Q&A – Why Is Flordia’s Positive COVID-19 Test Rate Wrong?

Today’s entry: Hi Brian, Can you look into this phenomenon. Many labs around the state are reporting 100% positive tests. Some are significant. According to the article from the Alachua Chronicle, some labs are NOT reporting the negatives. This greatly affects the “positivity” rate. What is the real number? All the decisions made by our leaders hinge on this figure and it is completely FALSE! Thanks for all your great reporting on the facts! Love your show!

Bottom Line: On Tuesday, a few important developments involving Florida’s coronavirus testing happened. First, an outstanding act of local journalism. Fox 35 in Orlando led an investigation into labs seemingly reporting extraordinarily high positive test rates, often 100%. They found numerous examples across the state, including one of the state’s largest healthcare systems, Orlando Health. The Florida Department of Health confirmed these findings as certain medical labs across the state have at times only been reporting positive case results. This is a pretty big deal. Also, for those who’ve been skeptical of many aspects of reporting thus far, this provides legitimacy to some of their concerns. But what does this really mean? What other reporting might be questionable? 

Let’s start with the questionable reporting. Florida’s overall positive test rate reached a low of 5.2% in late May/early June. This rate was comfortably below the 10% target rate the CDC has identified as a key risk indicator. It also had been dropping. This information was a significant component of the reopening decisions made by Governor DeSantis and local officials. Since that time we’ve seen a steady increase, most recently reaching 11%, a level that’s alarming based on the CDC guidance. But clearly that’s not real and unfortunately, we don’t currently know what the real number would be. This creates an added challenge for officials attempting to gauge the extent of community spread statewide. It’s not believed the healthcare facilities which only reported the positive test results were intentionally only reporting the positives to manipulate numbers but rather only prioritizing the positive cases. Still, it’s not the only number that’s not reliable. Florida’s death rate isn’t reliable either.

The only reliable death rates are what’s known as closed case death rates. The closed case death rate is determined by comparing the total number of diagnosed cases to the total number of recoveries. The difference between the two provides the death rate. To date, during the pandemic, the closed case death rate worldwide has been 7%. In the United States, it has been 8%, however, in Florida, it currently stands at 13%. Here’s how we know Florida’s number is false. Florida is the third-most populous state and we’re currently 8th in overall deaths. It’s a given that Florida’s real closed case rate is lower than the country’s as a whole given those facts, yet it’s reported at a rate that’s considerably higher. The reason has been the prioritization or the lack thereof, of testing for recoveries and reporting them in our state. This is a similar dynamic to only prioritizing positive case results. 

Now with all of this being the case, here’s what’s not impacted by these reporting considerations. Florida’s total number of diagnosed Floridians or the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19. In fact, as I recently illustrated using CDC excess death info, Florida’s net diagnosed case count/deaths are underreported by approximately 16%. It’s challenging to get good information and facts. It’s unfortunate certain medical establishments have further muddied the waters by only reporting one side of the story, but it doesn’t change the entire dynamic of the threat of the pandemic in our state.

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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