Oakland – Senior California health officials said Friday that the state has determined why its infectious disease reporting system failed and is processing the backlog of 250,000 to 300,000 records-a glitch that hinders the state’s highest level of decision-making .
“Most importantly, our data system is malfunctioning,” said Mark Ghaly, director of the California Department of Health and Human Services, apologizing to residents to make up for the mistake.
County officials across California this week have flagged a problem with the state’s data reporting system, saying this has contributed to the lack of Covid-19 cases. This makes it difficult to determine the trend of cases, and affects whether counties can allow certain departments to move forward-most notably the personal guidance at the beginning of the school year.
California has more than 524,000 cases, the most of any state in the state, and 10,000 deaths. Despite the data problems, Gary said he still believes that the number of cases in California has declined, the positive rate is low, and the number of hospitalizations is also falling.
He said: “We are confident in this trend… and believe that the trend has been stabilizing.”
Gary said that the data problem began on July 25 and was mainly centered on server outages that caused delays in laboratory results at the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE).
At the same time, he said, the certificate involving Quest Diagnostics, the state’s largest commercial laboratory, was not renewed at the end of the month, preventing laboratory results from flowing into the system for four to five days. He said that the state has since renewed the certificate and the intermediary used by Quest to route the results to the state requires this certificate.
Gary said the state has resolved the CalREDIE system, but acknowledged that the system was not built to respond to the massive laboratory results generated by the pandemic. He said the state is seeking to develop a new laboratory system specifically for Covid-19.
Gary said that not all of the 250,000 to 300,000 records are coronavirus cases because the system can handle the results of all reportable infectious diseases.
The state health chief said for the first time on Friday that the state had frozen its watch list a week ago due to a separate issue-transitioning to new federal reporting requirements for hospital data. The state relies on these indicators to help determine whether a county must remain on the watch list and impose stricter requirements on businesses and activities.
Of the 58 counties in California, 38 counties are on the list, representing almost the entire population of the state, and many states are tracking their status every day. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the CalREDIE issue has caused counties and states to stop exemptions for elementary schools that wish to teach publicly.
The state disclosed for the first time on Tuesday that a technical failure in the CalREDIE system could cause “Substantial” underestimation In many cases-but only after the county begins to make it public.
County Health Officer Express frustration, He said, glitches weakened their ability to assess epidemics in their communities.
The data problem revealed communication problems within the National Health and Human Services Agency. Gary said he didn’t know about CalREDIE’s problem until Monday afternoon. Newsom publicly released the rare “good news” that the state’s 7-day average daily number of cases has fallen by 21%.
Gary was forced to admit on Tuesday that due to the small number of cases, the governor’s numbers may be wrong. He said Friday that some state health officials were aware of the data problem before Monday, and his office was reviewing their internal processes.
At the same time, the California Department of Public Health told POLITICO on Wednesday that it is still collecting hospitalization data and recommended that this information is still used as a criterion for determining the status of the county watch list. The department said that in the process of transitioning to the federal data system, “CDPH is in continuous communication with counties to understand the situation and data to determine whether a county is still within the threshold.”
But on Friday, Ghaly announced that due to the hospital data conversion five days before the CDPH statement to POLITICO, the watch list of 38 counties had actually been frozen.
Alexander Nieves contributed to this report.