The Florida Department of Health’s Covid-19 numbers are not always quite what they seem. And the lack of transparency is skewing the numbers being reported–not by much, but significantly enough that 11 percent of cases are not being tagged to individual counties. For a small county like Flagler, where there are still no official reports of a confirmed case, it may be the difference between an existing case and an officially unreported case.
Flagler County may well have one, two or three confirmed cases of coronavirus. If those cases were confirmed in non-Flagler County residents who happened to be in Flagler County, you will not know about them locally: the numbers will not be reported as part of Flagler County’s tally. In other words, if a St. Johns County or Broward County resident is being treated locally for a Covid-19 case, the Department of Health will not say so, nor will the health care facility where that patient is being treated.
And current Department of Health rules are such that DOH officials are barred from reporting those numbers locally, Flagler Health Officer Bob Snyder said.
“That is not being released by the Department of Health, at least right now, that is not being released by the DOH,” Snyder said this evening. The protocols “could change,” he said. But for now, cases are not being reported according to geography–only according to the patient’s official residency. “The county numbers, that’s by the person’s residence by county, so it is reflective of, ‘I live in Flagler County, I live in Volusia County.’”
Local residents’ concerns is with geography: how many cases are actually in the county, since the patient’s own county of residence or nationality is at that point not as relevant as the confirmed presence of one or more cases in the community. The Department of Health’s tally does not reflect that concern as much as it does a statistical focus to count overall numbers accurately.
Conversely, if, for example, a patient was being treated for Covid-19 at Baptist Hospital in Duval County after traveling there, but is a resident of Flagler County, then that case “would be reflected under Flagler County’s numbers,” Snyder said. But the health department will not disclose that the person is in Duval, or in a county other than Flagler, thus creating yet an other layer of confusion or obfuscation.
In other words, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Flagler County could very well involve a Flagler resident who is not at present in the county. Again, local residents would be deceived about the physical presence of such a case, since it would not be in the county. And individuals could just as well be in treatment at a local treatment facility for Covid-19, but the fact will not be reflected in Flagler County’s numbers because the individual’s official residence is not in Flagler. Nor will treatment facility or Department of Health officials disclose the fact.
“We are not at that point yet of full confirmation and disclosure to share that as of right now,” Snyder, a former AdventHealth administrator (when it was Florida Hospital Flagler) said. “We do not comment, neither does the hospital nor the health department, comment on the status or the situation involving any patient in any hospital, let alone our AdventHealth Palm Coast hospital, to protect the privacy, the confidentiality of patients in general.”
It remains unclear how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act known as HIPPA, which includes patient-privacy provisions, is being violated when the Department of Health discloses the mere fact that a person in the county has been confirmed to have Covid-19, though the person is not from that county. Yet that person’s status is being reported by the Department of Health as part of that person’s county of residency’s overall tally of cases–but DOH is not specifying the person’s geographic location.
As of today, the Department of Health’s official tally for Florida cases is 137, according to its latest figures on a revamped web page. That tally shows zero cases in Flagler. But the department reveals on a different page that the state actually has 155 cases. The difference of 18 cases is the difference between Florida residents and non-residents, even though those 18 cases are in Florida counties. One or more of those cases could well be in Flagler–a county with enthusiastically open arms for tourists and non-county visitors. As numbers have increased almost exponentially, claims have increased that the numbers in St. Johns and Flagler may not necessarily be what they are. Volusia County officially has six cases, according to the Department of Health.
Adding further to the complications and obfuscations: six Florida residents diagnosed out of state “are not reflected on the Florida map,” the Department of Health specifies.
So Florida Department of Health somewhat Kafkaesque Covid-19 census rules essentially go like this: If a non-Florida resident is diagnosed in Flagler, you will not see that number reflected in Flagler’s tally. And the Department of Health will not say where that patient is actually from, because the patient doesn’t actually exist, statistically, locally. If a Flagler resident is diagnosed in any of the 49 other states or the District of Columbia, you will not see that number reflected in Flagler’s tally, but the state will include the overall number of Floridians infected elsewhere. It just won’t tell you where they happen to be. The department will tally up the “total case overview,” which on Monday stood at 155, and which includes “positive cases in Florida residents and non-Florida residents tested in Florida.”
So existing rules of disclosure allow Snyder to make this emphatic, technically accurate but potentially deceptive statement: “We do not have a Flagler County resident that is confirmed with the coronavirus at this moment in time. That is all.” Potentially deceptive, because he will not say–he is not allowed to say–if there is a non-resident currently in the county, who has tested positive for the virus.
