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What Florida COVID-19 numbers mean

We asked experts Thursday about what the current daily coronavirus numbers mean for the big picture moving forward.

Thursday’s daily rate of percent positive for COVID-19 in Southwest Florida was 9.23%, which is below the 10% state threshold that allows for safe reopening.

What does that mean? Is it as simple as saying 9 out of 100 people locally have COVID-19?

The experts told us absolutely not.

“If it were the situation that everybody in the community was regularly being tested then yes, it would mean that,” said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard. “But that’s not happening anywhere. Instead, tests are being concentrated either on people who we believe may be infected.

So no. The percent positive does not translate simply to population.

Johns Hopkins University currently ranks Florida 29th out of 50 states in testing per 100,000 people.

So, if the state tested more people, would that be a more accurate representation?

“Testing is not the intervention that will interrupt transmission,” said Barry Bloom, a Harvard professor of public health.

“Testing is relevant when it is linked to an action,” Hanage said.

Those are actions such as wearing masks and social distancing, which can slow the spread of the virus.

“The percent positive may not necessarily correlate with how many tests we roll out,” said Bindu Mayi, a professor at Nova Southeastern University with a Ph.D. in microbiology “It is purely a reflection of community spread.”

They may be infected and asymptomatic, but they’re still able to transmit the infection.

Cases are increasing, but deaths have plateaued.

But the experts believe deaths will catch up in a matter of weeks if not days.

“The lag will come,” Bloom said. “After the tests go up the hospitalizations, and many of the hospitals in those states are at 80-90 percent capacity. It’s going to be very bad.

Mayi told us you can’t predict whether deaths will catch up. She’s hopes our hospitals are getting better at handling the patients.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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