Announcing COVID-19 Data Hero Awards

Submit your nominee(s) for COVID Action’s “Data Hero” awards, which recognize the hard-working folks in the public, private, and non-profit sectors who have kept you informed about Coronavirus in your state or region.

Click here to open the submission form.

COVID Action is looking to identify and support the scientists, reporters, and community members who provided transparent and meaningful data and analysis about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths, testing, vaccinations, and more, to the public during the last year.

Nominees may include any individual, including:

  • Local, state and federal employees
  • Reporters and members of the media
  • Elected officials, community members, candidates
  • Non-profit and volunteer researchers
  • Scientists, statisticians, geographers, epidemiologists, or anyone with an academic or professional background related to their work, regardless of current employment/affiliation

Please provide as much information as possible for your nominee.

The list of data heroes will be published on our website at FloridaCovidAction.com on March 1. We’ll also publish a map with profiles of some of the most outstanding heroes across the country with links to the resources, data and analysis they provide(d) by March 12 – one year from the day our founder published her internationally-praised Florida COVID-19 data and surveillance dashboard for the state of Florida.

Our team will review all submissions and identify three individuals among the pack who led data reporting and analysis during COVID-19 under immense pressure with transparency, accuracy, and incredible talent and grit, particularly in the face of opposition or interference. Those winners will be announced on March 12 with the launch of the Data Heroes Map.

Each of the three individuals will receive a $1,000 award for their efforts in keeping the public safe and informed.

If you have any questions, please reach out to: Contact@FloridaCovidAction.com

You may submit more than one nomination. Nominations should be individuals and not groups or organizations. No members of Florida COVID Action or The Covid Monitor will be considered for awards.


Thank you.

I thought a lot about how to make this announcement. In true “Rebekah Jones fashion,” I’ll just come out and say it:

I will be leaving Florida next month.

After the raid on my home, I can no longer justify staying in the state.

I am not abandoning Florida. I am not abandoning this project. I will continue to do this work after I move until it is no longer needed, as I’ve always promised.

The governor of Florida seems have an irrational and passionate hatred for who I am and what I represent: defiance in the name of science of human decency.

He crossed a line involving my family. The depravity of having his personal police force storm my house and point guns at my young children cannot be overstated.

That action may very well become a life-changing moment for my son, who at only 11 years old had multiple police officers pointing guns at him.

We were kept in our living room for hours while police went through our things – an armed babysitter not allowing us to leave the room.

My family is no longer safe living in this state, and I cannot and will not ask them to make sacrifices of that magnitude for the work I am doing.

My team of amazing lawyers are working to hold the police and the governor accountable for these actions.

Despite the raid on my home and my family, my greatest concern is not about police intimidating whistleblowers.

Science has been at war with politics in this country since its founding. We’re barked at for getting pulled into the fight, but if we can not be advocates for our own work, then we can not sit back and expect other people to become advocates in our absence.

I saw first-hand how information is manipulated for the advancement of an agenda completely departed from the facts. I refused to be a part of it.

It reminds be a lot of the history of science related to smoking and cigarettes.

There have been many great books written about this topic, but if you’re able, get a copy of Merchants of Doubt, by Oreskes and Conway.

I wrote a short piece below about that fight, and I hope you take the time to read it. It exemplifies the struggle of scientists against political forces.

Smoking causes cancer.

Franz Herman Muller, Eberhard Chairer, Eric Schoniger, Ernst Wynder, Evarts Graham, Rochard Doll, Bradford Hill, Raymond Pearl, Alton Ochsner, Charles Cameron and others were among the early researchers of the tobacco-cancer link. Their names are not well-known, but they put into motion all of the research that ultimately saved millions and millions of lives from cancer-related illness. 

Alton Ochsner, another researcher looking at the cancer-linked, was stabbed in the back by his own colleagues for being “an anti-smoking enthusiast,” as if being an advocate of his research findings somehow made those findings illegitimate. 

Cigarette companies had their own medical researchers who claimed smoking was great for your health – literally. Even Harvard University speculated as to why the research might be wrong. 

Influential doctors like James Walsh made outrageous statements about how they knew healthy people who smoked and that the entire medical field had no reason to spend its vast resources researching the emerging science on the smoking-cancer link. 

In 1952, emerging research on the link between cancer and smoking broke through the academic-public barrier after a widely-shared article in Reader’s Digest was published. There was a sharp decline in cigarette sales, but it was temporary, and cigarette companies began stepping up their marketing and lobbying to protect sales. 

In 1955, Dr. Charles Cameron, medical and scientific director of the American Cancer Society, published a best-selling book detailing the connections between smoking and cancer, and offering preventative measures. For his efforts, he and other leaders in medical research were harassed, threatened and even fired from their positions.

Cigarette-funded “scientists” called into question the quality of data being used. They said they had never met someone who had died from cancer due to smoking. They dismissed researchers as being “fear mongers.” Sound familiar?

Here’s a great excerpt from The Atlantic about how politics interfered with the science:

“Politics also played an important role. In “The Quiet Victory of the Tobacco Lobby: How It Found the Best Filter Yet—Congress” (September 1965), Elizabeth Drew explained how business people with vested interests in the tobacco industry were exploiting their high-level political connections to influence tobacco-related government policies. And in a 1992 article, France: An Ambivalent War Against Smoking,” Judson Gooding discussed how similar factors were then operating in France to stymie anti-smoking legislation. In this case, he explained, the vested interests resided not with outside lobbyists, but, paradoxically, within the government itself, which owned the nation’s cigarette-manufacturing monopoly and reaped substantial tax revenues from cigarettes.”

An article published in 2011 actually calculated the profit made for cigarette companies per each person who is killed from their products: $10,000.

A cigarette company profits $10,000 for each person they kill. 

Today, we’d view anyone who denies the link between cancer and smoking as a moron, and smoking is generally frowned upon (as it should be). But it took decades of fighting the cigarette lobby and congress to get that information out to the public, and then turn it into legislation. 

The same people who led the misinformation campaigns about smoking and cancer would later lead the disinformation campaigns against climate change science, using the same tactics to undermine the global body of research showing the definitive link between man and global warming.


A new adventure for COVID Action: The COVID Monitor

When I decided to launch my Florida COVID Action site on June 11, I had no idea if anyone would care or even notice.

No state in the country had been so plagued by corruption and politics in data reporting as to warrant an “alternative” resource of official information.

But when I was fired as manager of the public data and surveillance data systems at the Florida Department of Health in May, the media attention blew up beyond what I ever imagined.

In the process, an information void was created. Knowing the data the state was pushing was unreliable and untrustworthy, Floridians had nowhere to turn for information about COVID-19 in their state. I felt somewhat responsible for that void and thus felt morally obligated to try to help those who didn’t trust the state.