Snyder, of course, is not at fault. As disclosures go, he has consistently erred on the side of disclosure in his years at the head of the Flagler Health Department. Nor are any of his 66 colleagues across the state allowed to say what the net numbers are in their own county. “We’re under strict rules,” Snyder says.
FlaglerLive reported this morning that an employee at AdventHealth Palm Coast had reported that there was a Covid-19 case there, a case never confirmed by local officials. More officially, the company managing the hospital’s emergency department reported that some of its own medical personnel as well as AdventHealth Palm Coast personnel had been placed on quarantines.
The disparity between officially reported numbers through the Department of Health, and reports on the ground, including reports by the hospital’s own ER managers, appear to undercut transparency in at least in one notable regard with the Department of Health’s numbers. Snyder would neither confirm or deny the the case at AdventHealth when asked Sunday, and again on Monday, describing himself as “appalled” that a hospital employee would disclose the possibility. But it was a hospital contractor who disclosed the quarantines, in an official email to numerous hospital officials and first responders. (Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins at this evening’s commission meeting uttered falsehoods in the same breath as he was urging residents to follow reliable information: “There’s a huge emphasis on counting the people that have it and the people that are dying,” he said, noting accurately that there’d not been a “focus on a lot of people that are recovering from this,” before claiming that “I’ve had people say the local media here said we had a confirmed case at Advent,” which was flatly not accurate.)
Over the weekend, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, disagreeing with the Department of Health’s approach, opted to disclose the towns and the number of people under observation for Covid-19–not their names or addresses–saying the department was not disclosing enough information to allay public concerns.
The state Department of Health from here on will be releasing Florida and county numbers every day at noon and 6 p.m., according to the rules outlined above. Snyder said he would seek to find out directly from officials in Tallahassee whether the protocols of disclosure might change in the days or weeks ahead.
So where is there testing?? Perhaps that is why we don’t have any recorded Covid19 cases. No tests = No cases
Flagler should set up testing asap. Mullins should shut his mouth or go lick every doorknob in town.
Janine M. says
I was looking at a map by google and saw they have clearly marked KORONA in Flagler County just south of Bunnell!
Is there something we are not being told that google knows?
Its a town
wendy smith says
yes it is I used to live there and still it is treated as though it does not exist
Concerned Citizen says
I really hope you’re trying to be funny.
If a person with the Coronavirus is in Flagler County or in the Hospital under quarantine we should know about it even if it’s a resident or a different county. These results should be of where the infected person is, not where they reside. I am very disappointed ☹️ to learn that the truth is not the truth and is about where they live and not where they were while they were Infected. If I was in an area where someone was Infected I would like to know to take precautions. But with a map like this as to where they reside it’s not accurate. Please change to actual locations of cases.
Barbara Kipnis says
This is crazy! I don’t care WHERE the patient’s residency is; I want to know cases IN Flagler! Without names, how is privacy damaged? Everyone should be reported where they are, not where they’re from.
Hmmmm🤔 why do I have a friend in PC at Advent HC who was denied a test for 9 days. Now she tested positive and in the ICU. 9 days! But hell, no cases In Flagler because they don’t test! She is on a respirator! Who runs the Heath Department? We PC residences deserve to be told the truth. Follow the Volusia Co Sheriff and tell the damn truth! No wonder this county leads Fla in suicides.🤦🏻♂️ Transparency. Guess I know now how to vote. We deserve better.
wendy m smith says
I am so with you on everything you said. We are being treated like brainless zombies who will follow blindly our leaders. People must wake up and see this because this is too impt to be ignored and we are too impt to be treated like know nothing people. Now what does this city and cty plan to do announce mass extinction of the people who are not so richly endowed? Or maybe taken away to looney bins an secreted away like lepers used to be? I am tired of being bullied.
From what I heard… a nurse at our local hospital said that we do not have the test kits yet and that is why we have no confirmed cases. Also they told people to call ahead to see if they have finally have those kits
Name (required) says
Spectacular report. TY
Alphonse Abonte says
Your grandparents were called to fight a war, you are called to sit on the couch.
YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!
BARBARA ROYERE says
with all this hoarding we cant find disinfects.I as well as 18 cancer drivers are frustrated. We are volunteer drivers for the american cancer society. We drive patients to and from chemo & or radiation. We need to disinfect yourself & our cars before & after. People please stop. Only taken what you need. Think of others not just you. Many people take care of the elderly,I have friends with cancer or immune disorders they need these products. If you have a lot share it. DON’T HOARD IT.
@Is it permitted
for one to inquire as to what provisions/plans are “in place” for the disposition of the dead? The poor, and others undeserving of a life, already crowd the morgues. Looking around at the crowds here in the “Sunshine State” it would seem increasingly likely that hell may become more than half full – sooner than later.
