By Kevin Gale
As Florida’s economy continues to open up, there are concerns about an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases and percentage of positive test results.
For example, the Palm Beach Post reported Monday that “over the last two weeks, an average of 749 new cases were added to the state’s tally each day. Since life-paralyzing restrictions were eased, the state was reporting an average of 679 new cases each day.”
A state dashboard shows the percentage of positive lab results statewide has increased from 2.53 percent for the week beginning May 17 to 4.04 percent for the week beginning May 24. The number of new cases rose from 5,000 to 5,500.
Keeping in mind something I confirmed from an SFBW Virtual Connect with Bravado Health, I wondered if the number of tests had risen, which could create a misleading situation where the shear volume of more testing is just uncovering more cases. Unfortunately, for the week beginning May 17, there were 241,523 tests statewide while there were 171,769 for the week beginning May 24. So, the number of positive cases rose 10 percent while the amount of testing dropped by 29 percent.
One would hope this might be a blip, but it would be concerning if the trend continues. Beyond everyone wanting to stay healthy and get the economy cranked up, Florida is under scrutiny in the national media about whether Gov. Ron DeSantis moved appropriately or too quickly to reopen the economy. The last thing the state needs is a “told you so” from the national media amid headlines that Walt Disney World plans a phased reopening.
Here’s the breakdown for South Florida’s counties for the last two reporting weeks:
Broward: Positive tests rose from 1.95 percent to 2.7 percent. New cases were relatively unchanged at 443 the first week and 446 the second week.
Miami-Dade: Positive tests rose from 2.99 percent to 4.78 percent. New cases were flat at 1,200 for both weeks.
Palm Beach: Positive tests rose from 4.34 percent to 6.15 percent. New cases rose from 644 to 815.
So what should we look for next? A lagging indicator is emergency room visits for people with COVID-19 symptoms. Symptoms for COVID-19 take two days to two weeks to manifest, the CDC says. ER visits have dropped fairly consistently statewide from 3,200 cases the week starting April 14 to 2,200 for the week starting May 24. Broward and Miami-Dade mirror the state trend, but Palm Beach County had been stuck near 250 visits a week until the week of May 24, when it dropped to 180.