So I committed myself to continue doing the job of reporting the data and science to the public, free of charge, for as long as they needed it, pulling in all available state datasets to give the people as much information as I could scrape.

I have been living and breathing this project night and day since that time, and the support I’ve received both personally and for my new ‘company’ has been tremendous.

Less than two months later, I watched another problem develop that no state in this country had yet faced: the potential impacts of reopening schools during a pandemic.

Most states closed schools for the year in March, when the number of cases across the entire country was only at about 7,000 total.

Although Governor DeSantis refused to shut down the state for spring break, schools switched to all-online instruction on March 17, when Florida had recorded fewer than 300 total cases of the virus.

Nearly every Florida school district in the state opens up by August 31, with more than 600,000 COVID-19 positive persons tested to date.

If we shut down schools in March because of a few hundred cases state-wide, why are they opening back up when Florida registers thousands of new cases per day?

Over the summer, teachers who taught ESE courses or coached sports teams got sick. Some even died.

Teachers started reaching out to me directly with their concerns about the upcoming school year. Concerned about retaliation, they asked if there was a way they could report what was going in schools without being identified.

So I launched a new dashboard to provide teachers, staff, administrators, parents, and even students a way to safely and 100% anonymously report information about cases in schools, even if officials didn’t want to release the information.

I immediately became swamped with reports – not just in Florida, but across the entire country. Hundreds a day. Working on this site and the new schools project became a 20-hours-per-day job. I was exhausted. I was worried that I would neglect either or both projects if I continued to try to handle that work by myself.

So I started reaching out for help. I wrote letters to universities, and academic and professional researchers about my idea for the project: a central database tracking and reporting cases in every school in the country. I even wrote on Twitter that I needed help.

Enter FinMango, a financial literacy non-profit (501c(3)) who shifted gears to COVID-19 education during the pandemic. They had partnered with Google’s COVID-19 Open Data Project, and had the passion, intensity and resources needed for a successful collaboration.

We launched our new joint-venture yesterday, The Covid Monitor.

From our new site you can access our map and data site, report cases in your school safely and anonymously, volunteer your time or donate to the organization. Donations to this project through FinMango are tax-deductible.

I personally will not be compensated for my own time on this project. If you wish to support me or Florida COVID Action, choose one of the buttons below where appropriate.

Support The COVID Monitor through FinMango (a registered 501c(3), donations made here are tax-deductible)

Support Rebekah through her personal GoFundMe site (please review GoFundMe’s policy toward taxation for more info)

Support Florida COVID Action, a registered Florida LLC and social benefits corporation (learn more about B-Corps here)

If you’re a school administrator or state official and would like to connect with us, please email us at: Plans@TheCovidMonitor.com

Members of the media are encouraged to participate in our data collection system, as well. To learn more about how to automate your data reporting with The Covid Monitor, please contact plans@TheCovidMonitor.com 

Follow us on Twitter @TheCovidMonitor

Information about our collaboration team:

FinMango is a global non-profit organization on a mission to promote and advance financial inclusion worldwide—however, we recognize the importance of combating COVID-19 and are actively pivoting towards catering to the needs of researchers leading the fight.

Florida COVID Action LLC is a Florida-based social benefits corporation made of scientists specializing in public health research, data science, and data visualization. Founded by Florida scientist and whistleblower Rebekah Jones, Covid Action is committed to data access and transparency during the coronavirus pandemic (and beyond).


Monitoring, tracking and reporting COVID-19 Cases in the USA’s 13,000+ school districts: A FinMango and Florida COVID Action Initiative

Announcement by the new team: The Wolf, Badger, Dolphin, and the Platypus

FinMango and Florida COVID Action are partnering on a ground-breaking joint project, launching the nation’s first COVID-19 dataset focusing on coronavirus cases in every K-12 school district in the U.S.A.

Our two organizations utilize and connect with a wide range of data providers to collect information pertaining to COVID-19, including school opening dates and formats, restrictions and policies regarding masks and distancing, and the number of cases for each district.

Data currently available about COVID-19 cases in schools exists in fragmented pockets across the country with no standardized reporting method in place, making it difficult to locate, synthesize and analyze.

Our initiative ensures that COVID-19 data is accurate, transparent, and published in a single, public platform—an effort that will more effectively inform decision makers as they work to understand and mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Through this partnership, FinMango is expanding its work to address the pandemic, with the use of Google Cloud’s COVID-19 Public Dataset Program, a hosted repository to aid researchers, data scientists, and analysts in the effort to combat COVID-19.

For more information or to volunteer, visit us at finmago.org/covid or contact us at data@finmango.org.

Information about our collaboration team:

FinMango is a global non-profit organization on a mission to promote and advance financial inclusion worldwide—however, we recognize the importance of combating COVID-19 and are actively pivoting towards catering to the needs of researchers leading the fight.

Florida COVID Action LLC is a Florida-based social benefits corporation made of scientists specializing in public health research, data science, and data visualization. Founded by Florida scientist and whistleblower Rebekah Jones, Covid Action is committed to data access and transparency during the coronavirus pandemic (and beyond).

Florida COVID Action began collecting and publishing reports of cases in schools in July 2020 as “The Covid Monitor,” and will continue to collect reports submitted by the public during the new collaboration with FinMango and Google. To learn more, click here.

Major revisions to format, data types, and more.

With The Covid Tracking project decommissioned (don’t worry, you can still access all of their data), there have been a lot of questions about what I plan to do next with my own data resources and interfaces.

The CDC now provides more data about what’s going on in Florida than Florida’s own Department of Health (DOH), and that data often shows a much more grim picture than the state would lead people to believe.

For example, hospitalization data provided by the Department of Health and Human (DHH) Services showed 3,725 beds in use for COVID-19 patients, while the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) showed only 2,813 (data as of 3/14 at 10:46 AM EST).

And DOH of course does not even include AHCA data on the dashboard I built for them more than a year ago, or data from the Florida Department of Emergency Management (DEM), or the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC), or any other state agency reporting COVID-19 data to DOH – the result of a juvenile “turf war” between DOH and every other state agency as to whose data would be highlighted on the website.

But hospitalizations aren’t the only place where the numbers disagree.

Testing data is another issue. According to the CDC, Florida testing volume has been on a gradual decline since the start of 2021, down 17% – a trend consistent with what we’ve observed in a number of states.

But you wouldn’t know that if you just looked at Florida’s website, which uses the way it displays data to make it appear that testing figures have been relatively unchanged. This goes back to the “how to lie with maps” discussions and selectively displaying data in a way that creates a false illusion of progress.

So this leaves me asking the question: who’s data is better? The feds, who collect part of their data from DOH, but also do their own surveillance data to “check” states like Florida with reputations for fudging numbers? Or do we continue with the plan to only include official Florida data produced by all of its respective agencies?

I’m leaning feds, but would appreciate your feedback!

Two weeks left to vote for the COVID-19 Data Hero Awards

Post by The Wolf

In late January, I wanted to find a way to give back.

I believe the support I’ve found this past year comes from a deep trust that I will use my platform and some of the money I’ve raised for good – to pay it forward.

I can’t imagine a more meaningful impact at this moment in time than highlighting the work of those who continue to work each day to bring us the COVID-19 data we need, and help us make sense of it all.

Throughout the month of February, thousands of people across the USA and Canada submitted their own data heroes to our program, representing more than 400 talented, dedicated individuals who focus on data and data science.

In the two weeks since voting opened, more than 20,000 people have visited the website to view our amazing nominees and finalists, and to cast their vote.

Please visit our page and learn about these amazing heroes, and vote for those you think have exemplified the principals and commitment that I’ve made this last year to data access, transparency and advocacy.

Online voting for the inaugural COVID-19 Data Hero Awards will continue through March 29.

Click here to vote!

Click here to visit the COVID-19 Data Hero Awards website.

Countering Some Myths About COVID-19 in Florida; October 19, 2020

Article by The Badger

As the COVID-19 situation is expected to get worse in the coming weeks in Florida, let’s take a few moments to go through a few common falsehoods you’ll encounter.

LIE # 1: Cases don’t matter. The only thing that matters is (INSERT EVER-CHANGING METRIC THAT DOWNPLAYS THE SEVERITY OF THE SITUATION).

This one’s easy. The number of cases is the fundamental measure of the state of things. Positive tests precede all other indicators and is, in general, the best, most reliable, easiest to follow measure of the spread of a disease. If you want to adjust for number of tests, or the proportion of positive tests – have at it, but it doesn’t matter that much. In every place since the start of the outbreak, as cases increase things get worse.  

But who cares about all these new cases? They’re just a bunch of stupid college kids and dumb babies that are 100% immune!

Let’s take a look at the relationship between cases and hospitalizations:

Unless hospitalizations just happen to be changing by coincidence, the number of newly sick people (as measured in cases) likely determines the number of hospitalizations. Who knew!?

As the number of new cases in the previous two weeks increases, so do the number of currently hospitalized. For every increase in 1700 cases over the previous 14 days, the number of people hospitalized increases by 100 on average.

Note that hospitalization data was only released July 10 when cases among ‘young and healthy’ people were at their highest. Even when the record-breaking surge in cases in July was being downplayed as primarily young people, it made no difference on the number that were hospitalized (at least from a statistical modelling standpoint). Despite changes in percent positivity, number of tests, proportion of young over this period – the best single predictor is the volume of cases.

LIE # 2: The number of deaths reported is not AT ALL related to the state of things right now. The Media is intentionally reporting new deaths as if they occurred yesterday to scare people and stretch out the ‘Scamdemic.’

There are plenty of people that have taken up this crusade and staked their reputation (whatever that was worth) on this lie. Despite all reputable news sources clearly stating deaths as ‘Newly Reported,’ the Deaths-by-Date-of-Death Truthers cannot be deterred! This post describes the lie in more detail, but a short summary is that deaths reported on a day did not all occur on that day. And by the Truthers logic, all deaths are therefore suspect because there is a delay in reporting and processing deaths (and may or may not be part of a devious plot by George Soros and/or Bill Gates to form a New World Order and defeat the God-Emperor, Donald J. Trump).

While ‘deaths reported’ and ‘deaths by date of death’ are not the same, they are highly correlated. Depending on the rate at which deaths are reported (which varies and is increasingly unpredictable), the two should be close in value – and are, for the most part.

Consider the following graph, showing the relationship between deaths by date reported (x-axis) and deaths by date of death (y-axis). From March through August (data within the last 45 days is considered incomplete as deaths are still being added as far back as July), the correlation is unsurprisingly high. The number of deaths reported on a day may not be equal to deaths that occurred on the same day, but they are generally tracking on a monthly or even weekly scale.

Through September and October, with deaths on the decline, the correlation will decrease. It is expected that deaths reported in October will exceed the deaths that occurred in October because of the large backlog of deaths currently being reported.

The degree of correlation will depend on the proportion of recent vs backlog deaths that are reported but they are still correlated, nonetheless. In general, as true deaths increase so does the reported deaths (and vice-versa).

Any claim that deaths reported on a particular day is ‘unrelated’ or ‘not attached to reality’ to the deaths occurring on the day is blatantly false.

LIE #3: Deaths are decreasing because Deaths by Date of Death Graph shows a decrease. This is the actual number of people that died so it must be right. Facts over Feelings, Libtard!

This is related to Lie #2. When the number of deaths by date are plotted over time, we get the infamous ‘Deaths by Date of Death Graph,’ or DBDOD graphs. See some examples below from the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard from August 4 and October 5.

No matter when this data is shown, the graph will always show an artificial plateau or decrease in deaths due to the lag in reporting – even in periods of increasing record deaths. The left panel was displayed on August 4 when there were a record 236 deaths. The right panel, while deaths are truly decreasing, shows a steady decrease to zero. (If you want to see more examples, go to Covid Tracking Project’s website where they keep daily screenshots).    

Admittedly, deaths by date is the gold standard and waiting months to identify trends is not ideal in a pandemic. Many projections of the true deaths by day rely on historical trends in death reporting and can become inaccurate with changes in reporting lag.

Some reasonable projections can be done based on this method, but the unfortunate truth is that the people spreading Lie #2 are not interested in projections of true deaths by date of death. Their sole agenda is to show decreasing deaths with no attempt to correct for the lag in reporting.

So how should this important data be presented in an honest and accurate way? One way is to remove the last several weeks or so entirely (previously DOH removed the prior three days’ worth of data, back when deaths were reported as they occurred, but DOH stopped doing that after they fired Rebekah), only showing data that is reliable and reasonably complete. What is lost in timeliness is made up for in accuracy. Even better is to add projections.

The graph above is the usual deaths by date of death graph (starting July 1) but with the projected number of deaths for the most recent 45 days added. Unlike ones that only show the reported deaths, this tells a different story – especially if deaths are increasing and a backlog is growing like what occurred over the summer in Florida. How are the projections made? Just as cases lead to hospitalizations, hospitalizations lead to deaths.

There is nothing too complicated or unexpected about how this is made. Recognizing that the number of hospitalizations on a given day is correlated with the number of deaths on the same day, we can build a simple but reasonable model using this relationship.

All data used is older than 45 days and there is some danger of extrapolation (the lowest number of hospitalized in the model is about 3500 while there are currently about 2000 hospitalized). But, unless the relationship between people hospitalized and people dying changes drastically or treatment has significantly improved in the past six weeks, it is reasonable to assume this relationship would remain stable.

Adding a second term for the cyclical nature of deaths within a week (peeking on Wednesday), we get what is shown in the graph.

It is a Poisson regression with three variables: hospitalizations, hospitalizations 7 days ago (to correct for autocorrelation) and day of week.

After finding the most likely value (red dots on the graph), we also plot 95% prediction limits to show the uncertainty in the predictions (red lines). A black dashed line is added to show the smoothed trend.

The estimated sum of outstanding deaths is shown in the bottom left corner. Based on the model, there are between 118 and 1,227 deaths (with 298 being the best estimate) that have already occurred that have yet to be reported.

Unlike the usual DBDOD graphs that portray deaths as always decreasing, a more accurate prediction shows deaths flattening, mirroring the flattening of hospitalizations. As cases and hospitalizations are expected to increase, remember that DBDOD graphs will be used to push an agenda as it was all summer even as deaths were peaking. We’ll update this as the situation changes but, in the meantime, follow the data and be vigilant. We’ve seen these lies before and we’re bound to see them again.

Florida K-12 Case Rates by District, Aug. 10- Oct. 3, 2020

Data and analysis by both the Wolf and the Badger

We’ve missed you.

For the last two months, I (the Wolf) have spent most of my time building and working on The Covid Monitor project, the national data and reporting site for COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools.

The Badger has done an amazing job keeping up with the needs of our COVID Action site, and I’ve been slowly turning over more responsibility to him as I juggle multiple obligations.

We’ve spent the last two weeks working on a paper regarding K-12 cases in Florida, which has been submitted and is currently under review.

But the paper we’ve submitted only contains a fraction of the data we have and the analysis we’ve done.

So this post is to bring you some of the stuff we couldn’t fit into that paper, as we realize parents and communities currently face tough decisions about how to approach reopening schools.

The Covid Monitor has the most comprehensive data of any single resource out there when it comes to COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools. Unlike some places that neglect to include case rates, or others that use qualitative data, we’re providing you with the best overview available of case data in Florida schools.


Across Florida (and the United States), students make up most cases in K-12 schools. Here’s a look at those proportions in Florida:

And here’s a look at Florida compared to a few other states monitored by The Covid Monitor:

% students / staffKentuckySouth DakotaMississippiFlorida
Elementary64 / 3675 / 2550 / 5059 / 41
Middle71 / 2977 / 2372 / 2864 / 36
High79 / 2181 / 1986 / 1480 / 20
Statewide totals of student / staff cases in K-12 schools. Source: The Covid Monitor.

Discussion topic added 10/17 on student vs staff cases:
Giving some thought to the student and staff case rates per 1,000 in-person students enrolled (in our paper under review), we’ve been trying to explain this pattern of fewer student cases (both by rate and as a percent of all cases) in elementary settings.

Without testing data, this would be a hard problem to examine. We’ve submitted a public records request for the same demographic testing data DOH used to release while Rebekah was managing the data systems. This would tell us how many people under 18 are actually being tested in each county.

This is key because we’re working an idea that confirmed cases might be significantly under-reported for elementary level children. Since the staff rate is fairly consistent across age groups, we anticipate there might be a large share of cases “missing” from the younger cohorts. Of course, without data, there’s no way to explore, much less prove, this hypothesis so we’re in the dark until the state releases the data requested (if they do).

Florida Data

If you’re visiting this site, you probably are most interested in cases in specific counties. Here are a few stats to keep in mind:

Source: Florida Department of Health Case Line Data
Though Lee, Polk and Taylor stopped reporting after DOH released its first school report, despite publicly condemning DOH for the widespread inaccuracies of that data.

How we gathered and analyzed this data:

We took the number of cases reported in each school district (per each district’s own reporting site) and the number of students enrolled in face-to-face instruction (per public records request to each county) to calculate the case incidence rate for the below counties. Rates are adjusted by the number of days the school district was in session, since districts opened up at various dates between August 10 – August 31. Most counties included data breakdowns of student vs staff cases, while Lee, Polk and Seminole only included total cases overall.

The case incidence rate per in-person student enrolled only includes counties who 1) report independently, and 2) provided enrollment data. We currently have outstanding requests for face-to-face enrollment data in 12 Florida counties, and have spent an indecent amount of money paying fees to get it. Once that information is received, we will add those additional counties to this list.

Student Case Incidence Rate by School District/County:

Table is ranked from highest to lowest student rate (cases per 1,000 students enrolled in face-to-face instruction only).

Total (student and staff) Case Incidence Rate by School District/County:

Table is ranked from highest to lowest total case rate (cases per 1,000 based on student enrollment in face-to-face instruction only).

Impact on Communities

The CDC noted a significant uptick in percent positivity of pediatric cases across the country after schools reopening in August:

COVID-19 incidence among school-aged children aged 5–11 years and 12–17 years by week: March 1–September 19, 2020. Source: CDC COVID-19 case report form. https://wwwn.cdc.gov/nndss/covid-19-response.html

Since that publication, similar trends have been observed not only in Florida counties, but in states across the country where schools have reopened:

Case rates over a 7-day period showing increases across the country over the last six weeks, with the lowest increases seen in the U.S. northeast and the highest in the US Midwest and US South. Source: The Covid Tracking Project, Oct. 16, 2020.

Nay-sayers will ignorantly claim that children are “immune,” or that these dramatic increases in cases aren’t causing immediate deaths, so they somehow don’t count.

Well, reports of deaths lag deaths. Deaths lag hospitalizations. Hospitalizations lag cases. Cases lag sickness.

Even with all the lag, hospitalizations are once again on the rise across the country, particularly in states where schools reopened (Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Utah) when compared to those that did not (California and New York).

Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Utah (states which all opened up schools in early/mid-August) hospitalizations per day. Source: The COVID Tracking Project.
California and New York did not start reopening schools in August and early September. Source: The COVID Tracking Project.

We’re working on releasing additional data pending peer-review of our article, and will keep you updated as we receive more feedback.

Limited Audit of DOH data compared to data provided by districts for the overlapping time period

Article by the Wolf

This report was written in Microsoft Word and is most easily read by the pdf attached here. Some of the tables may be difficult to see on mobile devices if not using the pdf document.

To download a PDF version of this report, click here.

Limited Audit of DOH data compared to data provided by districts for the overlapping time period (Sept. 6 – Sept. 26 only).

