Orange County coronavirus numbers could be skewed, health director says

Possible backlog caused influx of test results

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Coronavirus numbers in Orange County could be skewed due to an influx of recently received test results that were likely delayed due to a backlog at the lab where they were processed.

Florida Department of Health in Orange County director Dr. Raul Pino spoke of the issue Monday during an economic recovery task force meeting and again during a news conference alongside Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

He said right now, the numbers reflect when the test results were received but they do not indicate when the test was actually taken. His team is parsing the numbers further for that information in order to get a better understanding of the data and determine what impact the reopening of the economy has had on the coronavirus positivity rate.

“This data is the day the lab result is reported to us. My concern was: Are we getting old cases? Are we getting old data that may be skewing our decision-making process and showing a higher number of cases (than) there really are and why that is important because that could be a measure of how effective the opening and the measures we have in place are working,” Pino said.

Orange County coronavirus numbers provided on May 18. The numbers for each date indicate how many test results were reported on that day, not how many tests were performed on that day.
Orange County coronavirus numbers provided on May 18. The numbers for each date indicate how many test results were reported on that day, not how many tests were performed on that day. (News 6)

As evidence of the backlog, he pointed to the 6,132 negative test results received on Saturday. Pino estimates that it takes about a week to test 6,000 people and it’s never been done in a single-day or two-day period.

For comparison, 301 test results were reported Friday and 1,315 were reported Thursday.

The doctor’s team did an analysis to look at tests performed per day from May 3 to Saturday and found that the positivity rate always remained at 4.40% or lower except for Saturday, when the rate went up to 6.1%. There were 81 tests performed that have been reported so far and five came back positive.

“So I have to look into other weekends to see (if) the low number of tests could be due to the fact the community sites, most of them are closed during the weekend time. So you get few cases tested but acute cases. Cases that are symptomatic. So in those cases, in that setting, you are more likely to find positive when you test symptomatic people,” Pino said.

He also noted that there were 2,343 tests performed on May 11, 49 of which came back positive. He said that was the day with the most new cases in the period between May 3 and Saturday.

Orange County’s top health official believes current coronavirus numbers might be misleading.

“So right now, as it is, the curve would show that we are increasing and going for a second peak. That may not be accurate. We are trying to determine when those tests were done, so I ask my team here and I hope that they can do it quick,” Pino said.

Ultimately, Pino said he’s feeling better about the situation locally now that he has more data showing when tests were performed and when the patient first started experiencing symptoms.

“I’m less concerned than I was this morning after seeing the re-cleaning and the re-analysis of the data,” Pino said.

As of Monday, there are 1,679 cumulative cases with an overall positivity rate of 3.4%, compared to 3.9% on Friday. The recovery rate sits at 87%.

“In terms of reliability that’s the one reason I’m doing this interview because I want the word out to patients that the test they had from MicroGen diagnostics is extremely reliable," CEO of MicroGen Diagnostics Rick Martin said.

About the Author: