TAMPA, Fla. - Every time someone is tested for COVID-19 in the state of Florida, they become a statistic. The Florida Department of Health tracks and reports the number of tests administered on a daily basis.
Details about the age, gender, location, and possible source of infection of every positive test are revealed in twice-daily reports posted on the FL DOH website, where users can drill down to data on their county and even ZIP code.
On March 10, the state's website reported three new cases in a 24-hour period. On April 3, nearly 1,300 were added to the total, which was the highest 24-hour increase in the state, so far.
However, the number of cases reported on any given day does not tell the whole story. USF public health professor Dr. Marissa Levine says long-term trends are more important.
"The critical take-home message is, all of these distancing measures we are taking, what we call 'safer at home,' are working," Dr. Levine said.
In the week leading up to April 9, the daily number of new cases hovered just below 1,300; between about 800 and 1,200 new cases a day.
"We are still going up," said Levine. "[But] we are going up at a slower rate."
Cases reported each day are results taken a week prior. Levine says testing still is not broad enough to tell the whole story.
"If we let our guard down, we might not know the impact for at least a couple of weeks afterward," said Levine.
There are two more things to watch: One is the University of Washington's projection of when we'll hit the peak number of deaths per-day in Florida. There were 48 in the last 24 hours, but UW predicts 149 on April 23.
The second model shows when demand for hospital beds and ventilators could be highest. That's projected to be April 21.
Dr. Levine expects those predictions to move up by a day or two -- as long as social distancing measures continue.
"It is a great example of how everybody's individual effort together has resulted in improvements," she said. "But we need to keep it up."
The state of Florida is not tracking the total number of recovered coronavirus patients, largely because there is no consensus on what "recovered" really means.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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