October 1, 2020

Rebekah Jones, The COVID Monitor, Florida COVID Action

This report was written as part of a data quality review for recently released data by the Florida Department of Health, in conjunction with both The COVID Monitor and FloridaCovidAction.com. For questions about this report, please email: plans@thecovidmonitor.com

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) report referred to in this audit was released Sept. 29, 2020, and listed a number of student, staff, and “unknown” cases for each school in the state which had positive results reported between September 6, 2020 and September 26, 2020.

This audit provides an overview of major discrepancies, with detailed looks at two Florida counties that have been publishing their own district data independently of DOH: Collier and Duval. As we continue to work through the data, we will update this information with new counties.

Layout notes:

To reduce confusion about whether we’re referring to data provided by counties/school districts, or data provided about counties from the Sept. 29 Department of Health (DOH) state data, we’re going to color code our text for extra emphasis.

Data provided by school districts (counties) will be green.
Data provided by the state/DOH will be purple.

We realize this may make it difficult for those who have color vision deficiency to distinguish between the two, so we will make every effort to refer to data provided directly by the school districts in each county as either the “district/county,” and refer to the data coming from the DOH report as either “the state/DOH.”

We will provide a version without color coding, as well.

Data Sourcing

Metadata for school and district data came from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Current enrollment for in-person instruction, hybrid instruction, and virtual instruction for the 2020-2021 school year came from the individual districts shown here. Data about graduation rates, economic status, and school “report cards” come from the Florida Department of Education and are based on the 2019-2020 academic year. Updated enrollment data should be released by November 1 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Overview of Findings

  1. Inconsistencies across the state and district data are extreme
    1. Reports that overlap make up only half of the cases reported (see Duval County analysis)
    1. DOH reported 71 fewer cases overall than the combined total from the 28 districts self-reporting that are reviewed in this audit
    1. Though data from 12 of the 28 districts reviewed were within 5 cases of the DOH data (either reporting within five more or five fewer cases than the state), there were extreme outliers (see Table 1)
  2. The DOH report from Sept. 29 and data from counties that self-report show the same percent of student cases as a share of all cases
    1. DOH reports students as 73% of cases
    1. Counties report students as 73% of cases
  3. While the rate of symptomatic cases is high (79% across all students and staff) it is much lower than recent CDC findings for pediatric cases[1]
    1. This is a difficult number to parse given the format of DOH’s report, which combined symptomatic data for all students, staff and other.
  4. According to analysis of DOH data of cases, teachers are slightly less likely to be symptomatic than students
    1. In schools reporting no teacher cases, symptomatic cases make up 81%
    1. In all schools, the symptomatic rate is 79%
  5. Cases reported by DOH as “unknown” are most likely to be staff

Further research needed

Without more information from the Department of Health about how the Sept. 29 report was made, which criteria they used, separate dates for case and notification dates, and other basic questions, the DOH report conflicts too much with existing data provided independently by districts to be an authoritative resource for cases in Florida K-12 schools.

Additionally, not all of the 37 districts self-reporting do so transparency or consistently.  

Bay, Charlotte, Lee, and Polk do not specify student or staff in their data.

Hendry’s site is essentially useless, with no data definitions or explanations, no cumulative counts, and no information about the school’s impacted.

Lee and Polk list notifications sent out about cases, but Lee does not specify the cases reported in each notification, and neither lists the number of student vs staff cases.

Indian River and Calhoun report via press release, but Calhoun’s site hasn’t been updated since September 3.

Bay*232324171671%DOH +19
Brevard11287250976820987%County +15
Citrus4127140382321367%County +3
Clay503317044339294%County +6
Collier584315048391864%County +10
Duval10066340936817880%County +7
Flagler26215021141657%County +5
Hardee*695613025211352%County +44
Hendry11640731386%County +4
Hillsborough211152590198158192180%County +13
Lake3423110412811294%DOH +7
Lee4747664491384%DOH +19
Leon6343200402621287%County +23
Manatee332112046355682%DOH +13
Nassau21165025203272%DOH +4
Orange146115310171124103780%DOH +25
Osceola6041190573761475%County +3
Pasco1177839012182152482%DOH +4
Pinellas78552301108951683%DOH +32
Polk10710710375181072%County +4
St. Johns10083170695251268%County +31
Taylor1717005500100%County +12
Volusia4529160493061379%DOH +4

Notes: Bay county only includes data from 9/15 on, so only the last reporting week for DOH’s data was used. Hardee’s cumulative data does not match its daily case updates, so calculated figures based on daily updates are provided here.

Review: Collier County

Collier is a mid-sized county in Florida in terms of enrollment and the total number of schools. Its mix of urban, suburban and rural schools contrasts well for the purposes of this study, and they have provided detailed data about cases in their school since reopening August 31.

The most recent data from the NCES shows 3,200 teachers for the district’s 48,000 students in 61 schools, consistent with information Collier County provides. That ranks collier 17 of Florida’s 67 districts in terms of total enrollment, and 18 out of 67 for the number of teachers per student (each sorted high to low). The district received an A grade for the 2019-2020 school year by the state, with a 91.9% graduation rate. State data shows that 62% of Collier students are considered economically disadvantaged.

While Collier’s data interface is cumbersome for retrieving data for research purposes, it allows the public to search by school and by date range, returning a value for both students and staff by the date each positive case was reported. Collier county updates their dashboard Monday-Friday by 7:00 pm ET, according to their site.

Collier county schools began in-person and online instruction on August 31, and reported 43 student cases and 15 staff cases in the time period covered by DOH’s report.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) report showed3 9 student cases, 1 staff case, and 8 “unknown” cases.

Of the 26 schools DOH listed as having positive cases, only 10 matched the data provided by Collier County. Five schools Collier reported cases in were not listed in the DOH spreadsheet (below). Those five missing schools Collier reported made up nine cases in the district – 14% of all the cases the district had self-reported.

