All of South Florida moves to high-risk COVID category after ‘processing error’ in state data – Sun Sentinel

All three South Florida counties have high community levels of COVID-19, even though the most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control shows the region has medium levels.

The difference between the levels is significant. The CDC recommends that people in areas with high community levels should wear masks in public places and lists additional precautions for high-risk individuals.

The change is revealed in a footnote to the data released Thursday, which says a “data processing error” left Florida’s per capita case rate blank in all counties. The rate is one of several factors, including hospitalizations and test positivity, used to calculate levels of community transmission.

“Notably, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties should have appeared in the high CCL category, and Osceola County should have appeared in the medium CCL category,” reads the footnote to the CDC.

Below is the map incorporating the CDC footnote:

Positivity rates for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are above 17%, levels not seen since early February. And COVID-related hospitalizations have risen to their highest levels in more than 10 weeks, though intensive care patients are not rising at the same rate.

And Florida cases have been rising steadily since mid-March, with the seven-day average of new cases reaching 8,178 on Friday, the highest level since mid-February. The number is likely grossly underestimated due to the number of people testing at home and not reporting the results to state health officials.

Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of South Florida, noted that nearly a third of Floridians live in South Florida and don’t have accurate information about their risk levels.

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“While these data issues will come up from time to time, to me the biggest issue is that the data suggested that the three largest counties in Florida, where 3 in 10 Floridians reside, should be in the “high” community level. ”. Salemi told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “That’s important because there’s a substantive change in CDC mitigation guidance when an area moves to the ‘high’ level, including recommending that everyone ‘wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of status. of vaccination’”.

COVID-related hospitalizations in Florida are up nearly 50% in the past two weeks, with 1,981 at hospitals in the state as of Friday, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

“It must be extremely frustrating for individuals, businesses and communities to make responsible decisions when one of the main and best-known federal tools for assessing ‘community risk’ was so misleading,” Salemi said Saturday.

The CDC did not respond to a request for comment Saturday morning.

The Florida Department of Public Health also did not respond to a request for comment and guidance for Floridians on the new information. But on Twitter, spokesman Jeremy Redfern noted that he sleeps late on weekends. Just after 9:30 p.m. Saturday, he responded to the Sun Sentinel’s request for comment, writing in an email that he would consult with department epidemiologists on Monday.

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