In the early days of COVID, FL health officials reported cases twice daily; now it’s a weekly report

This is a new image of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The virus is now creating mutations that are spreading in the United States and elsewhere. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Lab

When COVID-19 cases were made public in March 2020, the Florida Health Department quickly began reporting cases of infections and deaths.

By mid-April 2020, the agency began updating COVID data twice daily, in order to “keep Florida residents and visitors safe, informed and aware about the status of the virus,” according to a news release at the time from the state Department of Health.

Months later, the data would be reported only once a day.

But now, the expansive reporting has plummeted, with the health department  launching a new “Weekly Florida COVID-19 Data” report. The first nine-page weekly report published June 4 covers data between May 28 and June 3.

The Miami Herald received an email from the Department of Health stating the reason for the change. Here’s what the agency spokeswoman said, according to the Herald:

“More than 10.3 million Floridians have been vaccinated — accounting for more than half of Florida’s eligible population. Eighty-five percent of Florida’s seniors are vaccinated. Florida’s case positivity has been below 5% for more than three weeks. Cases in seniors ages 65 and older are the lowest since early in the pandemic.

“Infections and disease control is a core function of the Florida Department of Health. The department will continue to adapt and respond to COVID-19 to protect public health statewide. Nearly 90% of the population is eligible for the vaccine, and widely available statewide.”

You can read the nine-page report here.

The new weekly report shows data only for Florida residents, saying “all data exclude persons known to reside outside Florida.”

So death cases will be reported only for residents. In the past the data included non-resident deaths in Florida. In addition, COVID infections no longer include non-residents in the data.

The current weekly report includes cumulative data, starting March 1, 2020. In the new weekly report, COVID-19 infections are reported as 2,289,332 and resident deaths, 36,985. Vaccination data is included in the report and county-by-county data is listed as well.

For example, Miami-Dade county shows 495,624 COVID-19 infections in the new weekly report. But as of May 28, Miami-Dade showed 500,323 infections. That’s because non-resident deaths are no longer counted.

It’s not clear what will happen with other data points no longer listed in the weekly report. That would include COVID infections in K-12 schools, which the state had been tracking. The state also has been tracking had been COVID cases in the state’s prison.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.