Schools that Collier County listed as having cases, but DOH did not include in their report:

Missing Schools:TotalStudentStaff 
Alternative – Naples303
Alternative – Immokalee110
Vineyards Elementary101
Lake Park Elementary220
Calusa Park Elementary220

Schools where the state data matched the data reported by Collier County schools:

Cypress Palm Middle School
Golden Gate High School
Laurel Oak Elementary School
North Naples Middle School
Oakridge Middle School
Palmetto Ridge High School
Veterans Memorial Elementary School
Golden Gate Elementary School
Lake Trafford Elementary School
Sea Gate Elementary School
Schools Where The State Reported More Cases Than The Collier County School District School School not in data provided by county Marco Island Charter Middle (Marco Island) School not in data provided by county The Village School (Naples) 1 more student case than county East Naples Middle School (Naples) 1 more student case than county Gulf Coast High School (Naples) 1 more student case than county Naples High School (Naples) 1 more student case than county Poinciana Elementary School (Naples) 2 more student cases than county Osceola Elementary School (Naples) MIKE DAVIS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Schools where county reported more cases than stateSchool
Missing 1 staff case reported by countyImmokalee High School (Immokalee)
Missing 1 staff case reported by county; 2 more student cases than reported by countyCorkscrew Elementary School (Naples)
Missing 1 staff case reported by counyVinyards Elementary
Missing 1 student case reported by countyBarron Collier High School (Naples)
Missing 1 student case reported by countyEden Park Elementary School (Immokalee)
Missing 1 student case reported by countyImmokalee Middle School (Immokalee)
Missing 1 student case reported by countyLely Elementary School (Naples)
Missing 1 student case reported by countyPine Ridge Middle School (Naples)
Missing 1 student case reported by countyAlternative – Immokalee
Missing 1 student case reported by countyImmokalee Techincal College
Missing 2 student cases reported by countyLake Park Elementary
Missing 2 student cases reported by countyCalusa Park Elementary
Missing 3 staff cases reported by countyHighlands Elementary School (Immokalee)
Missing 3 staff cases reported by countyAlternative – Naples

Review: Duval County

Enrollment in Duval County Schools for 2020-2021 was 130,000  with 12,603 staff members, according to state data. They opened on August 20 to a hybrid format 11 days earlier than Collier County opened. The district received an B grade for the 2019-2020 school year by the state, with a graduation rate of 86.5%. Two-thirds of the students enrolled are considered economically disadvantaged.

Duval county attempted to start reporting cases in its schools in August, but was told by the state that it did not have permission to do so. After weeks of waiting on the state, Duval went ahead and published their data anyway, going back to the first day of school on August 20.

Some important data about how Duval county schools reports its COVID-19 case counts, from the school district’s website:

“The dashboard shows the number of students and staff attending or working in brick-and-mortar schools with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Sept. 28 clarification: The dashboard only reports Duval County Public School employee or student cases impacting school operations. The total number of employees or students diagnosed with COVID-19 may be higher.

The date of the case is the date on which the district confirmed the results. The date may be different than the date of diagnosis or initial report.

Charter school data is not included here due to incompatibility of information systems. Charter schools may publish their own data on their school websites.

The dashboard is updated daily by approximately 10 p.m.”

Duval County reports for 165 schools, regardless of whether cases have been reported in those schools. Of those 165, only 56 reported cases from Sept. 6-26, according to the county. Those 56 schools reported a combined 66 student and 34 staff cases during that period.

The state DOH report showed 51 schools in Duval County as having reported cases from Sept. 6-26, with seven fewer cases overall compared to the county, making the difference minimal between the two.

What’s most worrisome is that the DOH/State report is missing 28 schools that are in the county’s data, and the county data is missing 22 schools that show up in the state data.

Only 28 of the schools reporting cases for Duval County appear in both the state/DOH AND the county/district data. Which means that while the case numbers are close, they’re for completely different schools in half the cases.

Of the 100 cases reported by Duval County from Sept. 6-26, 38 come from schools not even listed in the DOH data.

Of the 93 cases reported by DOH/the state from Sept. 6-26, 30 come from schools that Duval county schools never reported as having cases.

And while you might think the cases in schools that both the county and the state/DOH reported would be evenly spread out, they’re not. Most are minor differences – one or two cases missing from the other – but a handful are significant.

For San Pablo Elementary, Duval County reported two student and four staff cases, while the state reported seven student and one staff case.

Schools that appear in both the state/DOH data and the county/district data with student and staff cases totals for the period beginning Sept. 6 and ending Sept. 26:

Schools in both the county/district data and the DOH/state dataDistrict dataState/DOH data
Annie R Morgan Elementary1111
Atlantic Coast High2 1 
Baldwin Middle-High1 3 
Biscayne Elementary1 1 
Chets Creek Elementary2 2 
Darnell Cookman1 1 
Duncan U. Fletcher High4 31
First Coast High School2 1 
Frank H Peterson Academies3 2 
GRASP Academy2 1 
Greenland Pines Elem.2 1 
Highlands Elementary1323
Holiday Hill Elementary1 1 
Jean Ribault High School1 1 
Joseph Stilwell Middle School 515
Landmark Middle School3 3 
Mandarin High School111 
Merrill Road Elementary 312
Mt. Herman Exc Student Ctr 1 1
Robert E. Lee High School3 2 
Samuel W. Wolfson High School2 2 
San Pablo Elementary2471
Southside Estates Elementary1111
Spring Park Elementary12 1
Thomas Jefferson Elementary1 1 
Westview K-82 2 
William M. Raines High School 11 
Windy Hill Elementary1 3 
Young Womens Leadership Academy (YWLA)/Young Mens Leadership Academy (YMLA) at Eugene Butler 2 1
Schools in the county/district data that do not appear in the DOH/state dataCase totals, Sept. 6-26
Abess Park Elementary11
Alimacani Elementary1
Andrew A. Robinson Elem.2 
Bartram Springs Elementary1 
Crown Point Elementary1 
Dinsmore Elementary1 
Enterprise Learning Acad.11
George W. Carver Elem.1 
Greenfield Elementary1 
Gregory Drive Elementary1
Highlands Middle School1 
J. Allen Axson Elementary1 
J.E.B. Stuart Middle School1 
Jacksonville Beach Elem.1 
Julia Landon Middle School5
Lake Lucina Elementary1 
New Berlin Elementary1 
Palm Ave. Exc. Student Ctr.1
Parkwood Heights Elementary1
Pine Estates Elementary1 
Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary2 
Southside Middle School11
Stanton College Prep.1 
Susie E. Tolbert Elementary.1
The Bridge to Success Academy at West Jacksonville2 
Twin Lakes Elementary1 
Whitehouse Elementary11

Schools in the DOH/state data that do not appear in the county/district dataCase totals, Sept. 6-26

(end of report)

[1] The CDC released a study showing that less than 3% of all pediatric cases from March 1 through Sept. 19 reported having no symptoms. Download the report here.

Snapshot of Florida data; in-depth analysis to come tomorrow

Article by The Wolf

Sometime in the late evening on September 29, 2020, the Florida Department of Health released a “detailed” look at the data they feel comfortable sharing with the public about COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools.

The data lists cases from Sept. 20-26 and from Sept. 6-26 separately, for students and various levels of staff. It also lists symptomatic/not symptomatic. And this data is for every school in the state (except all the ones they left out- more about that later).

