Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary – Part 2: Information is Beautiful – Early Florida Cases or Cover Up?

Author: David R. Kotok, Post Date: May 7, 2020

A reader of our “Information Is Beautiful (And Useful)” missive replied promptly with another Florida COVID-19 cover-up story.  Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary - COVID-19 The Best Protection is the Truth

The Palm Beach Post reported yesterday (Tues., May 5) that Florida Department of Health data indicated that 171 patients had COVID-19 symptoms or positive test results in January and February, long before any cases were officially announced in Florida (“Coronavirus Florida: Patients in Florida had symptoms as early as January”; May 5, 2020, 7:31 AM;

These are the key points from the Post’s reporting:

• All 171 patients eventually developed COVID-19. However, the data, which was posted to the Dept. of Health website, represented one of two things: when the patient first reported feeling symptoms or when the patient received a positive test result. (Because of differences in data gathering and reporting from county to county, the Dept. of Health could not disaggregate the two possibilities.)

• None of the 171 patients reported travel to China. Of the 171, 103 reported no travel, while 52 said they had. Three had traveled to Japan.

• A 4-year-old Duval County girl started feeling symptoms or had a positive test on January 1. This is the earliest known Florida case report so far. The state did not officially record her case until April 8. (Florida announced its first two presumptive coronavirus cases on March 1. At the time, cases were not considered confirmed until reviewed by the CDC.)

• The data does not make it clear how the state treated the patients or even when it was determined they had COVID-19.

• Counties where early cases were reported included Broward (31 cases), Miami-Dade (26), Hillsborough (9), Pinellas (10), Orange (9), Duval (7), and Martin (1).

• The entire dataset disappeared from the state website on Monday, May 5, then returned after 7:30 p.m. that day without the information relating to the timing of the reports.

By 5:04 PM on May 5, 10 hours after the Post’s story appeared, the Miami Herald followed up with a report that added these significant details (“Months before Florida leaders had any clue, coronavirus was creeping through the state,”

• 40% of the 171 patients had no apparent contact with someone else with the virus.

• At least 26 people who were later found to have contracted COVID-19 began showing symptoms in late December or January, and at least 8 of them had not traveled or had apparent contact with another person infected by the virus.

• One day after the Herald asked the Florida Dept. of Health about the early cases, the state stopped publishing the date of symptom onset for the confirmed COVID-19 patients. (That Herald inquiry may have triggered the removal of data from the DOH website that was reported by the Post.)

The Herald notes that as late as March 11, Gov. Ron DeSantis was denying that community spread was taking place in Florida, a claim that ran directly counter to statements made the day before by Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House COVID-19 Task Force. It is now clear, however, that behind the scenes the state was collecting data that suggested much earlier community transmission.

Incidentally, the Post also reported on May 5 that COVID-19 has already killed nearly three times as many people in Florida as the flu did during its deadliest season in the last decade, according to state records (“Coronavirus so far is nearly 3 times more deadly than the flu in Florida,”

We keep repeating that besides a robust vaccine, the best COVID19 protection is the truth.

David R. Kotok
Chairman of the Board & Chief Investment Officer
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