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DeSantis cites dip in COVID-19 positivity rate as ‘pretty good indicators’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he speaks during a news conference Monday, July 13, 2020, at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

(The Center Square) – Two days after recording the nation’s single-day record of 15,283 positive COVID-19 cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis said declining positivity rates indicate Florida “is going in the right direction.”

“We think we have stabilized,” DeSantis said during a Monday evening news conference with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 dashboard reported Monday that 12,343 new positive tests were recorded Sunday, boosting the number of cases in Florida since March 1 to 282,435, with 4,238 deaths and 18,498 hospitalizations, including more than 7,500 now in being treated in hospitals.

According to DOH, however, there were about 4,000 fewer new cases and a dip in the positivity rate from 14.8 percent to 14.5 last week compared with the previous week.

DeSantis said the positivity rate over the past three days has been about 11 percent. That is nearly five times May’s statewide 2.3 percent positive rate, but nearly half what it was the previous week.

“We’re seeing some pretty good indicators, some trends where positivity is going down in key counties,” DeSantis said. “We’d like to get that back above 90 percent” testing negative.

DeSantis noted, again, the state’s “1.5 percent death rate” is relatively flat – although numbers are edging up – and is less than half the nation’s 4 percent fatality rate.

“The folks in Florida have learned how to treat this,” he said, adding positive test results include “many younger people who are asymptomatic. There’s a huge difference between a 21-year-old and an 85-year-old” contracting the disease.

DeSantis said Florida, which has three state labs capable of producing 1,000 test results a day, contracts with private labs to analyze tests. Many also work for other states and organizations.

“There are labs receiving 700,000 tests a day,” he said. By the time results are returned, “they are several days old, up to seven days.”

The governor said the state has conducted 2.64 million tests since March and a record 144,000 people in Florida were tested Saturday, with results likely returned to DOH in dribs, drabs or in massive “data dumps” over the next week or two.

When the state contracted with private labs, results were to be returned within 48 hours.

“That’s not happening,” DeSantis said. “We have the money. We could pay. If we could pay to get it turned around quicker, we would.”

DeSantis also said the state can “create a case the way this is reported,” which has been a topic of scrutiny since Rebekah Jones, the geographic information system analyst fired by DOH in May, said the way DOH reports “case date” and “event date” underreports case numbers.

That same claim was made Monday in a published report, which said DOH may have inflated case counts since mid-June by as much as 30 percent.

None of that matters, Gimenez said, because test results do not reflect the pervasiveness of the virus.

“A lot more people have it than is being reported,” said Gimenez, a Republican challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in November’s 26th Congressional District race.

“We have to follow the rules,” said Gimenez, who has imposed curfews and a mandatory mask order in Miami-Dade. “If we all do what we are supposed to do, we could drive the level down. Until we start to drive it down, we can’t get a handle on it. It is up to us.”

“Many Floridians are filled with apprehension,” DeSantis acknowledged. “People want to know, ‘What does this mean? How long will this go on?’ I hear you. We must address the virus with steady resolve.”

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