Florida Health Department error leads to high COVID-19 positivity rate in children

Updated: Jul. 28, 2020 at 6:05 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - We're learning of more errors in The Florida Department of Health's tracking of COVID-19 in the state.

Just two weeks ago, FDOH admitted that some labs across the state were not reporting negative results, making our overall positivity rate in the state, very high. Now, there’s been an inaccurate positivity rate percentage in children under 18 years old.

Every week, The Florida Department of Health releases a pediatric report to give a better understanding of how many children in our community have tested positive for COVID-19. However, the percentage they released last week was a shock, as it went from 14% to 31.1% of all kids testing being infected.

“Parents are not going to take their children to get tested just because. Usually, it’s going to be driven by signs and symptoms in the child. So the fact that a much higher proportion were testing positive made sense because we thought a higher proportion were having signs and symptoms,” explained Dr. Jason Salemi, an Epidemiologist and Associate Professor at the University of South Florida.

However, as doctors looked closer at the data, they realized there were no reports of negative test results in children. Plus, there was twice the amount of pediatric tests in total reported for that week, than we’ve seen throughout the entire pandemic.

That incredibly high number was actually wrong. The state’s COVID-19 positivity rate for children is currently still 14 percent.

“Errors can happen, but if you’re releasing this two page report – it’s not a 50 page thing – on a weekly basis, you’re the Florida Department of Health and you know that a lot of people are using this as a basis if whether they want their kids to go back to school, somebody had to have laid eyes on this report and realized that this information doesn’t make any sense,” Dr. Salemi said. “It warranted an explanation. Why did we see this massive change in this time?”

State health officials blamed a computer mistake for the incorrect reporting. The department told us:

State health officials blamed a computer mistake for the incorrect reporting.
State health officials blamed a computer mistake for the incorrect reporting.(WWSB)

Many can’t help but ask themselves why this programming error only affected the pediatric positivity rate?

“We need an accurate, transparent, complete and evidence-based from which we make decisions. Even if we all look at the exact numbers, and they are all accurate, people will put their own spin on what those numbers mean. However, as a foundation, we should be working from accurate information,” Dr. Salemi said.

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