National and local media outlets published a flurry of stories over the past 48 hours painting the false picture that Florida hospitals are being overrun with COVID-19 patients. Some of the stories include quotes from political figures and health officials attacking Governor Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump‘s handling of the pandemic. But an analysis of the underlying data shows that these media outlets, which include the Orlando Sentinel, NBC News and The Hill, among others, are ignoring key data that prove the number of hospitalized patients in Florida is actually decreasing.
Here’s a peak at those misleading headlines:
But those same outlets are ignoring other important data, including the discharge rate. Florida hospitals are sending recovered patients home about as fast as new patients are coming in. Sadly, deaths also play a role in the declining hospital population. But deaths only account for a fraction of the decrease in coronavirus patients.
Since July 31st, when the number of hospitalized patients in Florida was more than 8,200 people, Florida’s hospitals admitted 5,930 new patients while 2,179 have died. While it is unclear how many of those deaths occured in a hospital versus at home or elsewhere, simple math shows that over that same span, the state’s hospitals has successfully treated and released at least 5,494 patients.
The result is that Florida’s current hospital population is down significantly over the same week national and local media outlets are claiming “record” hospitalizations. Florida’s hospitals are currently caring for 6,538 patients, down from more than 8,000 since late July:
The data used in the chart above is updated here in real time and changes frequently.
One outlet, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, deserves praise. They finally published the truth about Florida’s hospitalizations early Wednesday, which noted the same trend The Capitolist reported two days earlier:
“Hospitalizations are the real measure, and we are seeing declining admissions and increasing discharges,” said Dr. Zoran Bursac, chair of the Department of Biostatistics at Florida International University.
You can read the full Sun Sentinel story for yourself, but be warned, the page is free to view, but is loaded with some annoying ads and popups.
Contrast the quote above with the national coverage of Florida by NBC News, which relied on the Orlando Sentinel for some of its misleading claims:
“These are devastating numbers,” Dr. Sadiya Khan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told NBC News.
The blame, Khan said, should be laid at the feet of the Florida leaders who downplayed the danger early on and who have been slow to impose mask mandates and other public health measures.
“In Florida there has been this ongoing controversy about the severity of the coronavirus crisis,” Khan said. “There has been a politicization of the issue of wearing masks. This should never have happened, and now we’re seeing the results.”
By ignoring the state’s discharge data to claim “devastating numbers,” Dr. Sadiya Khan undercuts her own credibility as a data scientist. She then swerves into political commentary that has no place in objective scientific analysis. And by including her over-the-top political commentary alongside her flawed analysis, NBC News and other outlets with similar coverage have damaged their own credibility.
The truth about the virus is that it remains highly contagious and very dangerous to some people. But Florida is doing an excellent job managing hospital and health care resources while resisting the temptation to panic and lock down the entire economy with a flawed, one-size-fits-all policy.