This State's Record COVID Numbers Are Likely Even Higher Than You Think
Florida's spiking coronavirus cases and deaths are likely higher than reported for this surprising reason.
Over the past few weeks, a handful of states have secured the title of the country's newest coronavirus epicenters—Florida being one of them. Accurate data on these states' numbers in particular is essential to help understand the virus' trends and for officials to plan how to address the outbreaks. But, according to Rebekah Jones, a data scientist who was fired from the Florida Department of Health for refusing to comply with alleged unethical requests, the number of coronavirus cases in Florida is likely much higher than is being reported. This discrepancy in the data, according to Jones, is due to the fact that Florida doesn't report probable cases and active hospitalizations.
"Florida, unlike most other states, doesn't track probable cases. A large share of the people who are tested are tested when they arrive at the ER. And if they're not a case, then that doesn't count as an active hospitalization until their positive test result is received by the Department of Health," Jones told CNN's New Day on July 8.
She continued: "I was flat-out told repeatedly that we were not adding hospitalization data, even though all of our epidemiologists said it was one of the most important indicators of how our health care system is handling the influx of cases."
Florida doesn't provide hospitalization numbers because it doesn't track probable cases, and it's hard to confirm a Covid-19 case without a test result, explains Rebekah Jones, who formerly ran the Florida database.
Counting confirmed cases would be "underreporting dramatically." pic.twitter.com/R76yRcrXZH
— New Day (@NewDay) July 8, 2020
Jones said if comprehensive data was shown—including probable cases—we would see that Florida has been "underreporting dramatically." Additionally, she said, the state "might see a huge spike in not only cases but also deaths."
Although the Florida Department of Health does not make the comprehensive data public themselves, it is available on a new dashboard Jones launched herself. She said she has contacts at the Department of Health who occasionally provide her with documentation.
When asked if she sees an end in sight for Florida's COVID outbreak, Jones said, "absolutely not," especially with schools throughout the state mandated to reopen next month. "If schools are opening next month, then we're on a third wave of this first wave of catastrophe," Jones said. "I really hope people take this seriously. I think the consequences of not doing so have been made quite public this week."
On July 4, Florida reported 11,458 new coronavirus cases, shattering its single-day record from earlier in the week. As of July 8, the state is reporting nearly 223,800 total cases and almost 3,900 deaths. And for more on Florida, check out This Major City Is Locking Down Again as Coronavirus Surges.