On Tuesday, California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that COVID-19 rate drops reported by Governor Gavin Newsom during a press conference on Monday was not accurate, meaning that California possibly saw a rise in positive cases once again.
State, Counties admit to lag, delays in final COVID-19 figures being reported
Governor Newsom had said that positivity rates in California had fallen from 7.5% to 7% from the previous week, along with an average number of 9,800 new COVID-19 cases a day falling 21% to 7,764 a week. New COVID-19 patients were also said to have gone down by 10%.
However, Dr. Ghaly said that these rates and averages are now in question due to discrepancies and county undercounts. While Dr. Ghaly didn’t go into details about how long this has been going on or to what extent, he did announce that they were working with counties to fix the issue as soon as possible.
“Over the past few days – the state system – we’ve discovered some discrepancies,” said Ghaly during his online announcement. “We’re working hard and immediately to reach out to the labs that we work with to get accurate information in a manual process so that we can feed that to our county partners so that we can validate and make sure that our numbers are accurate.
“And of course, we’re working hard on the technology side across state government to make sure that the systems are robust and capable of accepting all of this information.”
— CA Public Health (@CAPublicHealth) August 4, 2020
Discrepancies were first found as early as Friday, several days before Governor Newsom’s speech. Riverside County noticed that incoming COVID-19 cases were not coming in real-time and were shown to have lagging results come in. Placer County had also found similar differences on Monday noting ‘unresolved processing delays’ with other counties following with reports of underestimated statistics in the next 24 hours.
California vows to correct numbers, COVID-19 stat dependent organizations frustrated with incorrect figures
By the time of Dr. Ghaly’s announcement on Tuesday, California had a disclaimer on their COVID-19 dashboard saying “Due to the issues with the state’s electronic laboratory system, these data represent an underreporting of actual positive cases in one single day.” With many counties and citizens needing official COVID-19 rates to decide matters of local reopenings, knowing when to end self-imposed lockdowns, and other crucial decisions, Dr. Ghaly confirmed that the state is just as concerned with the numbers being off.
“Many counties depend upon the state’s information to keep their own data up to date,” added Dr. Ghaly. “Many public health officials and public health offices that depend on the state’s data over the past few days have seen a drop in case numbers. We’ve been in communication with them about what these discrepancies are. They’re concerned, as we are. There is no doubt that, their ability to address in a specific way contact tracing and case investigation has been impacted over the past few days.”
For some organizations, the discrepancies are already having real effects.
“We use those numbers to set how many of our residents can go out at a time, like shopping or church,” explained Kern County retirement home worker Linda Gomes to the Globe. “With the state having that 21% fall of new cases, that can equate to one or two more people being allowed to come with on trips as long as it matches county info. But now that it’s all off, we’re talking about a difference of how many vans are needed. Of how many volunteers we need to assign to these. Of how many workers are needed at certain times and where.
“We’re not taking chances with elderly people, and there is a real need for them to get out. But this is ridiculous. Real ridiculous. I know we’re not like a huge county hospital or anything, but having accurate figures affects everyone. And let me tell you, having over 100 elderly men and women sending messages and e-mails to me on complaining of not having enough people in a van or having too many people in a van because of the recent figures making our decisions is only made way more complicated with this.”
With drops in new COVID-19 cases and ICU patients being recorded statewide Tuesday with the new disclaimer, most notably in Los Angeles County, and decisions over schooling, sports, and other events coming closer to decision time, California is expected to come up with a solution and a return of accurate figures as soon as possible.