TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As many as 171 people in Florida may have been infected with COVID-19 months before officials said the virus was in the state, data shows.
Records show that symptoms of coronavirus were reported to the state’s Department of Health as early as Jan. 1 – exactly two months before Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the first two cases had been confirmed.
According to state data, which was changed Monday to remove the date of symptoms reported, 171 people reporting symptoms in 40 counties across the state eventually tested positive for coronavirus.
Those reporting early symptoms ranged in age from 4 to 91 years old.
Hillsborough and Pinellas counties had a combined 19 early cases – 10 in Pinellas and nine in Hillsborough.
Another early case came from a Sarasota man who tested positive for the virus on Feb. 23. However, the man’s positive case wasn’t reported by the state until early April.
At a press conference last week, Gov. DeSantis said he believes coronavirus was in Florida much earlier than the state had reported.
“This thing was here earlier than we thought,” DeSantis said. “I was talking to the head of the [Super Bowl] committee and I was like, there’s no way we didn’t have this in the Super Bowl.”
8 On Your Side has reached out to the Florida Department of Health to find out why the additional data was removed and changed Monday night but has not yet received a response.
By Tuesday afternoon, Florida had more than 37,400 confirmed cases of the virus, along with 6,330 hospitalizations and 1,471 deaths.
More than 467,500 people in the state have been tested for coronavirus, with 8 percent having tested positive.
LATEST ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
- High-tech wristband reminds employees to wash hands, tracks how well they do it
- Busch Gardens drops mask requirement for vaccinated guests
- Disney, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando change mask requirements for guests
- Publix to drop mask rules for fully vaccinated customers and employees
- Costco will no longer require fully vaccinated customers to wear masks in some stores