Testing numbers from Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard may not show complete picture

Repeat tests included in statewide figures

ORLANDO, Fla. – Testing numbers from the Florida Department of Health may not show the complete picture of how many Floridians have been tested for COVID-19.

News 6 looked at what’s behind those numbers and spoke with the Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“We’re close to 340,000 individuals that have been tested,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Orlando on Sunday.

DeSantis touted the number of people tested for coronavirus in Florida, but as News 6 reported last week, when you look at our population of roughly 22 million people, the number the governor gave would be over 1% of the population tested.

It isn't true.

We asked the governor if re-tests are included in that number.

“Yeah so they are, it’s a good, good question,” DeSantis said. “So yes it does include that, because what happens is, you’ll have health care workers, some of them don’t ever test positive, but some have been tested multiple times, because they may have had an exposure, so its not unique individuals, it’s total tests,” the governor said.

Outside of health care workers, we also know that the Florida Department of Health tells people who have tested positive, they need two negative tests before discontinuing isolation, according to paperwork from FDOH.

That means thousands of people potentially have been tested multiple times.

The number of re-tests is not included on the state’s dashboard. We asked the governor if it was misleading not to point out the number of re-tests.

“It’s not misleading, because the labs report, they dump the numbers to the department of health. So what the department of health does, is they put it on the dashboard immediately so that people have the information,” DeSantis said. “On the second page, if you look it says, it explains how some people are re-testing.”

The governor showed how in the fine print of the state’s 537-page daily report it reads, “people tested on multiple days will be included for each day a new result was received."

But an explanation about re-tests is not on the state’s very colorful dashboard that provides testing numbers at a glance.

“If Lab Corp sends in 5,000 test results, Lab Corp does not distinguish between someone who has never had a test or someone who tested positive and then tested negative twice. It’s just not the way it’s done,” DeSantis said.

News 6 pointed out, when the public sees 340,000 on the dashboard, people might assume that’s the number of people who have been tested.

The governor disagreed.

"Well no, it says number of tests," he said.

But let's go back to what the governor said when he started the press conference.

“We’re close to 340,000 individuals that have been tested,” according to DeSantis’ early statement.

It's not true.

That’s why we pressed him further about getting a more accurate number of people who have been tested. By the end of our conversation, he seemed open to the suggestion.

“Actually you know what we can do, I’m going to see if they can parse it a little bit more,” he said. “I want just the fresh tests, I think that’s better.”

We followed up with the governor’s office about when this change could happen. We will let you know when it does.

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