FOX 35 EXCLUSIVE: Labs directed to only report positive COVID-19 tests
ORLANDO, Fla. - In our ongoing investigation into coronavirus data compiled by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), FOX 35 News has learned that Centra Care, AdventHealth's urgent care chain, was only reporting positive results to the state, alongside hundreds of other test sites and labs.
The FDOH says, “some smaller, private labs weren’t reporting negative test result data,” but also says all labs are required to report all results.
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In an email, AdventHealth’s communication manager told FOX 35 News, "The state’s direction to Centra Care was to only report positive cases, so that’s what they are doing. You would have to ask the state why they would assign a percentage without having the total.”
FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: FDOH says some labs have not reported negative COVID-19 results
AdventHealth is not the only organization confused by the statement from FDOH. NCF Diagnostics & DNA Technologies, a lab in Alachua County, also reported a surprising positivity rate. It says it “is working with the Florida Department of Health to add the negative cases to the report as this was not a requirement previously.”
A third lab, P4 Clinical, tells FOX 35 News that it offered to provide early negative results, but the state said it didn’t need them.
Dr. George Ralls with Orlando Health explained his continued confusion over the state’s numbers for his hospital system.
“That number is not correct, I’m not sure where it came from," Dr. Ralls said of Orlando Health data being reported by the state. “It was reported that our percent positive was 98 percent. I’m still trying to track down how that information was communicated to the DOH.”
Orlando Health’s actual positivity rate is 9.7%, according to Dr. Ralls.
Gov. Ron DeSantis briefly weighed-in on the topic during a coronavirus update on Wednesday.
"I think the percent positivity is a good indicator, but you gotta weigh that against the fact that maybe not all the negatives are there," DeSantis said.
Because these numbers are crucial in determining public health policy, we set out to get answers in what has become a game of finger-pointing. We are awaiting a response from the FDOH to claims by AdventHealth and others that they were instructed by the state to not report negative results. The state is responding that it will advise as soon as possible.
Florida is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with the state reporting that daily cases have gone from about 2,000 a month ago to over 12,000. Then, on Tuesday, state health officials reported the largest single-day increase in deaths yet, as 132 more were announced.