Q&A of the Day – How many Floridians are being misdiagnosed with COVID-19?

Q&A of the Day – How many Floridians are being misdiagnosed with COVID-19?

Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Today’s entry: THIS is an example of why the public is skeptical of the numbers:

You go to get tested for COVID. Fill out the paperwork for the test. Get in line for the wait. Decide the wait is too long, you don't get tested and leave. CDC later contacts you and says you tested positive... Makes you reeeeally wonder how accurate all the stats are. #2 incident: 60 nurses from same hospital in Broward pre-registered for test but were unable to keep appointment. They received letters with positive result. Whyyyy!??? There’s already enough fear & confusion.

Brian please check this out! We need your help!

Bottom Line: Your story isn’t the first I’ve heard which calls into question the validity of some of the results being reported by the Florida Department of Health. Recently I heard from a listener who said his neighbor didn’t even go to a test site yet was contacted and told he and his wife had COVID-19. We don’t know what we don’t know regarding these issues but it’s understandable that amid the spike in cases, if you’ve experienced something questionable, you’d wonder if this is what’s behind the spike. Generally speaking, it’s not. We’re seeing the highest total cases worldwide and across the country as well – not just in Florida. This isn’t to dismiss errors or failures cropping up what like you’ve described, but it’s not pervasive enough to explain away what we’ve recently experienced. In fact, total cases are still being undercounted. How do I know? Back to the CDC’s excess death data for Florida. 

The CDC’s “excess death” metric, measures a five-year average for total deaths and adjusts for population changes. If no one had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and if no Floridian was ever listed as a COVID death, the stats would be the same. According to the CDC, data is incomplete for up to eight weeks as there’s a lag from deaths occurring and all death certificates being issued. This means the week ended May 16th, is the most recent which contains complete information for Florida. Let’s look at what we’ve learned using this CDC data. 

  • The first week Florida experienced excess deaths was the week ended April 4th
  • Florida’s experienced excess deaths for every week with complete data since

During that six-week period Florida was expected to have 28,912 deaths. The actual total was 31,188, resulting in 2,276 excess deaths. On May 16th the total number of coronavirus deaths reported by the Florida Department of Health was 1,965. This data illustrates Florida underreported related deaths by approximately 16%. It stands to reason that not all people ill with COVID-19 have been tested and therefore not all related deaths diagnosed either. What I can tell you, is that even in subsequent weeks with incomplete data the trends are similar. Are there apparent irregularities in reporting occasionally? Yes. Are there opportunities for double counting (especially with antibody tests)? Yes. Is it possible some people who passed away would have died of something else if not the virus? Yes. But on balance we have a net underdiagnosis of COVID-19 positive tests in Florida of around 16%. I suspect this number will drop overtime as testing increased, but by objective measures – the totals you hear and see by the Florida Department of Health are understated. 

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