The ultimate COVID-19 data dump: Florida is winning the fight

by | Aug 17, 2020


 

This week, many Florida media outlets will report on a “grim milestone” (they may even use those exact words) when Florida inevitably surpasses 10,000 coronavirus deaths in the state (we’re currently at 9,539 and counting). Indeed, those deaths are nothing to celebrate, that is, except for the fact that it’s far fewer than many doomsayers predicted over the past several months.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo couldn’t help himself:

“You played politics with this virus and you lost.”

But Florida is nowhere near “losing” a straight up statistical matchup with any of the comparable states with similar population sizes. Florida’s own governor, Ron DeSantis, neither played politics with the virus nor “lost” any sort of hypothetical matchup dreamed up by New York’s Cuomo or his abettors in the national media. The data show that while DeSantis declined to adopt a statewide mask mandate and scoffed at calls by leading Democrats to lock the state down, Florida appears to be pulling through the worst of the outbreak in much better shape than most other states on a per capita basis.

Here’s a rundown of the latest available information, which shows that Florida is managing the crisis well, especially considering the wave of new cases that materialized throughout July. We humbly present more stats and charts than you can possibly ever need.

NEW CASES

Keep in mind that new cases aren’t necessarily a bad thing on their own. The reason new cases are bad is that they inevitably lead to more hospitalizations 13.5 percent of the time, and sadly, more deaths, about 1.7 percent of the time. So new cases trending sharply downward simply means that we’re less likely to see increasing hospitalizations and deaths over the coming weeks:

Here’s a similar chart except new cases are expressed as a 7-day moving average, along with the same averages for hospitalizations and deaths (all data is to scale):

 

Obviously, we still have a massive number of new cases coming each day, but that number has been dropping considerably since the peak in mid-July.

HOSPITALIZATIONS AND HOSPITAL RESOURCES

High cases typically mean high numbers of hospitalized patients, too. But Florida isn’t even close to reaching hospital capacity, which is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 44,000 beds. The state offers two different metrics by which to gauge our hospital resource usage: the daily number of patients admitted, and the daily number of patients actually in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19.

The first number is somewhat unreliable because the state’s reporting has historically included a high number of older cases that resulted in hospitalization that weren’t reported until later. Those numbers, when reported, tend to artificially inflate the current hospitalization number, giving a slightly misleading picture of the situation on the front lines of the healthcare system. Here’s a peak at that information:

Note that the hospitalizations over the weekend, while significantly down versus the previous weekdays, is still higher than the worst days we had during the initial wave back in April and May. The state’s seven day moving average of new hospital admissions remains as high as ever.

But as we mentioned, it’s not the most reliable statistic, and here’s why:

Cases by Original Positive Test Date with Hospitalization Status Changed to “YES” on August 16th

Confused?  Don’t be. This chart shows us that yesterday’s daily hospitalization number included cases as old as June 20th. While many of those cases might be new admissions to the hospital of people with lingering COVID-19 symptoms, a more likely explanation for many of those cases that they are backlogged cases that started to build when Florida began to see a surge in cases. That might mean these cases have long since been in the hospital but have already been discharged and we are only now seeing them in the report. But the truth is, we don’t know because Florida’s Department of Health has not explained this oddity in the data.

So the second and more important metric we rely on is the hospital bed census for those currently hospitalized with COVID-19. As of right now, the state’s dashboard shows 5,631 patients, and 15,929 additional beds available. In short, we’re nowhere near overwhelming our hospital system. And the number of actively hospitalized COVID-19 patients has consistently trended downward for several weeks:

WHO IS GOING TO THE HOSPITAL?

No surprise here. Florida’s older population remains the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Here’s a breakdown of hospitalizations by age (with a hat tip / shoutout to David West, a data scientist who supplied some of these charts and has repeatedly helped me on his own time to gain a clearer understanding of The Capitolist’s own data analysis used in previous stories on this site):

 

FLORIDA’s CASE FATALITY RATE

The state’s case fatality rate (CFR) is a constantly moving target computed by taking the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 (excluding motorcycle deaths) and dividing it by the total number of cases. Right now, Florida’s CFR is 1.66% as of today. How does that compare with other states? Very, very well. Clearly, Florida, the third or fourth largest state in the nation (depending on your measurement metric) is nowhere near New York, or worse, New Jersey, Massachussetts, Michigan, Illinois or Pennsylvania. Note that all of the aforementioned states are governed by pro-lockdown Democrats, while Ohio is governed by a pro-lockdown Republican.

However, before anyone starts swaggering too much, just know that Florida’s CFR is likely to climb a bit above the current level because our shrinking number of new cases isn’t keeping pace with the daily deaths, which are holding relatively steady for the time being. That said, there’s zero chance it will ever climb as high as some of the hardest-hit states. Here’s how Florida stacks up:

Note that it doesn’t matter which way the New York media or Andrew Cuomo try to slice the chart above, even if we exclude New York City’s catastrophic experience with COVID-19, Florida still has far fewer deaths per confirmed cases.

FLORIDA CASE FATALITY RATE (CFR) BY AGE

Again, no surprises. This disease disproportionately attacks retirement-aged and older people:

 

POSITIVE TEST RATE

One of the metrics cited by many experts, and since adopted by public health officials all over the world, is the rate of positive tests expressed as a percentage of total tests administered. The target range is less than 10 percent of all coronavirus tests coming back positive.

Today, Florida posted a rate of 13.22 percent, which is obviously higher than we want to see, but that number is significantly lower than it has been, which is an encouraging sign. The seven day moving average lags a bit behind the daily rate, but it, too is falling. Here’s a look at where it’s been and (hopefully) where it’s headed, which is down, down, down:

WHAT’S NEXT?

Schools are reopening. Many people are certain that Florida will see new outbreaks of hotspots emanating from schools all across the state. And they are, to a degree, almost certainly correct. There’s no question there will be new cases of isolated outbreaks, requiring some schools to perform rigorous contact tracing and careful assessment of the situation. The state will also undoubtedly see new cases crop up from asymptomatic spread.

In June, we saw a massive spike in cases among college-aged youth (read: BLM protesters, party-goers, clubbers, bar hoppers, etc.). In July, that spike created a secondary ripple effect when those same students stumbled home in their drunken or outraged stupors and infected their parents.

Are we likely to see a similar ripple effect from high-school youth bringing the virus home and infecting their parents? Perhaps, yes. But the difference in the case of school is that it will be a substantially safer environment than a bar, dance club, house party or BLM riot / peaceful protest with mandatory masking, enforced social distancing, rigorous cleaning, and vigorous contact tracing.

But that won’t stop the media from reporting on the first students or teachers who contract COVID-19. The headlines will be screaming the news, and they’ll almost certainly blame DeSantis for forcing the state to reopen schools, effectively laying any infections or, worse, deaths, at his feet.

But life simply must go on. We’ve had the debate. The economic cost of hiding from this virus is already staggering. A full lockdown, including shutting down the school system, would effectively kill off the economy and lead to unimaginable damage. Any Democrats that call for it are effectively sanctioning economic suicide.

Take comfort in the fact that this disease is treatable, it’s generally avoidable with the right precautions, and it can be suppressed, as Florida has shown, without locking down the state and cowering in fear.

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