Some sort of data snafu at the California Department of Public Health — the latest of many since the pandemic began — meant that San Francisco's COVID case count was looking a whole lot lower than it actually was in September.
I know everyone's pretty tired of hearing about COVID cases, but you should definitely be scheduling your updated booster shots if you haven't already — the virus is still very much among us.
Back on September 18, UCSF's Dr. Bob Wachter looked at San Francisco's new daily case numbers and declared that he was ready to go back to indoor dining — only three weeks after he'd cautioned that things weren't all that safe yet. At that point, the city's daily average case count had dropped to just 38 — and even assuming that many cases aren't being counted in the official tally, that still looked low enough that Wachter said he would take his chances after getting his new bivalent booster.
But the numbers were off, by quite a bit as it turns out. The San Francisco Department of Public Health announced today that, as of September 28, they had corrected "an issue with CDPH data processing that affected San Francisco’s case data." That issue meant an undercount of 1,400 cases in the month of September, and SF's daily numbers were updated going back the entire month.
This meant an almost three-fold jump in the daily case average, from around 32 as of the 26th, to 87 as of yesterday — based on data from September 23.
SFist reached out to the health department for clarification, and they only got back with the same website statement, which further says that the new numbers are a "more accurate reporting" of the average daily case picture.
A daily average of 87 new cases is still down to one-fifth of where things were in early July, when the city was seeing averages of 420 cases per day. But it's not the kind of low number we want to see.
This likely will not change much for most of you as we are all pretty set in our ways at this point in the pandemic — either we feel secure in the idea that we just have to live with this, mostly maskless, for the rest of our days, or we still feel like we need a mask most of the time in public. The latter camp probably isn't going out to bars and restaurants so much, still.
Also, we now have the flu to worry about again...
Dr. Wachter hasn't yet commented on this snafu, however he did tweet Monday about the fact that while SF's daily case average had steadily dropped to 32, other figures suggested a different picture, like virus prevalence in wastewater, which had plateaued.
Interesting change in data landscape here in SF (& likely elsewhere). @SF_DPH case #'s have plummeted (32/d in SF; ~4/100K/d). But 2 #'s that don't depend on testing behavior – wastewater & @UCSF asymptomatic test + rate – are plateaued (fairly low but not falling).— Bob Wachter (@Bob_Wachter) September 26, 2022