In October, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) agreed to settle a nearly two-year-old lawsuit over COVID-19 data by releasing more detailed information spanning back three years on the state's FLHealthCHARTS.gov site.
At about the same time, the state stopped issuing its biweekly COVID reports.
After years of slow-walking or refusing public records requests for specific COVID data and changing the way it counts cases, this is another big change for the state's reporting. What information has been added? Is anything missing? Here's a look at the new data.
What has been added to Florida's COVID-19 reporting?
The COVID data in CHARTS now allows you to see data for cases, surveilled COVID-related deaths, and general vaccination status from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 to the latest current numbers, visible by year, month or week. The data is broken down by county, with a state total at the bottom, and can be filtered for data by race, ethnicity and sex.
This can make researching trends for specific groups of people easier, just pick your filters and time intervals.
The COVID CHARTS also allows researchers to see how many people died of COVID-related conditions by county, something that has been missing from state reports since June 2021.
Previous reports only went back a year, so this is a lot of information that's been made available to the general public. All data also is available to download in spreadsheets.
What is missing from the new Florida COVID data?
Convenience and context. While there is more data available, some information that has been included or curated on the state's biweekly reports (still visible here) is no longer provided or is provided in a different format. That includes:
Cumulative totals: You can find interval totals (year, month, week) for the state at the bottom of the chart, but there are no longer cumulative totals provided if you want to know, for example, how many people have died from COVID in Florida (92,292) or how many cases were logged in Sarasota County (126,763) since the pandemic started, numbers that were previously included in the biweekly reports. That information is there, you'll just have to do the math yourself.
Percentages: Same here. Easy-to-understand percentages of rising or falling cases, deaths and positivity are no longer provided for you.
New case positivity: This is completely gone. Once a measure of the percentage of people testing positive for the first time out of everyone tested, it was a handy gauge of how quickly and intensely the virus was spreading. It's less useful now that most people are testing at home and not reporting the results to the state.
Data on booster doses: The biweekly reports included data on first doses, completed vaccination series, and booster doses. The CHARTS data shows only "Persons Vaccinated for COVID-19." There is no indication of the percentage of Florida's population that has been vaccinated, how many people have had boosters, or how many have received the most recent one.
Charts: Again, the data is there. But the easy-to-understand charts which allowed average readers to see at a glance the increase or decrease in cases, positivity rates and doses administered are no longer provided.
Overviews: Also no longer provided: curated overviews by county and demographics showing cumulative and previous week's cases and vaccination numbers compared to the cumulative total and the total population, or recent and cumulative mortality rates compared to the population.
The result seems to be more data available but in a format less convenient for the average reader to easily and quickly comprehend, with much of the context removed.
Where can I find data on Florida COVID cases, deaths and vaccinations?
From the FDOH site at floridahealth.gov, click on Statistics & Data in the menu and then on the CHARTS logo on the right, or search for "COVID." It's also linked off the Respiratory Illness and COVID pages.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Florida coronavirus cases, vaccines: State adds years of data after suit