Florida still doesn’t release number of recovered COVID-19 patients

The Florida Department of Health doesn't release data or recoveries, saying there's not agreement on the definition of that.

JACKSONVILLE, FLa. – The number of COVID-19 cases in the state of Florida passed 206,000 on Monday -- more than double the number of people identified with the virus just two weeks ago.

One of the biggest questions into the newsroom for a couple of months now has been how many people who were infected with coronavirus have recovered. Apparently no one, including the state Department of Health, can answer that question.

Likely a large percentage of those people fully recovered but that amount is unknown because the amount of COVID-19 patients who have recovered is one statistic the state, by policy, does not track.

The state has been testing patients for COVID-19 since early March. Everyone who ever tested positive over the last four months is still counted in Monday’s 206,447 total, even though the vast majority of those probably consider themselves recovered.

“It is because over 97% of these patients are recovered and really only a small minority of them are actually hospitalized,” said Dr. James St. George of the Duval County Medical Society. “The only ones we can truly identify are hospitalizations.”

The state’s daily hospitalization number -- 15,895 reported Sunday -- is also the cumulative number who’ve been hospitalized with the virus since March. A small number of those died. Most are probably home now, and maybe even completely over coronavirus.

St. George said determining just how many people have recovered isn’t simple because there’s no way to track all the people who test positive. More recently, that includes thousands of younger people with minor symptoms.

“Of those who are infected, the hospitalization rate is very low if you’re in your 20s or 30s,” he said. “It may be 50 out of 100,000 people who get hospitalized. If you’re over 85, it may be 500-600 out of 100,000 get hospitalized.”

We’ve been monitoring this issue for months. In fact, a woman infected with COVID-19 named Ashley we spoke to earlier this year and who has recovered said she wished there were some available stats on recoveries in Florida.

“It’s like getting one side of the story and you’re trying to keep your family safe,” she said.

While most states do release recovered numbers, the Florida Department of Health has said since early in the pandemic that it will not release that data.

“The very definition of recovery is a contested issue,” the department said in a statement. “Are you recovered once you’re no longer symptomatic, or contagious, once you get a negative test result, or no longer require hospitalization? Until some of these issues and definitions are worked out at the local, state and national level, we will not be providing a metric for recovery.”

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