(TNS) — California’s efforts to track coronavirus cases have been seriously hampered by a technical issue affecting the electronic data system used by state and local health departments, a leading official said at a news briefing Tuesday.
“There is a specific component that feeds information from labs to both the state system and the local public health system that may actually be the place where data is getting stuck,” said Mark Ghaly, Health and Human Services secretary for California, confirming the issue with the state electronic case reporting system, known as CalREDIE, short for the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange.
The glitch could temper some of the optimism Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed for the state’s receding case numbers on Monday. The seven-day average number of new coronavirus cases in California dropped to 7,764 per day as of Monday, state officials said — about 21 percent lower than the seven-day average from the week prior, which was 9,859. If that number was accurate, it would represent the lowest single-day case count since July 5.
“The seven-day positivity rate is absolutely affected by this,” Ghaly said. The California Department of Public Health updated its data dashboard to account for the snag in numbers, with a message that said, “Due to issues with the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system, these data represent an underreporting of actual positive cases in one single-day.”
Ghaly did not specify how long the issue has affected the state’s positivity rate, but said state officials are “working around the clock” to remedy it.
“We are not sure we will have a definite fix to the problem,” he said. “But in the meantime, we are working on parallel processes — manual processes — to get the same information through the CalREDIE system to local public health departments.”
The electronic system is used by local public health departments in California to track disease data and relay that information to laboratories, health providers and the state, according to the CDPH website.
The biggest issue with the glitch is the potential impact it has on the state’s contact tracing efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
“It is absolutely hampered without the data,” Ghaly said.
He added that the state’s seven-day positivity rate is also affected by the bad data, and that officials would aim to update the rate on a daily basis as they work toward a solution for the reporting glitch.
Ghaly said that was part of the reason the state uses a 14-day metric of cases to see overall trends instead of one-day snapshots that may be susceptible to reporting errors.
"We often experience some lower-than-expected reporting,” he said, adding that the virus doesn't take the weekend off. “We often don't see high numbers on Mondays because Sunday becomes a slower reporting day for a lot of operational issues.”
Hospitalizations in the state in the past seven days have fallen 10 percent, according to the same data, with about 6,400 people currently in the hospital, including 1,940 in intensive care.
On Tuesday, the state reported 526,744 overall cases, including 9,705 deaths since the pandemic struck.
During the wide-reaching briefing, Ghaly also touched on the state’s evolving school reopening plans, re-emphasized basic coronavirus safety protocols, and commented on a large party at a rented Los Angeles mansion that drew hundreds of people and ended in a shooting that wounded two and killed one.
“There are guidelines about what we should do and how we should behave in our communities,” Ghaly said. “Attending a large gathering really doesn't follow that sector of personal responsibility rulebook.”
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