Friday, May 22, 2020

Discrepancies in Florida COVID-19 Data Reporting

One measure of COVID-19 virus infections is the positivity rate. This is the percent of tested samples reported positive for infection.

In one of almost a dozen tweets, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has crowed about his state's day-to-day positivity rate.

In one example, DeSantis wrote:"Yesterday yielded 187 new cases in Phase 1 counties with a positivity rate of 1.43%. The positivity rate has ranged between 1.43% and 4.2% over the past 2 weeks for our Phase 1 counties and has noticeably declined in the past week." Ron DeSantis, May 11, 2020.

This tweet was accompanied by the graph:

Concurrent with this "noticeable" decline, on May 5th, Rebekah Jones, the manager of the Florida State Department of Health COVID-19 database was removed from her position, saying it was for not complying with orders to delete data. A quote from the Tampa Bay Times:

In her [Jones] Friday email to subscribers of a COVID data listserv, Jones said she was reassigned on May 5 "[f]or reasons beyond my division’s control" and warned that whoever took over may be less straightforward.

The above graph can be compared to others that DeSantis tweeted. This graph represents the last days of Jones.

Ibid, 5/2/2020
Notably, the overlapping data points between the above two graphs (5/6 to 5/10) do not match.

Overlapping  Tweet 5/5  Tweet 5/11

Apr. 27


Apr. 28 4.57 3.46
Apr. 29 5.00 3.83
Apr. 30 5.11 3.91
May. 1 4.09 3.03
May. 2 4.81 4.20
May. 3 4.68 2.41
May. 4 2.61 1.67

The rates for each overlapping date was revised downward post-Jones.

DeSantis last tweeted a positivity graph on May 26.

So, what is going on? What I suspect.

The numbers changing in the positivity reports is too great for the normal adjustments that usually take place. It is likely that Florida is mixing antibody positives with COVID-19 confirmatory tests (PCR). Antibody positives run about half the rate of PCR rates. One explanation for the numbers dropping between reports is that the tests were added to old data, retroactively.

On May 5th, 2020, Governor De Santis declared:

"Antibody testing is finally here."

He said that 200,000 antibody tests were already in Florida and more were on their way.

Combining antibody tests with PCR tests is a form of data manipulation. According to the prestigious COVID Tracking Project:

"As antibody tests become more widely available across the United States, we call on all states and territories to preserve the integrity and usefulness of their COVID-19 testing data by maintaining separate viral testing and antibody testing counts."

Furthermore, Florida counts multiple negative results from the same individual, rather than reporting the number of individuals who tested negative. "People tested on multiple days will be included for each day a new result was received." as quoted by The COVID Tracking Project.

Florida does not support data integrity.

Ten nurses and ten National Guard members for 500 tests a day?

On May 6, the Florida Department of Health announced a mobile testing lab testing up to 500 individuals a day. The mobile testing unit will be staffed by 10 members of the National Guard and 10 nurses, DeSantis said.

Breaking news: (6/18) Florida reports record-breaking 3207 new cases.

Martin Hill Ortiz is a Professor of Pharmacology at Ponce Health Sciences University and has researched HIV for over thirty years.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.