Earlier this week, it was revealed a data system hiccup led to the state grossly underreporting COVID-19 cases. Yesterday, that glitch was estimated to have caused some 300,000 health records in California to go unprocessed — many of which were COVID-19 test results.
In a week that saw the Golden State surpass 10,000 COVID-19-related deaths, it was, as well, brought to attention a CalREDIE — which "was not built for this volume of data" — issue has caused a significant undercount in COVID cases, with many counties impacted. Though while the per county tolls are still unknown, it's clear that on a more macro level, somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 heal records, which included tests for the novel coronavirus, went backlogged because of the technological problem — causing a domino effect of misfortunes.
California COVID-19, By The Numbers:— CA Public Health (@CAPublicHealth) August 7, 2020
🔹 Confirmed cases to date: 538,416
🔹 Note: Due to issues with the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system, these data represent an underreporting of actual positive cases in one single day.
More info ➡️ https://t.co/TLLUGwPGY7 pic.twitter.com/eEBQsX35Yp
"Our data system failed and that failure led to inaccurate case numbers and case positivity rates," says California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly to ABC7. "It also prevented counties from having some of the data they need to monitor and respond to the virus in their communities."
Though Ghaly stated that no government policies were made based on the miscounted case numbers — which state officials believe began on July 25 when a server outage created a delay in lab records coming into the state's reporting system — counties across the state are still left wondering how to move forward.
"We just don't know, we don't know if our cases are rising, plateauing or decreasing," says Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody to the news outlet. "It's not just inconvenient, but this lack of data doesn't allow us to know where the epidemic is heading, how fast it's growing or not."
The current conundrum also lends itself a particular headache for state counties trying to get off CA's COVID-19 watch list. According to the California Department of Public Health, among the criteria that will land a county on the watch list are having more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days and recording more than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents at an 8 percent test positivity rate.
And with small businesses closing in record numbers — by and large, because of the ever-resolving opening and reopening cycles they've been subjected to — this state-wide technical problem is another unneeded blow to the surviving ones.
Ghaly also said Friday that no counties have been taken off or added on since last Friday, because the state froze the watch list in order to make sure its data was accurate before moving forward.
Nevertheless, the guilt is still there.
"We apologize," Ghaly added in closing, harping on how the state's antiquated data records system has failed the people and made containing this "uncontainable" disease even harder. "[The people of California] deserve better, the governor demands better of us, and we are committed to doing better."
In June, the Centers for Disease Control said they thought actual case numbers were upwards of 24 times higher than what had previously been recorded, skewing everything from mortality rates to "R naught" scores on both state and national levels.
Ghaly noted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that the state is "accelerating the development" of a new laboratory reporting system for COVID-19 — one that will hopefully run sans egregious errors.
The Bay Area's current confirmed case count sits at 60,360, which, alas, is likely skewed on the lower side per the mentioned CalREDIE cringe.
Image: Vera Davidova