Accuracy in Media

CNN’s Chris Cillizza headlined a piece this week, “Can Florida’s governor admit he was wrong about coronavirus?”

The Orlando Sentinel joined him: “If coronavirus were a hurricane, it seemed to reach Category 5 status over the weekend. More than ever, Florida needs decisive, resolute guidance to get through this storm.”

But neither provided an accurate picture of the storm.

FOX 35 in Orlando found in an investigation that some labs analyzing COVID-19 tests did not report negative test results to the state. In fact, it found 22 of 35 labs in the Orlando area reported that all 100 percent of those tested were positive.

The Florida Department of Health confirmed to FOX 35 that some smaller labs have not reported negative test data and said it is working with them to improve accuracy.

But among those with 100 percent positivity rates were Lee Memorial Hospital Lab, PanCare of Florida and Advance Medical of Naples.

FOX 35 also found that Orlando Health reported a 98 percent positivity rate, but when the TV station inquired, it said the positivity rate was only 9.4 percent. Orlando’s Veterans Medical Center reported a positivity rate of 76 percent. It later was found to be 6 percent. Two other testing centers – Centra Care in Orlando and NCF in Alachua – reported positivity rates of 83 and 88 percent respectively.

The errors in reporting don’t change the fact the virus is blooming in Florida. The state experienced an increase in reported cases from 2,000 per day a month ago to more than 12,000 – the largest one-month jump by any state so far in coronavirus cases.

The positivity rate, skewed by the false reports, for the entire state jumped from 6 percent to 18 percent.

That could change public policy decisions. The lower the positivity rate, the more the increase in cases can be explained by increased testing. High positivity rates indicate people are getting sick and seeking tests.

“They’re messing with the truth,” Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) told Fox News. “They’re not allowing information that allows Americans to manage their own risk, manage their own health and make the decisions that they need to make.”

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