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Florida officials say Wednesday’s delayed coronavirus report is tied to new death review

On Oct. 10, the Florida Department of Health did not release a daily coronavirus report.
Wednesday's coronavirus report from the Florida Department of Health was delayed.
Wednesday's coronavirus report from the Florida Department of Health was delayed. [ Times ]
Published Oct. 21, 2020
Updated Oct. 22, 2020

Since March, the Florida Department of Health has released updates on coronavirus cases, deaths, hospitalizations and more each day around 11 a.m. But on Wednesday, a report was not released until 5:30 p.m.

It marks the second time in a month that state officials failed to release a daily report in a timely manner.

When asked why the daily report wasn’t released, health department officials pointed to a press release that did not directly address the delay. Instead, the release said that the department will “conduct a more thorough review" of all coronavirus-related fatalities reported to the state. State officials said in an email Wednesday’s daily report was being updated based on these new review policies.

Florida recorded 2,145 coronavirus cases and 105 deaths Wednesday. The weekly average number of new cases per day dropped slightly, and the weekly death average increased to about 89 people announced dead per day.

The health department press release said that of 95 COVID-19 fatalities reported on Wednesday, 16 had “at least a two-month separation between the time the individuals tested positive and passed away, and 11 of the fatalities occurred more than a month ago." In five cases, three months had passed since patients had tested positive and passed away.

“During a pandemic, the public must be able to rely on accurate public health data to make informed decisions," said Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees in a statement. "To ensure the accuracy of COVID-19 related deaths, the Department will be performing additional reviews of all deaths. Timely and accurate data remains a top priority of the Department of Health.”

On Oct. 10, the state didn’t report the day’s coronavirus numbers for the first time in months. A spokesman for Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed an influx of tests from a private laboratory for that delay. The state later reversed and said it was because of a technical glitch.

Though there are no immediate plans to change Florida’s coronavirus reporting process, state officials have discussed what scaling back daily reporting would look like.

Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for DeSantis, tweeted Wednesday that “There is no plan to change reporting frequency or depth anytime in the near future. That is all."

Hospitalizations: About 2,100 people across Florida are hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 470 are hospitalized in the Tampa Bay area.

About 24 percent of Florida’s hospital beds and 24 percent of intensive care unit beds were available. In Tampa Bay, about 21 percent of hospital beds and 20 percent of ICU beds were available.

Positivity: Florida’s average weekly positivity rate is about 12 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Florida Department of Health, which calculates positivity by counting negative retests but not positive retests, puts the average weekly rate at about 5 percent.

The positivity rate can indicate if there’s enough testing in an area to capture mild and asymptomatic cases. If the rate is too high, it means cases may be going undetected.

The World Health Organization recommends a rate of 5 percent or below for two weeks for an area to reopen with more caution.

Local numbers: Tampa Bay recorded 393 coronavirus cases. The number of local deaths for both residents and non-residents was not immediately available.

Polk County lead the area with the highest weekly average positivity rate of 7 percent. Hillsborough followed with 6 percent. All other counties in the region had a positivity rate of about 5 percent.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 45,948 cases; Pinellas has 24,422 cases; Polk has 22,061 cases; Manatee has 12,674 cases; Pasco has 10,316 cases; Hernando has 3,493 cases; and Citrus has 3,070 cases.

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