Trust Index: Fact-checking DeSantis’ comments on COVID tests, hospitalizations

-University of Miami Miller School of Medicine lab tech Sendy Puerto processes blood sample in the specimen processing lab from study participants who volunteered to take part in testing the NIH funded Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Miami, Florida Wednesday, September 2, 2020. Miami is one of 89 cities around the U.S. taking part in the NIH funded biotech company, Moderna, study testing a Covid-19 vaccine in humans as part of the third phase of a clinical trial. (AP Photo/Taimy Alvarez) (Taimy Alvarez, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis made some comments during a news conference Monday related to the recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases and how it’s affecting hospitalizations.

He pointed to the state’s vaccination effort that focused on seniors and said he believed the push had likely saved thousands of lives.

“Had we not done that, there would have been more seniors exposed, and even some of the seniors that did get infected, I think their illness would have been much more severe than it was because they had that protection so I think that the benefits have been clear, you know, in the state of Florida for those who have done it,” DeSantis said.

He said in the resurgence of cases, the number of hospitalizations for those who have been vaccinated remains low, but he again stopped short of saying he would require vaccinations, saying he doesn’t believe in mandates.

He said everyone who wants the vaccine can now get one fairly easily at pharmacies, health departments or other locations.

“I do not agree with some of these people, some of these ‘experts’ who lambaste people and criticize them or say they’re stupid or stuff,” DeSantis said. “That’s not the way to reach folks.”

While DeSantis’ claims about low numbers of hospitalizations for those who have been vaccinated are backed up by data and reports from hospital representatives, other comments he made Monday about COVID-19 were refuted by experts.

Claim: Positive COVID test isn’t the same as COVID diagnosis

DeSantis said this during the news conference: “I think there’s some misinformation out there where someone will say, ‘Oh, these people were vaccinated and they tested positive.’ Understand a positive test is not a clinical diagnosis of illness. And so, if you’re vaccinated and you test positive, but you don’t get sick … Well, the name of the game is to keep people out of the hospital.”

We asked Dr. Sunil Joshi, an allergist and immunologist with Baptist Health and the president of the Duval Medical Society Foundation, whether that was true. He said it’s not.

Joshi explained: “A positive test for COVID-19 means that you are infected and can be contagious. Of course, if you are vaccinated you are much less likely to be symptomatic and as a result less likely to spread.”

According to Cleveland Clinic: “A PCR test for COVID-19 is a test used to diagnose people who are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The PCR test is the ‘gold standard’ test for diagnosing COVID-19 because it’s the most accurate and reliable test.”

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Claim: Previously having COVID lowers your chance for hospitalizations this time

DeSantis also said during the news conference: “You know, I think the data is increasingly clear that if you have you been vaccinated or if you’ve recovered from COVID, because you are immune in that respect too, the chance of you being hospitalized or dying is very, very low.”

While it’s true that being vaccinated lowers your chances of hospitalization, Joshi said surviving COVID does not provide the same level of immunity.

“Simply having COVID is not providing the same immunity as being vaccinated,” Joshi clarified. “The vaccine boosts immunity much more than natural infection.”

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