Broward

— Dec. 8-14: 22 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 6 newly-reported deaths per day, 861 new confirmed cases per day, 7.3% positivity rate

— Dec. 15-21: 24 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 6 newly-reported deaths per day, 1,052 new confirmed cases per day, 7% positivity rate

— Dec. 22-28: 22 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 5 newly-reported deaths per day, 790 new confirmed cases per day, 7.8% positivity rate

Palm Beach

— Dec. 8-14: 13 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 7 newly-reported deaths per day, 517 new confirmed cases per day, 7% positivity rate

— Dec. 15-21: 18 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 7 newly-reported deaths per day, 579 new confirmed cases per day, 7.2% positivity rate

— Dec. 22-28: 17 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 5 newly-reported deaths per day, 508 new confirmed cases per day, 8% positivity rate

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.



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