It didn’t take an audit by the Florida Auditor General to confirm what many of us have long suspected: Florida’s COVID-19 pandemic data was, and most likely remains, imperfect. The words “inaccurate” and “incomplete” are intertwined throughout the 30-page audit report, along with other unreliable descriptions.
“… The number of entities reporting data, apparently inaccurate or incomplete data reported to the state by those entities, and the lack of effective access controls in the systems used to collect the data, impacted the state’s ability to accurately report data. COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, “the report reads.
FOR SUBSCRIBERS:Florida lost 17% of COVID deaths at the start of the pandemic, had incomplete information on cases, auditor says
Florida underestimated COVID cases and deaths and failed to analyze and collect test results, confirming the selfless attitude of Governor Ron DeSantis and surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo, whose anti-mask policies have aided the spread of the virus.
While authentic data is important to Florida health agencies, the Health Administration Agency, Department of Health, and Division of Emergency Management have not shown it, not to state auditors and certainly not to the public. . With pandemic deaths in Florida now totaling 74,800, the DeSantis administration needs to do better.
COVID-19 no longer frightens the hearts of many Floridians. Gone are the long lines for coronavirus tests, crowded ICUs, overworked medical staff, and infected patients dying on hospital ventilators. Take a look almost anywhere, be it the Atlantic Avenue boardwalk, the hotspots along Clematis Street, or the corridors of the local grocer, and you’ll see a population that is devoid of masks and showing no lingering concern for the virus.
There should be concern. Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,234 cases of adults admitted to hospital for COVID in Florida, an increase from March and December reports. Another sign of trouble: While the Omicron variant is milder than the earlier Delta variant, new, more contagious Omicron sub-variants have been found in the southeastern United States, including only a few tens of miles from us, in Miami-Dade County.
FOR SUBSCRIBERS:Return of COVID: Much of Florida at high risk of stressing hospitals; stress the indoor masks
With a more highly contagious virus still present, we can’t afford a lukewarm response, much less rely on shoddy data from responsible state agencies. Incorrect data affects how public health agencies and the wider medical community can respond with effective care. Unfortunately, after the Auditor General’s Office looked at nearly 11.3 million laboratory test results and 730,000 documented COVID cases statewide, the auditors found much of the data missing. If ever the adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies, here it is.
For example, the report found that the majority – 51.5% – of the more than 5.5 million COVID test results failed to identify a patient’s race. About 59% had no information on ethnicity, and a much smaller but noticeable number, 75,828 results, had no indication of gender.
The auditors found that a lab that received more than $ 5.4 million from the state in July and August 2020 did not include ID numbers or dates for COVID tests administered, which resulted in a series of tests did not become public reports on the virus.
Other issues have occurred, including failing to conduct initial contact tracing awareness, performing routine testing to verify the completeness of all reported test results, and documenting that hospitals, nursing homes, and health care facilities assisted living reported their daily census counts on available beds, staff needs, ventilators in use, and inventory of face masks. Add the need to restrict access to technology to limit the risk of unauthorized data changes and the challenges become crystal clear.
The problem lies in leadership priorities, perfectly illustrated by the recently successful bullying of Governor DeSantis and Dr. Ladapo at the Special Olympics. State leaders threatened a $ 27.5 million fine for requiring participants to be vaccinated against COVID. They would rather make it their priority than bolster state resources to detect and combat this or any future pandemic.
As far as COVID data collection is concerned, a limited government may sound good during the election campaign, but in the face of a public health crisis, a biased topic of discussion only goes so far. Florida health agencies must be able to function.
The auditor’s report went to great lengths to praise the “great effort” made by state employees in responding to the outbreak. Faced with bureaucratic limitations, they lived up to the occasion. The same cannot be said for those at the top.