California’s governor, however, failed to mention the high new numbers in a nearly hour-long press conference he participated in on Friday. Gavin Newsom and local officials spoke at length about the governor’s Project Room Key initiative and took questions from the press. No mention was made of the new spike. Nor was any mention made of the recent furor over the governor’s restrictions on theme parks, which earlier this week prompted talk of a lawsuit from operators.
Newsom expressed approval at the line of questions at the event on Friday.
“This is the only one of these things I have ever done where I got so many questions on the topic the event was about,” he said with a smile.
The lack of comment is even more remarkable since Newsom has addressed the daily coronavirus numbers at virtually every daytime press conference he has held since the pandemic began. It is also noteworthy as counties across the state struggle to move from more restrictive to less restrictive tiers in the governor’s reopening plan.
Friday’s reported increase in cases is, in part, due to a big data backlog that delayed some test results, especially in California’s biggest county — Los Angeles — which saw a near record spike in daily infections to 3,600 recorded on Thursday.
L.A. County health officials estimated that about 2,000 of the newly-announced cases were the result of the backlog. That would set the day’s real total at 1,600, far above the 800-1,000 new cases in the past few weeks and still the largest daily case number recorded since August. But even subtracting the backlog, the spike is still the largest daily new cases total in at least two months. And that 2,000 case backlog means that other recent lower counts were inaccurate.
And there may be even more catching up to come. In its daily coronavirus announcement, the L.A. Department of Public Health said it “anticipates receiving additional backlog test results over the next few days.” That could mean more big numbers that bring the rolling average of new cases yet higher.
Indeed, Los Angeles County announced 2,773 newly recorded COVID-19 cases on Friday, along with 23 more deaths. That number is, again, far above the 800-1,000 daily cases it has seen recently.
The state’s coronavirus dashboard on Friday also noted that its “results include cases from prior to yesterday,” but there was no communication about how many cases in the spike were from pervious days. That is, of course, something the governor could have provided.
The data backlog is reminiscent of the (hopefully) much larger bottleneck that occurred in August, when antiquated state systems stalled reporting on about 300,000 tests.
At the time, Newsom said that the processing system is decades old, one “we inherited,” and not up to the demands of a pandemic. He said the state has “data bases that were never made for the world we live in.”
“We are committed to addressing these foundational data issues,” said the governor in August, before promising a “stubborn, long term, grinding effort” to create a system that works.
“We’re not going to just…band aid this,” said Newsom. “We are now accountable, accountable to be transparent in these things.”
His director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly said at the time that the state had “nearly quadrupled” its capacity to process data over the previous weekend. As part of that, it was able to process all 250,000+ backlogged test records.
No word if the scope of the current backlog is similar or a similar systems failure.
COVID-related deaths reported in the state also spiked on Thursday to 172 before dropping down to 73.
Coronavirus cases nationally also jumped to highs not seen since the July peak of the pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University, there were 71,671 new infections reported on Friday. That’s the fourth-highest total ever, and less than 4,000 from the previous peak of 77,362 on July 16.
Daily cases in the country have grown by nearly 15,000 a day in just the past week — infections dipped to 57,519 on 10/17.
The New York Times reported on Friday that hospitalizations have jumped more than 40% across the country in the past month.