As home testing for the new coronavirus is introduced, private medical officials expect more households to receive testing on a faster and larger scale.
But keeping abreast of the total number of tests administered – and the total number of positive cases resulting from these tests – has proven to be a challenge for anyone following the daily spread of the virus.
Total tests by the Florida Department of Health and positive case statistics from its publicly available database continue to lag or do not reflect figures released by private medical facilities in the area.
The number of positive cases reported today, for example, is likely the result of tests performed a few days or weeks ago.
In a press briefing Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the state had administered nearly 80,000 tests for COVID-19 and now receives between 8,000 and 9,000 results each day.
Many laboratories, difficult to follow
The use of private labs for testing has changed the outlook for the overall testing process, according to officials from the Florida Joint Information Center on COVID-19.
For this reason, the daily updates by the Florida Department of Health of COVID-19 cases in the state do not necessarily reflect a complete picture of the state situation.
“The expansion to private laboratories is changing the COVID-19 testing landscape in Florida,” the Information Center said in a statement. “The private laboratories perform tests because they receive samples of swabs from practitioners. The test and report times vary according to the laboratories of the commercial and health department. “
The time it takes for private labs to process their test results can vary depending on the demand from the lab, the Florida State Emergency Operations Center said in a statement.
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Florida law – in particular administrative code 64D-3.031 – requires all laboratories, public and private, to report “any laboratory test suggesting or diagnosing diseases or conditions … considered by the laboratory to be an indication of suspect diagnosis “
But the same law does not require private labs to disclose the total number of tests administered to the health ministry, state officials said on Friday.
If a laboratory tests COVID-19 and the test returns positive, it should immediately report it to the Department of Health.
“However, laboratories only have to report suspected cases if they are listed in the” suspect immediately “criteria, according to the health ministry. A suspect case should be covered by reportable disease guidelines: in the case of COVID-19, patients should have symptoms.
For this reason, it can be confusing to determine the updated figures for the total number of tests administered by private laboratories.
“When the Ministry of Health receives a notification that a person has tested positive for COVID-19, the ministry conducts an in-depth epidemiological investigation … to identify people who may have been in close contact with the virus,” said officials from the Emergency Operations Center. .
These people are then notified by their county health department and must isolate themselves for 14 days, according to the information center’s statement. The process is the same for anyone who tests positive in Florida.
The Ministry of Health has not specified whether this criterion causes a delay in providing up-to-date information.
“The data contained in the published reports are provisional and subject to change,” the group said in the statement. “At the time the reports were published, this was the most recent information available to the state at the time. “
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Tests are developing
Between March 9 and April 1, the private corporate laboratory Quest Diagnostics performed and communicated the results of more than 400,000 COVID-19 tests to providers and patients across the United States, according to a statement provided by Kim Gorode , senior director of public relations for the company.
“We have increased our testing capacity to a level that has allowed us to meet and sometimes exceed demand,” said Gorode in his statement. “As a result, we have reduced the backlog by 28%, from 160,000 tests on March 25 to 115,000 tests currently. “
Although national statistics are available from Quest Diagnostics, Gorode was unable to provide specific figures for the situation of private testing in Florida.
Dr. Greg Rosencrance, president of the Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, spoke about the situation at the local hospital on Friday, when he noted that the hospital was preparing for an increase in cases from May to mid-summer.
“We report all the tests to the Ministry of Health, certainly all the positive tests,” he said. “But I can assure you that all the positive tests are all reported. “
Rosencrance did not say whether the hospital reports the total number of tests, or only the tests that return positive.
Since the hospital started testing on March 20, the Cleveland Clinic Indian River has tested a total of 507 people, 300 of whom were administered through driving tests, said Rosencrance.
Of these 507 tests administered in total, 237 results have been returned and 270 tests are still pending, said Rosencrance Friday afternoon. The hospital received 33 positive results, seven of which are hospital patients. The state health department on Friday reported 47 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indian River County.
Locally, the spokesperson for the Department of Health said the agency’s daily reports were the most “up-to-date” depiction of the Florida testing situation from a state perspective.
Although the state health department’s daily report includes a separate list of some private lab test data, the total testing capacity of private labs is not reflected in the daily totals, said Stacy Brock. public information officer for the State Department of Health in Indian River County.
The health department notes in its daily report that the data from private laboratories “are provisional and subject to change. The numbers represent the number for whom the test results were received by the Ministry of Health. ”
“Otherwise, we are not informed about private laboratories,” she said. “We have our test numbers from our laboratories (from the Department of Health).
According to Brock, some test figures on the state database “cannot be deciphered” with such a wide range of listed laboratories. “But our numbers that we tested are the exact numbers. “
Max Chesnes is a TCPalm news reporter for Indian River County. You can follow Max on Twitter @MaxChesnes, send him an email to [email protected] and call him at 772-978-2224. For more information, follow Max Chesnes on Twitter by clicking here.
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