FLORIDA — A tweet from the Florida Department of Health is causing backlash and confusion.
FDOH called out individual news outlets for publishing false COVID-19 data, but one state official said FDOH itself is to blame.
FDOH no longer publishes its data itself on a daily basis. Instead, it sends it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but on Monday, FDOH said the daily case numbers the CDC put out was wrong, and it called out individual news outlets that published it.
We spoke with epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi at the University of South Florida, who runs his own COVID-19 data website. He thinks the CDC made a simple data entry error.
"It seems like there was an aggregate number, around 56,000, but this time the CDC released the data seemingly a day earlier than they usually do on Monday instead of Tuesday, and they divided that number by two instead of by three," said Dr. Salemi.
But Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said the tweets from FDOH’s official Twitter page were not the right way to handle it.
"It was a mocking of our local reporters. It was a mocking of the CDC. Not very professional," said Fried.
Fried said she blames FDOH and the DeSantis administration, because they no longer publish daily case numbers, which is why they rely on the CDC in the first place.
She has been calling for FDOH to begin publishing its own daily information again.
"We would not have had the back and forth and the confusion from the Department of Health if they would just have been giving the daily numbers," said Fried.
Dr. Salemi said, as far as numbers go, he pays more attention to the seven day average, because it’s less susceptible to data errors.
But he said the more important message is that the average is worse than it’s ever been.
“Even though these data mistakes can happen, the underlying message to everybody is very, very clear. Right now, a good long-term strategy is continue to break down the barriers to vaccination. The more people we vaccinate the better," said Dr. Salemi.
“Getting the vaccine, putting on masks inside, social distancing. We know how to beat this," said Fried.