Florida sticking with weekly COVID-19 reports as cases rise

'I do feel that we are providing enough data to the public,' Press Secretary Christina Pushaw says
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-24 00:51:55-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Officials said Friday that Florida will stick with weekly COVID-19 reports. That is despite cases again surging as the more infectious Delta variant spreads among the state's unvaccinated.

The governor's press secretary Christina Pushaw said officials believed going back to daily details would do little to help the state.

"I do feel that we are providing enough data to the public to make their own decision to protect themselves and their loved ones," Pushaw said. "The No. 1 thing that people can do to protect themselves -- it's not about looking at the numbers every day, it's about getting the vaccine."

Gov. Ron DeSantis comment on COVID daily reports on July 23, 2021
The governor's office says daily summaries on COVID-19 cases won't be happening.

Florida Health ended the daily reports on June Fourth. Officials at that time said positivity and case numbers had reached low enough levels.

"Florida's case positivity has been below 5 percent for more than three weeks," state officials had said in a statement. "Cases in seniors ages 65 and older are the lowest since early in the pandemic."

The latest data, published July 23, now shows positivity at 17.3 percent with tens of thousands of new cases added each week.

The health department has offered these weekly reports each Friday. They offer much of the same information like case, death and vaccination numbers, but lack the immediacy and greater detail of the previous data.

In a statement, received late Friday evening, Florida Health Communications Director Weesam Khoury said public health surveillance and controlling the spread of COVID have remained core goals of the Department.

"Insinuating that reporting frequency somehow correlates to a lack of action and response is misleading to the public," Khoury said. "This also derails the credibility of tens of thousands of public servants that have worked diligently to protect Floridians and visitors during the entire course of the pandemic."

The communications director also made note of the differences between COVID metrics in December 2020 and July 2021:

  • Deaths in long-term care facilities have reduced by 97%.
  • Deaths overall have reduced by 95%.
  • Deaths in individuals over 65 have reduced by 96%.

Even so, Dr. Frederick Southwick, an infectious disease specialist, said Thursday he wanted daily hospitalization data back, which the state also halted in June. It was vital, Southwick said, to inform and motivate the public.

"It turns out when it comes to infections and epidemics, fear is a good thing," Southwick said. "Fear will keep you at home. Fear will make you wear a mask. Fear will get you the vaccine."

Dr. Frederick Southwick, infectious disease specialist
Dr. Frederick Southwick wants daily hospitalization reports to return to Florida.

The Gainesville physician wasn't alone. That same day Florida Democrats in Congress wrote Gov. Ron DeSantis a letter urging he "use the full extent of his powers" to fight the more infectious Delta variant. One of their requests included returning to daily COVID reporting.

"Your administration said there was no need to continue providing daily updates because the state was returning to normal," members wrote in the letter. "While we disagreed with this decision, conditions have now changed and Floridians, as well as Florida’s healthcare community, benefit from knowing in real-time whether their communities are at risk and where the hot spots are."

While Florida remained one of the most infrequent COVID reporters, there are others. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Iowa had also dropped some of its updates to every seven days.

Many other states report every five or fewer days as it can be rigorous work for health staff.