COVID-19 cases could increase exponentially

OKEECHOBEE — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida could increase dramatically over the next two weeks as more people are tested, according to Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee County Emergency Operations Center.

There are huge backlogs for testing for the COVID-19 virus, according to information shared at the April 2 emergency meeting of the Okeechobee County commissioners.

The state labs take 24 to 48 hours to get the results back. The lab used by Raulerson Hospital is taking 8 to 10 hours to report results. Labcorps and Quest take seven to 14 days.

There are huge backlogs in commercial testing, according to Okeechobee County Public Safety Officer Ralph Franklin.

“The numbers are going to go exponentially higher over the next 30 days,” said Mr. Smeykal. “A lot of times the tests are lagging,” he said. “We’ll be coming to the peak of this in the next two to three weeks based on all of the models I have seen.”

He said the “models are only as good as the data that is put in them. As the data gets better, the modeling will get better.”

Mr. Smeykal compared the models to the forecasts for hurricanes. As the hurricane gets closer to landfall, the data is better and the tracks are more accurate.

As of Thursday afternoon, 7,717 Florida residents were confirmed positive with 128 deaths.

One Okeechobee County resident has been confirmed positive, but that person, a 41-year-old man, was tested in Tampa and is in self-isolation there. According to FDOH, 60 Okeechobee County residents have been tested, with 58 testing negative and one test pending.

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