To get this snapshot out within a few hours of the data being released, I’ve aggregated the data by county for this analysis.

You can access their pdf directly here (assuming they don’t again delete it), or download the aggregated table or shapefile here.

Let’s start by taking a look at the big numbers.

Before the release of this data, The Covid Monitor reported cases in Florida k-12 schools based on the data being released from school districts themselves.

The Covid Monitor’s Data (37 districts reporting)

3,123 total cases
2,001 students
984 staff and
139 not specified

That goes back to the earliest date for each of the 37 counties that had published their own data online. Some districts started earlier than others, but all by August 31.

About 75% of students enrolled/staff working at Florida schools were represented by those 37 districts. Meaning the public had zero data about the other 25%, but a fair chunk of the state, all things considered.

DOH’s report only shows data from September 6 through September 26 (they don’t say why that’s the limit, but there it is).

Here’s their figures for that time period:

DOH’s data, from Sept. 29, 2020 (all 67 districts reporting)

2,643 total cases
Students: 1,883
Staff: 760

Houston, we have a problem.

That’s 480 fewer cases than officially reported by 37 of 67 districts since August.

When you compare the data between the districts and the state, accounting for the time period limitation, there are some significant differences overall.

DataDOH Data (67 counties)Districts Data (37 counties)
Not specified0139
Data from DOH includes all 67 counties/districts reported for the period of 9/6-9/26. The district data shows only the 37 districts who have been independently reporting, during the same period.

There are also a few similarities.

In DOH’s data, 71% of cases are students.
In the district data, 65% of cases are students.
In the 30 counties not reporting themselves (so excluding self-reporting districts), 77% of cases were students. Cases reported by DOH in districts not previously captured by The Covid Monitor are all of 654 total cases, so a shockingly small contribution to the bucket

Our policy at The Covid Monitor is to defer to districts when state and district data don’t align. We’ve built relationships with schools and work to figure out the discrepancies, something my team at The Covid Monitor will be very busy working on through this week.

So what we end up with is a mix of state and district data, often with no explanation of what either is reporting, why they are reporting that why, why they’ve chosen to remove schools or count cases like this or that, etc.

Totals of state and districts reporting

3,777 Total Cases
2435 students (64%)
1203 staff (32%)
139 not specified (4%)

One of my first questions was: in districts that are self-reporting, is the data from DOH the same?

In most cases, no, it isn’t.

In the table below, we’re looking at whether or not a district reported more cases in students and staff (over), less (under), or about the same (even), compared with DOH data for the same county over the Sept. 6-26 period.

Under-reporting could be the result of slow contact-tracing, a school defining its own “active” case terms, or indiscriminately removing cases at their discretion.

Over-reporting most likely means the district is becoming aware of cases directly from people in its school (students and staff), and doesn’t need to wait for DOH. Or that the district is including cases that for some reason DOH isn’t.

Neither is necessarily good or bad, provided the different circumstances that could lead to either result. With communication, we could better understand why these discrepancies exist and how to rectify those differences.

Though in general, I would be cautious about trusting a district that consistently under-reports. They may be removing cases without cause. And knowing how much DOH didn’t include in their report (confirmed cases across the state) and their chronic under-reporting, a district the under-reports what DOH is reporting is worrisome.

I’d be more likely to trust a school district that is over-reporting, because it most likely means the students, families and staff feel comfortable reporting their positive tests to the school directly, rather than waiting for DOH to disclose (which they may never do).

DistrictStudent ReportingStaff Reporting
Indian RiverEvenUnder
Palm BeachUnderOver
St. JohnsOverEven
Data compares cases reported by districts from 9/6-9/26 with cases reported by DOH for time same time period.

There’s another statistic in there that DOH is likely hoping you won’t notice in their giant spreadsheet – the figures of symptomatic vs asymptomatic.

Across all counties (using only the DOH data), 76% of cases reported one or more symptom. 19% did not report symptoms, and there’s no data for the remaining 5%

That may seem unexpectedly high at first.

But if you’ve been paying attention to recent research on the subject, you’d know that 76% symptomatic is actually a low figure. The CDC showed that only 3% of school-aged children reported having no symptoms.

We’ll talk more about how this data compares with the recent CDC report on cases in school-aged children from May to Sept tomorrow, both here on our blog, on The Covid Monitor site, and with CNN’s Don Lemon.

We’ll also get into temporal data, which this DOH document does not provide.

It’s important to note that most of the schools in Miami-Dade/Broward/Palm Beach counties were online for the majority of this period, and some are continuing online into October.

Diving into the school data later this week:

When we drill down to the school-level data provided by DOH, the problems get even worse.

My son’s school confirmed its two cases during the time period of DOH’s reporting. I found about those cases first from an anonymous tip to The Covid Monitor. His school is not even listed in the DOH data. From the responses online within the first few hours of this report being released, a lot of schools were left off from this data. We’re working to validate exactly what was removed and why in the next few days.

Here are the 10 schools DOH claims have the most case, Consistent with district and CDC findings, all but one are high schools.

SchoolCountyLevelStudent Cases% Reporting one or more symptom
OLYMPIA HIGHOrangeHigh1267
NEWSOME HIGH SCHOOLHillsboroughHigh1060

Something I’ll discuss more in the coming days is how teacher cases are far more likely to occur in the elementary setting than they are the high school setting. In fact, according to DOH, there are only 17 schools in the state where more than 1 teacher has had a confirmed case – 78% were in elementary schools.

Of course this data is absolutely wrong, because Hillsborough alone reported 43 schools in its district with more than teacher or staff member case, totaling 58 cases in all. 43% were elementary staff, 38% high, and 19% middle.

Across the 20 districts that report cases by student/staff by grade level, the percent of student-staff cases goes from 54% student – 38% staff in elementary schools, to 70% student – 21% staff in high school.

The counties that report data for cases by student and staff by school level are:

Indian River
Palm Beach

We have more coming, so stay tuned!

How a change in reporting policy created a dramatic change in counting deaths

Article by the Badger

Recent Changes in Florida’s Covid-19 Death Reporting

Recently we wrote about the increasing delays in reporting Covid-19 deaths in Florida.

As an example: deaths reported in the two-week period between July 21 and August 3, the 50th, 75th, and 95th percentile of days between date of death and date of report was 5, 10, and 20, respectively.

For the week of August 23 to 29, these figures have increased to 12, 28, and 41 days.

This suggests that the number of deaths that occurred in mid-to-late July (and through August, most likely) was far higher than what “current” reports indicated, complicating inferences about the trends in deaths by day.

After reaching out to the Florida Department of Health about the dramatic change in reporting, they confirmed in an email that the official policy of how they reported deaths changed sometime between June and August.

