Just yesterday, California officials said that a a technical glitch in the state’s reporting system has resulted in an undercount of new coronavirus cases. The state’s top health official said on Tuesday that local officials had seen a drop in case numbers “over the past few days.”
Later in the day, the Los Angeles Public Health Department revealed it had been flagging issues for about “two weeks.”
Today, Los Angeles Mayor extended the potential timeline of reporting problems far beyond that. “We don’t believe that it’s something that just happened in the last two or three weeks,” he said. “The state has told us that these reporting problems may have been throughout.”
That’s certainly different information that the state’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, had given Californians just the day before.
L.A. County public health officials said on Tuesday that they have flagged irregularities to the state for the past 2 weeks and are now pursuing “an independent strategy to obtain accurate data.”
“This is something that they’ve uncovered that has probably been with us since months ago,” reiterated Garcetti on Wednesday.
Watch Garcetti’s news conference below.
On Tuesday, a message was posted on the California state COVID-19 dashboard read, “Due to the issues with the state’s electronic laboratory system, these data represent an underreporting of actual positive cases in one single day.” There was no further information or clarification.
A few hours later, Dr. Ghaly shed some light on the issue.
“Over the past few days — the state system — we’ve discovered some discrepancies,” said Ghaly.
“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,” he added, “so that we can validate and make sure that our numbers are accurate.
“Many counties depend upon the state’s information to keep their own data up to date,” said 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.
Los Angeles County has seen a steep drop in daily cases recently.
On July 31, the county reported 2,651 new infections. That was a sharp drop from the all-time high in new daily cases, reported just two days before of 4,825.
The data glitch reportedly only impacts new case numbers, not those for deaths or hospitalizations.
On Tuesday, the case numbers fell even further. The county reported 1,901 confirmed new cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours. Those numbers will likely rise however, said local officials, when the state’s technical glitch is cleared up.
Speaking of the state, according to the California coronavirus dashboard, a record 200 lives were lost over the previous 24 hours. That’s up from the previous high of 197, reported last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Governor Gavin Newsom has been uncharacteristically quiet on the data SNAFU. While Newsom gave an update on the state’s battle with the virus on Monday, on Tuesday his director of public health, Dr. Mark Ghaly, gave an online presentation and confirmed the news. Newsom did not hold a news conference on Wednesday, either.
Since Monday, the governor has not posted a statement regarding the undercounts on his web site.
In the past two days, Newsom’s frequently-updated Twitter account has posts about the census, Proposition 8, the NRA and one pinned tweet about wearing a mask, but there is no mention of the data glitch.
Ditto his official Governor of California account, as well as his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
During the past two days, the governor has announced coronavirus waiver requirements for schools. He also announced the signing of a tribal compact, revealed several new staffing appointments and issued a statement on the loss of nine service members.
The governor’s absence is made even more curious given his recurrent insistence that the state’s decision-making is “data-driven,” including the decision to reopen after his statewide stay-at-home order.
One wonders if the state’s actions might have been different over the past few days and if the current spike in deaths — themselves a lagging indicator — might have been flattened if state and local officials had had the accurate, higher case data and been able to act on that earlier.
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