The Florida Department of Health and the Florida Division of Emergency Management are severing all ties with Quest Diagnostics after Quest’s failure to follow Florida law and report all COVID-19 results in a timely manner, the state says.
Quest’s failure to report nearly 75,000 results dating back to April means most of the data in Tuesday's upload – while it will have historical significance – will have little impact on the status of the pandemic today, officials say.
Per Quest, all individuals that tested positive were notified of their results. Because of that, the DOH says the dump of test results is a data issue and does not impact the health of individuals or the spread of COVID-19 in Florida.
Quest Diagnostics is a large, nationwide lab that provides testing at private sites, as well as performing limited testing through the state. Florida Emergency Management told ABC Action News only a limited number of state-supported sites used Quest, explaining, "the state uses several labs at state-supported testing sites, and we have no concerns with transitioning the few sites that utilized Quest to labs that will be able to step in and provide COVID-19 testing while meeting expectations and following Florida law."
“The law requires all COVID-19 results to be reported to DOH in a timely manner," Governor DeSantis said. "To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible. I believe that Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in. As such I am directing all executive agencies to sever their COVID-19 testing relationships with Quest effective immediately.”
Monday night, the Governor’s office was informed that nearly 75,000 tests, dating as far back as April, were to be entered into the DOH COVID-19 monitoring system. While the data, for the most part were over 2 weeks old – with some being almost 5 months old – the state incorporated information that would be useful and included the rest in the interest of transparency, the Department of Health said.
Quest issued the following statement in response to the incident:
Quest Diagnostics apologizes after dumping dated testing data on @HealthyFla. “Due to a technical issue, our reporting of a subset of public health COVID-19 test data to the Florida Department of Health was delayed.” State announced it’s cutting ties with the company. pic.twitter.com/idzNGZFv7H— Forrest Saunders (@FBSaunders) September 1, 2020
USF Health's Dr. Thomas Unnasch said despite the Quest issue, the numbers are still moving in the right direction. He explained the data is crucial to develop an effective response to the COVID-19 crisis.
"We’ve just reopened all our schools this week. Everybody’s kind of holding their breath now to really know what is going to happen with the epidemic now that schools are re-opening. Are we going to see a big jump in transmission?" said Dr. Unnasch. "Well, if nobody’s reporting data back, how do we know what’s happening out there? We’re working in the dark. Unless we have good timely data that’s getting reported out, we don’t have a really good idea of what’s going on."
According to the state, without the backlog of Quest results, the positivity rate for new cases on August 31 is 5.9 percent, while with the Quest data it would be 6.8 percent.