From March through at least May, as soon as DOH learned that a covid-19 positive person had died from complications of the illness, whether from a hospital, the police, or other authoritative source, they updated the case line data to reflect that information.

Sometime later, the state would receive the official death certificate from the Medical Examiner’s office and THEN add the official date of death to their internal data.  

This time death-by-date-of-death data used to be represented on DOH’s now-bug-ridden dashboard as the number of resident deaths per date by county.

But two changes occurred during the summer:

First, DOH no longer allows users to view deaths by date of death for each county. The data is state-wide only.

Second, they stopped adding deaths when they were notified, and began waiting for the arrival of the death certificate before adding any information about the deaths to their count.

When asked when this change occurred and why, DOH responded, “Unfortunately, I do not have an exact date of the change,” followed by the stock response of “This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation…”

The timing seems somewhat suspect as the change in reporting appears at the peak of deaths, perhaps to slow the number of deaths being reported and spread them out over a longer span of time. It could simply be a focus on clearing out the large backlog of deaths in July, or that the state’s scantly-staffed offices were overwhelmed. Maybe the change the Medical Examiner’s office made to allow doctors to sign off on death certificates plays a role here. Without answers from DOH, there’s no telling why or how it happened; we can only look at how the change played out in the data.

The figure above shows the cumulative count of deaths reported by date of death. The blue lines are deaths that occurred between July 20 and August 6; the red lines are deaths that occurred August 7 onward (omitting the most recent 10 days). Note that the date labels at the end of each line represent the current count (smoothed) by date of death in descending order from left to right.

We can see that the blue lines follow a relatively similar distribution. The change in reported deaths from one day to the next is gradual – a function of the trend in true deaths by date and the reporting process. In general, the distribution of deaths reported appears consistent for the blue period. Beginning with deaths on August 7, there is a significant difference in the distribution.

First, notice the large drop in reported deaths between 8/6 and 8/7. There is prominent periodicity in the counts by day but the half-cycle that begins on 8/4 and ends on 8/8 has an unexpectedly large drop.

Notice the change in distribution from 8/6 to 8/7. The red period starts flattening much earlier and rather than increasing linearly around day 14 – as happens in the blue period – it flattens altogether. It appears that even a third distinctive cluster may be forming (from 8/15 to 8/18).

Perhaps most important to see is the trajectory of the blue periods, which do not appear to be slowing; there are likely many more deaths to be counted from July and into August. For such a process, we would expect the count to level off and gradually approach the final value which is not observed.  

Some of the differences between these periods may turn out to be a true reduction in the number of deaths, and it is unknown how the volume of deaths affects the reporting distribution.

However, if reporting processes were to remain constant, we would not expect such a dramatic decrease in deaths in subsequent days. The significant and rapid change in distribution suggests a major overhaul in policy from the Florida Department of Health.

Whatever the cause, the effect has been an appreciable drop in recently reported deaths that do not appear to be entirely the result of deaths decreasing in this time. There is also an apparent stalling of deaths being reported for death dates between 8/7 and 8/13.

This information is important to keep in mind while sifting through the ‘deaths by date of death’ misinformation out there (namely, from the Florida Department of Health itself, but also from self-proclaimed pseudo-experts at “business” schools).

There has very clearly been a change in the reporting of deaths and to use old estimates (e.g. 90% of deaths are reported in 21 days) would seem misguided, leading to premature celebration and further poor decision-making by both politicians and the public.

A Note on The Relationship Between Covid-19 Death Occurrence and Reported Date

Article by the badger

Much has been written about the relationship between date of death and the date the death is reported by Florida DOH.

Despite it being a relatively trivial footnote in the Florida Coronavirus Saga, it has become somewhat of an obsession by some laymen.

While there is value in studying the distribution of time between date of death and the date that the death is reported, it has increasingly been used to push a conspiratorial narrative (i.e. ‘The Media’ is intentionally reporting deaths as increasing when they are actually decreasing). The basic argument – treated as some grand revelation worthy of a Nobel – is that the number of deaths on a day is not actually the number of people that have died that day; well, no shit. Would you like a cookie, Mr. Cole?

What Professor Cole and his like-minded disciples seem to ignore is the nature of arithmetic itself. The number of deaths reported must equal the number of deaths that have occurred. If some time periods are over-reported (reported deaths on a day greater than actual deaths) then, by definition, some days must be under-reported. Where is the outrage in the “misleading” reporting of that?Though you will never hear these self-proclaimed prophets mention this, the numbers do not lie. Let’s have a look.

The chart above shows the number of deaths reported (in blue) compared to the number of deaths that occurred (in red) on each day. Dates in the past 35 days are excluded as some deaths are likely to have been unreported thus far. The lines are added to smoothen the day-to-day noise (fitted with a generalized additive model.

We can see that in periods of increasing deaths (March 21 – April 10 and June 20 – July 20) that the actual deaths per date are greater than the reported deaths per date. This is not a conspiracy of “The Media” or Florida DOH; it is simply the nature of having to process hundreds of additional deaths. If we look at the first peek of deaths in mid-April, we observe a corresponding peek several weeks later in reported deaths – a ‘catch-up’ period (perhaps what we are seeing in reported deaths now). As deaths plateau and decline, the two are generally equal.

In theory, one could look at the past distribution of days between death and report to provide some inference into the ‘true peak’ of deaths. For example, if 90% of deaths are reported within two weeks, simply divide the count from two weeks ago by 0.9 to get an estimate of true deaths. While this may be a sound method assuming a stable distribution, changes in the distribution of lags makes this much more difficult in practice. And therein lies the rub.

The chart above shows that the distribution of lags has steadily been increasing over the past three weeks.

Deaths reported between August 4-10 had a median time of five days; that is, half the deaths reported occurred within the previous five days. Ninety-five percent occurred within 22 days. Compare this to the most recent week (August 18-24) with a 50th and 95th quantile of 8 and 33 days, respectively. Accounting for these unpredictable changes to ‘fill in’ reported deaths seem to be a fool’s errand rife with erroneous conclusions. All of this, of course, ignores the deaths that have yet to be counted. We know given a death is reported, the distribution of the date of death. It is increasingly difficult to know the reverse (which will never be truly known until long from now).

So what is the purpose in rushing to pin-point peaks of actual death other than to bolster a political ideal or agenda?

Florida officials have become infamous for premature celebration during this pandemic, so some measure of patience is needed when dealing with its data.

With the recent change in how medical examiner’s report deaths to the state, it’s unclear whether death information will be processed when DOH receives it, or if additional validation of COVID deaths will be required, further slowing down the rate of reporting, so all of this may be moot.