Data from the CDC is released every week to document cases of flu-like symptoms. Florida recently stopped publishing this data, reported the Tampa Bay Times, which could prevent health officials from effectively tracking the coronavirus.

Flu season normally winds down in Florida as March turns to April. This year was no exception — but with an alarming anomaly. While positive flu tests declined as expected, hospital emergency rooms simultaneously reported a spike in patients complaining of flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat.

But in late March, as state officials struggled to expand testing for the novel coronavirus, the Florida Department of Health quietly decided to stop posting the data in its weekly surveillance reports — a move that experts said could obscure the pandemic’s true impact on the state.

Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said he didn’t know what motivated the decision, but the end result is that a strong indicator of possible COVID-19 patients is no longer captured in the data public health experts nationwide depend on to help guide their battle to stem the pandemic. “If you don’t look for something, you can’t see it,” Lipsitch said.

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