Home Government DeSantis dismisses forecast of 5,440 Florida COVID-19 deaths by August as ‘conjecture’

DeSantis dismisses forecast of 5,440 Florida COVID-19 deaths by August as ‘conjecture’

A FedEx worker wears a protective mask and gloves Monday, May 11, 2020, as he makes a delivery as shops prepare to reopen in Palm Beach, Fla. Lynne Sladky / AP

By John Haughey | The Center Square

    Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday dismissed updated projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) that estimate COVID-19 will kill 5,440 Floridians by Aug. 4, with the disease’s daily death toll peaking between June 8-10.

“Has (IHME’s) model been accurate so far? Have any of the models been accurate so far?” DeSantis asked during a Fort Myers news conference. “We need to go based on facts and evidence and not based on conjecture.”

IHME’s model, which was updated Sunday, added more than 1,400 COVID-19 deaths to Florida’s total and extended the disease’s peak duration by more than six weeks in Florida from a model issued last week by the University of Washington-based institute.

The update was the first since phase one of DeSantis’ reopening plan launched May 4. It did not factor in his Friday order that allowed the Monday reopening of barbershops and cosmetology/nail salons, nor does it exclude the three south Florida counties that remained under his April 1 stay-at-home order.

On Friday, the governor allowed Palm Beach County to advance into phase one Monday, but Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which have borne the brunt of the state’s COVID-19 outbreak, have not progressed to the initial reopening phase.

The IHME’s previous model projected 4,000 Floridians would die from COVID-19 by early August, with daily fatalities already peaking in late-April.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) dashboard reported Monday morning that 40,982 people in the state had tested COVID-19 positive, with 7,224 hospitalized and 1,735 dead from the disease.

The numbers reflect an increase of 8,252 new cases, 1,625 additional hospitalizations and 517 deaths since May 1.

New cases continue to demonstrate a roller-coaster pattern with 398 new COVID-19 cases reported Sunday, 707 on Saturday, 783 on Friday and 353 on Thursday.

DOH reported 561,741 people had been tested statewide through Sunday, an increase of 79,736 over the past four days, nearly 20,000 a day, with an overall 7.3 percent positivity ratio.

Positivity ratio of test results is a key indicator in DeSantis’ reopening plan, which, unlike the President Donald Trump administration’s plan, gauges progress by declining percentages rather than declining case counts.

These are among nuances missing in IHME’s Florida projections, DeSantis said, noting the models also don’t recognize the state’s early adoption of a policy that did not allow recovering COVID-19 patients to return to nursing homes and long-term care (LTC) centers.

“What I have found on these models is they have assumptions that are totally unreasonable with no appreciation for how different states are doing this,” he said. “You take a look at what Florida is doing versus other states and, obviously, I think it makes a big difference.”

IHME’s state-by-state projections have been revised repeatedly since late-March, when it forecast COVID-19 would peak in Florida with 174 deaths on May 3 and kill 6,766 people by Aug. 4.

When DeSantis issued his first emergency order in mid-March and then extended it 30 days April 1, “mobility” tracked by IHME using phone data declined precipitously. Mobility was about 56 percent below normal for April, according to the institute.

With DeSantis lifting the stay-at-home order for 64 of the state’s 67 counties on May 4 and with businesses still under restrictions and social distancing protocols in place, IHME’s model projects “mobility” will increase to 34 percent below “normal” or, in other words, two-thirds of “normal.”

The revised projections still indicate the state has “flattened the curve.” IHME’s model forecasts Florida will have ample available hospital beds and resources to accommodate any anticipated surge.