Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday immediately severed ties with Quest Diagnostics Labs after the clinical laboratory company “dumped” nearly 75,000 months-old COVID-19 tests, skewing the state’s downward trend of new daily confirmed coronavirus cases.
Though the company had already notified patients, Quest Diagnostics failed to relay information on nearly 75,000 results–some dating back to April–to the Florida Department of Health until this week.
As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Florida saw 7,569 new positive COVID-19 cases. Out of those, 3,870 were results that were older than two weeks, some dating back to April, because of a delay in reporting from Quest Diagnostic Labs, according to officials.
“The law requires all COVID-19 test results to be reported to the Florida Department of Health in a timely manner,” the state health department said. “To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible and Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida. The nearly 75,000 results date back to April and have little impact on the state of the pandemic today.”
DeSantis, a Republican, ordered all Florida executive agencies to sever their COVID-19 testing relationships with Quest effective immediately.
“This is the most egregious dump we have,” the governor said during a press event in Jacksonville, Fla., where he announced the state was lifting its ban on nursing home visits for the first time since mid-March. “Take today’s results and put them aside.
“This is not the way a lot of this information was designed to be used. We do want data but some of this data is just flawed,” DeSantis continued. “The problem is when you’re sloppy with it, it ends up impacting people’s lives and again, it shouldn’t be that way. It was not the best data to be going off of in hindsight.”
Tuesday marked a break in the downward trend seen in Florida case counts over the last two weeks — Monday’s 1,885 new cases reported were the lowest since June 12, according to the Miami Herald.
Tuesday also marked Florida’s twentieth straight day below 10% positivity of new cases, according to the state health department’s press release. Out of the more than 127,900 tests reported to the department by midnight Monday, 6.81% of new cases tested positive. Excluding the large Quest data submission, the percent positivity was 5.89%.
Quest Diagnostics released a statement blaming the delay on a technical issue.
“Quest Diagnostics takes seriously our responsibility to report laboratory data to public health authorities in a timely manner to aid pandemic response,” the statement said. “Due to a technical issue, our reporting of a subset of public health COVID-19 test data to the Florida Department of Health was delayed. This subset involves nearly 75,000 of the approximately 1.4 million COVID-19 tests we had performed and reported to the state.
“We apologize for this matter and regret the challenge it poses for public health authorities in Florida. The issue has since been resolved. Importantly, the issue did not affect or delay reporting of test results to providers and patients.
“Quest Diagnostics has provided more COVID-19 testing on behalf of the citizens of Florida than any other laboratory and we believe we are well positioned to continue to effectively aid patient care and public health response for the state. We remain open to working with the state Department of Health to provide testing that meets the needs required for patient care and public health response.”