FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: Coding error leads to high child COVID-19 positivity rate

FOX 35 uncovered more errors with Florida’s COVID-19 numbers. 

This time, the errors were in the wrong child positivity rates being reported.

“I am concerned that there has been several other instances,” said Terry Adirim, associate dean of Clinical Affairs at Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine.

Two weeks ago, FOX 35 revealed inaccuracies on the Florida Department of Health’s primary coronavirus report. 

Some labs weren’t reporting negative test results, leading to high positivity rates in the state.

Earlier this month, the state’s pediatric coronavirus report showed a 31.1 percent positivity rate.

That means nearly a third of kids tested were positive.

“If this happens often enough, then people begin to wonder if, you know, ‘Is there something wrong with the data?’” Adirim said.

The Florida Department of Health sent FOX 35 this statement:

“It was a computer programming error specifically linked to the production of the pediatric data report. As a result, a subset of negative pediatric test results were unintentionally excluded from the pediatric report. The coding error was identified and has been corrected. The current pediatric report available on floridahealthcovid19.gov reflects the most up-to-date data available regarding pediatric COVID-19 cases. It is updated weekly. The Department remains committed to ensuring that up-to-date data is provided publicly in the most expeditious manner possible.”

The pediatric report, with the missing negative results, shows a 14.4 percent positivity rate.

Adirim said these reports are a critical tool.

“This information is just vital for our decision-makers, policy-makers, school boards, local leaders,” he said.

But do the repeated inaccuracies lead to public distrust?

“I don’t want to believe that the state civil servants are doing anything nefarious," Adirim said. "I think it’s just the pressure to put out data, rapidly and there may be some sloppiness."

The Florida Department of Health says the coding error has been fixed and the pediatric report is now up-to-date.