Government sure has a way of getting inside their own head. It is not naive to believe the virus is not in Flagler?
Just assume it is here. Because it is.
Some of the same people complaing about the government want the government to be in charge of health care. No do you see why I say not no big HELL NO.
Nancy Walsh says
Honestly does it matter or not if the virus is here? Everyone should be extra careful to disinfect, avoid contact, and not panic regardless. Like someone else said carry on as if it’s here because it probably already is here.
I hope everyone is going to be fine, stay optimistic and be kind to each other. We are all facing the same situation.
Nancy C. says
So if a snowbird from say, Pennsylvania is currently residing in Flagler County FL through the winter months and has Coronavirus it will not be reported as a Flagler County or State of Florida case? If we are treating the patient here it should be reported here so we can qualify for federal help with more test kits etc. Our local and state officials need to fix this reporting issue immediately.
Shaking Head Here says
So we aren’t getting accurate numbers. We aren’t prepared. Yet The Flagler Health Department and the Flagler Emergency Management Office has been working on this full time all year? And everyone thinks they’re doing a stand up job? Folks, please learn how to adjust the bar! WE DESERVE BETTER! Relieve the inadequate job performers NOW!
Concerned Citizen says
Of one thing is for sure.
Covid-19 just showed us that our country is ill-prepared for a pandemic. And you think Covid-19 is bad? What about an intentional release of Ebola. Or Small Pox? Think that’s far fetched? Remember there are countries out there that don’t like us very much. And have every capability of using bio/chemical warfare. And don’t give a damn about the Geneva Convention.
If our country (and a first world country) at that can’t handle a bad case of the flu then what happens when someone releases Ebola? If I remember Mr. Trump even fired his Pandemic committiee because they weren’t needed. So now we have a President who put us at risk to make himself look good.
Remember the failures at election day. We deserve leaders who can keep us safe against all threats. Domestic or foreign. We deserve better.
Do you mean like the swine flu outbreak in 2010, when 16,000 plus people in the USA died and over 100,000 were sick. Do you mean like that? Cause that happened, but most people comprised themselves a little differently. Viruses are apolitical, they are equal opportunity infectors and they affect leaders of all spectrums, not just conservative ones.
Jorge Guarino says
My understanding is that at this time, we have *ZERO* confirmed cases. My QUESTION to FLAGLER COUNTY OFFICIALS: how many have been tested, and of those that wanted to be tested, how many have been turned away?
I saw 7 people at hospital yesterday looking to be tested in just a 30 min span
I live in Flagler County, FL. I have all the symptoms of covid-19. 3/17/20 I called FL CDC to find out where I can go to get tested and I was told it has to go through my PCP. I called my MD and I was advised to go to our local hospital, Advent Health Flagler. I arrived about 3pm on 3/17/20, was given a face mask and told to wait in off to the side inside the ER even though an empty tent was outside. After my vitals were taken I was taken to a ER room and about 20 min later a doctor walked in, I should stress at this point all health care workers in the hospital were wearing surgical masks not N95 masks. The doctor told me he can test me for streph throat, the flu but currently no testing has been set up in Flagler county. I was told to go home and self quarantine for 14 days. I tried calling National CDC, FL Health Dept and everyone else I could think of. So far all I was able to do is leave messages.
I work in the office for a local Home Health Agency. If I do have the virus my office needs to shut down and no one can see patients.
This is so unacceptable. Where can I go to get tested in Flagler County????
just enuff says
you better go to volusia if you want a test.
In Flagler Cty
Who can I call to discuss my specific health concerns and circumstances related to COVID-19?
Just do a little search and bingo about getting tested in Flagler Cty.http://www.flaglercounty.org/emergency_information/emergency_management/coronavirus_disease_2019_(covid-19).php
Where can I get screened or tested?
To report COVID-19 exposure and symptoms 386-986-7749
All other related inquiries: 386-437-7350
Your regular healthcare provider (preferred)
Florida Health – Flagler County:
To report COVID-19 exposure and symptoms 386-986-7749
All other related inquiries: 386-437-7350
They have very very strict guidelines. If you do not present with fever about 102, have not been out of the country or on a cruise that was quarantined you do not qualify to get tested.
I called that number. No one ever called me back. Best option call advent covid hotline
877 847 8747
If you hv good insurance and no deductible you can can medi quick or centra urgent care. You hv to meet above criteria or you will not get tested.
I have UHC and hvnt met my deductible for year and they wanted $125 upfront. They will test you for flu and other stuff to rule out before testing you for the virus. And yes you will get billed for it