Florida Physician: Total Coronavirus Case Count Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

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Florida physician Leo Valentin says health experts and media elites looking at total coronavirus cases on the rise in recent weeks are missing at least half the story when guiding policymakers considering a second wave of lockdowns to curb the spread of the novel Chinese virus.

“Discussing case levels without discussing testing levels is misleading,” Valentin told The Federalist in an exclusive interview, emphasizing that “our testing increase must be any part of any serious analysis or comparison.”

Cases are indeed on the rise in at least 35 states, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. As of this writing, more than 3.3 million Americans have been infected by the virus, and more than 135,000 have died. Testing capacity however, has also been ramped up in many parts of the country leading to a higher case count as health officials identify more infected patients.

Valentin said that while the total number of cases play a role in determining death rates and clusters, the ages of those infected also play a “huge component of the fatality ratio.”

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“All of these factors allow us to accurately interpret morbidity and mortality. Number of cases without context, such as demographic and severity, doesn’t tell us the whole story,” said Valentin, a Harvard-educated physician who is also seeking the Republican nomination in the race for Florida’s 7th congressional district.

Valentin said the original intent of the lockdowns in areas with health care capacity concerns in order to flatten the curve served their purpose, noting that the “‘most important numbers’ now, will not necessarily be the important numbers tomorrow.”

“Right now, I suggest we fully understand what hospital capacity means and real availability of resources is (i.e. surge capacity). Let’s also look at infection fatality ratio and hospital capacity–particularly ICU capacity,” Valentin said. “Interventions, such as ‘lockdowns,’ should be last resort, transitory and tied to [infection fatality rates] and health care capacity, recognizing that these interventions have real consequences: delayed treatments for other serious conditions and socioeconomic effects which are tied to health care outcomes. These interventions can and will increase overall fatality rate.”

When asked about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approach, Valentin said his governor “did exactly what needed to be done early on,” striking a fine balance between implementing lockdown measures and protecting vulnerable populations with a targeted data-driven approach. DeSantis avoided authoritarian  orders covering the entire state that forced thousands of infected patients into nursing homes as Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo did in New York.

While cases are on the rise in Florida, its overall case load not only remains just more than of New York’s total cases, but its death rate is a fraction of the Empire State’s. More than 32,000 people have died from the virus in New York with 1,666 deaths per million. In Florida, nearly 3,000 have succumbed to the virus giving the state a death rate of nearly 200 deaths per million. As of last week, more than 6,400 New York residents have died in nursing homes, more than double the number who have died in the entire state of Florida.

When it came to re-opening schools, a position aggressively being pushed by the Trump administration to get children back to classrooms, Valentin said he supported the idea citing the fact that for children, “risk is extremely low.” Valentin maintained however, as have Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the White House that each community is subject to different circumstances so reopenings ought to be data-driven with districts dealing with resurging cases as needed.

Valentin also raised concerns over politicians and health officials celebrating some gatherings such as mass protests in the name of social justice while condemning others. In June for example, dozens of public health experts penned an open letter in support of the George Floyd protests declaring the coronavirus woke-sensitive while maintaining that other large gatherings should remain banned.

Just last week, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio did just that, banning large gatherings in New York while providing exceptions for those protesting in support of an anti-American Marxist movement seeking the radical transformation of the country.

“We have to be consistent,” Valentin said, explaining that the blatant double standards along with moving the goalposts from flattening the curve to waiting for a cure damage the credibility of the field. “People see that, and they’re not going to believe the experts.”

Valentin, who recently earned the endorsement of Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a three-way primary, is currently running to unseat two-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Stephanie Murphy in a diverse district with an even rating on the Cook Partisan Voting Index indicating an even playing field among the electorate. Political observers at the Cook Political Report and University of Virginia’s Center for Politics however, identify the seat as safely Democratic this fall.

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