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Florida changes how it reports daily COVID data. Is it more accurate?

Daily report will now ‘focus on the number of tests reported to the state by day,' DOH says

An employee of the Florida Department of Health puts up a sign at a testing site for COVID-19 at the West Perrine Health Center during the new coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Miami. The walk-up site is a joint operation between the Florida Department of Health and Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
An employee of the Florida Department of Health puts up a sign at a testing site for COVID-19 at the West Perrine Health Center during the new coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Miami. The walk-up site is a joint operation between the Florida Department of Health and Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health is changing how it reports positive cases of COVID-19 and related data, saying the move is in an effort to be more transparent and accurate.

The numbers from the state Department of Health help show if there is a spike in newly reported cases and whether hospitals have an adequate amount of space to treat patients.

“Moving forward, the daily report will focus on the number of tests reported to the state by day and the corresponding positivity rate by day. The previously reported cumulative number did not reflect the current status of the pandemic in Florida. This change is in line with the CDC recommendation that calculation of percent positivity [is] applied consistently and with clear communication, will allow public health officials to follow magnitude and trends effectively, and the trends will be useful for local public health decision making,” the DOH said in a statement.

Everything from opening schools to bars and restaurants, in some way, is based off this data. The Department of Health says the way it is reporting those numbers will paint a clearer picture.

“On the week ending on 10/18, almost half a million people were tested. That’s information we didn’t know before," said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention and control at UF Health Jacksonville.

As noted in the above statement by the DOH, another change will be how it calculates a percent positive number. Neilsen explained how it was calculated before.

“If you divide straight who’s positive divided by who’s tested, before it would include all those serial positive people,” Neilsen said.

Serial positive people are those who tested positive for the virus and then continued to test positive in the days after.

“We already know they’re positive, so it’s inflating those percent positives for new cases. Now that you’re excluding it, it’s going to decrease those percent positives -- now it’s going to reflect more accurately that," Neilsen said.

So, do the changes make the reported test results more accurate? The Trust Index marks this claim as true.

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