There was no need for an audit by the Florida Auditor General to confirm what many of us suspected all along: the COVID-19 pandemic data in Florida was, and probably remains, erroneous. The words “inaccurate” and “incomplete” are permeated throughout the 30-page audit report, along with other unreliable descriptions.
“… The number of data subjects, obvious inaccurate or incomplete data reported to the state by these subjects, and the lack of effective access control in the systems used for data collection have affected the state’s ability to accurately report data on data collection. COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic, “the report said.
FOR SUBSCRIBERS:Florida misses 17% of COVID deaths at start of pandemic, incomplete information on case reports, says auditor
Florida underestimated COVID cases and deaths and failed to analyze and collect test results, confirming the disinterest of Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, whose anti-mask policies helped spread the virus.
If authentic data is important to Florida health agencies, the Health Administration Agency, the Department of Health, and the Department of Emergency Management have not shown it – not to state auditors and certainly not to the public. With a total of 74,800 pandemic deaths in Florida, the DeSantis administration needs to do better.
COVID-19 no longer instills fear in the hearts of many Florida residents. The long queues for coronavirus testing, overcrowded intensive care units, overcrowded medical staff and infected patients dying from hospital ventilators have disappeared. Take a look almost everywhere, whether it’s Atlantic Avenue’s waterfront, Clematis Street hotspots or local grocery trails, and you’ll see masked populations with no lasting concern for the virus.
There must be concern. Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,234 cases of hospitalized adults from COVID in Florida, an increase from the March and December reports. Another sign of trouble: while the Omicron variant is softer than the earlier Delta version, new, more contagious Omicron sub-variants have been found in the southeastern United States, including just a few dozen miles away, in Miami-Dade County.
FOR SUBSCRIBERS:Return to COVID: Much of Florida is at high risk for hospital tensions; called for inner masks
As the virus is still highly contagious, we cannot afford a lukewarm reaction, much less rely on bad data from the responsible government agencies. Poor data affect how well public health agencies and the wider medical community can respond with effective care. Unfortunately, after the Auditor General’s Office reviewed nearly 11.3 million laboratory test results and 730,000 documented COVID cases nationwide, the auditors found that much of the data was missing. If the saying “garbage inside, garbage outside” has ever been used, it is here.
For example, the report found that a majority – 51.5% – of 5.5 million plus COVID test results failed to identify the patient’s race. Approximately 59% have no information on ethnicity and a much smaller but noticeable number, 75,828 results, have no indication of gender.
The auditors found that a laboratory that received more than $ 5.4 million from the state in July and August 2020 failed to include identification numbers or dates for COVID tests, which led to a number of tests that failed. in public reports of the virus.
There were other problems, including the failure to conduct initial contact tracking, routine analysis to verify the completeness of all reported test results, and to document that hospitals, nursing homes, and life support facilities report their daily census. of available beds, staff needs, used fans and inventory for face masks. Include the need to restrict access to technology to limit the risk of unauthorized alteration of data, and the challenges will become crystal clear.
The problem is in the priorities of leadership, well illustrated by the recent successful harassment of Governor DeSantis and Dr. Ladapo at the Special Olympics. State leaders have threatened a $ 27.5 million fine for requiring participants to be vaccinated against COVID. They prefer to make this a priority rather than increase government resources to detect and combat this or any future pandemic.
When it comes to collecting data on COVID, limited government may sound good in the wake of the campaign, but in the face of a public health crisis, the party’s talking point only goes that far. Florida health agencies must be able to function.
The auditor’s report praised the “great efforts” made by government officials in response to the epidemic. Faced with bureaucratic constraints, they rose to prominence. The same cannot be said for those at the top.