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PolitiFact: No, CDC did not admit a mistake, did not reduce its Florida coronavirus case count

The CDC did not admit making a mistake that resulted in any systematic undercount of coronavirus cases in Florida.

Was it a conspiracy that made Florida a coronavirus hotspot?

That’s the suggestion made in a viral image shared by a Facebook account called “Stay with Trump.”

The image, which includes a photo of comedian Tim Allen smiling, says:

“So, now that Trump has said hospitals are to report numbers to WH instead of the CDC, they came out & said they made a mistake in FL and they’ve been counting pneumonia and flu as covid, dropping their # from approx 90,000 to 11,000. Weird how that works, ain’t it?”

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The Centers for Disease Control did not admit any kind of systematic error in its Florida COVID-19 counts.

The Trump administration on July 10 did order hospitals to bypass the CDC and send COVID-19 patient information to the Department of Health and Human Services. Trump administration officials say the change will streamline data gathering, but the HHS database is not open to the public, which could affect the work of health officials who relied on the CDC database, the New York Times reported.

The Facebook post we’re checking was published July 21. The same day, the same claim was made in a tweet by former congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine. Lorraine, a pro-Trump Republican, finished last among five candidates in the 2020 primary for the U.S. House seat held by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

In a reply to her tweet, Lorraine cited what she said were the “sources” for her claim, including: a report that a Florida motorcyclist’s death had been added to the COVID-19 and then was removed; a partially debunked claim that hospitals are paid $13,000 for the admission of a COVID-19 patient and $39,000 if the patient goes on a ventilator; and her own statement that the CDC has admitted that it includes pneumonia and seasonal flu in its count of COVID-19 cases.

Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told PolitiFact that similar claims were made in June. “The claim was false then and is still false now. I’m not even sure where those numbers come from. They seem to have been pulled out of thin air,” he said.

As of Monday, the day we published this fact-check, Florida had nearly 419,000 cases, according to the CDC.

The CDC counts as COVID-19 cases those patients whose cases are confirmed by testing as well as those that are considered “probable”, CDC spokesman Jason McDonald told us. According to the epidemiological standards, a “probable” case is one that meets clinical criteria and epidemiologic evidence even though there hasn’t been testing; one in which antigens or antibodies have been detected and the person meets clinical criteria or there is epidemiologic evidence; or, one in which a death certificate lists COVID-19 disease or SARS-CoV-2 as a cause of death or a significant contributing factor.

Cases that involve pneumonia or flu but not COVID-19 are not included in COVID-19 counts, McDonald said.

However, a case would be included if, for example, a patient gets pneumonia that was caused by COVID-19, Anderson said.

The CDC gets its Florida case counts from the Florida Department of Health, and no change from 90,000 to 11,000 was made, McDonald told PolitiFact.

We rate the statement False.

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