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Decrease in people getting tested for COVID-19 has some health officials worried

Area counties see drop in tests from 12.5% to 26.7%
SUV arrives for coronavirus testing site at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches
Posted at 4:47 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 23:37:02-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — As more Floridians receive vaccinations against COVID-19, the number of people getting tested for the coronavirus is dropping, leaving some health officials concerned.

According to John Hopkins University, Florida performed 284.3 COVID-19 tests per 100,000 residents last week.

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Contact 5 reviewed numbers from the Florida Department of Health for the five counties in WPTV's viewing area. Figures show that over the past seven weeks, COVID-19 testing is down in all five counties.

  • -26.7 percent in Indian River County
  • -24.1 percent in Martin County
  • -14.7 percent in St. Lucie County
  • -13.5 percent in Palm Beach County
  • -12.5 percent in Okeechobee County

Dr. Gerald Pierone, an infectious disease specialist based in Vero Beach, said the drop is a "moderate concern."

"We don't aggressively seek anyone to test," Pierone told Contact 5. "They come to us."

"Last year, I was one of those guys who felt, 'Eh, statistically speaking, I'm not going to get it,'" coronavirus survivor Jim Coffey said.

However, Coffey did contract the virus, becoming so sick he spent more than two weeks in a hospital bed and needed a ventilator.

Coffey worries a drop in testing could trigger a chain reaction, leading to more people getting sick.

"Get tested, move on with your life," Coffey said. "But don't run the risk."

Pierone emphasized that testing still matters, especially for tracking the more contagious variants of COVID-19.

He also said federal health officials are pushing for more surveillance tests at health care facilities, schools and businesses where employees are at a greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

"Every week, we do surveillance testing of our health care staff and providers because we want to pick somebody up early before they pass it on to two or three other people or even worse, our patients," Pierone explained.

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