California has stopped removing or adding to a list of counties facing greater restrictions on businesses and schools as it seeks to determine the impact of an unsolved glitch with the state’s coronavirus testing database, health officials said Wednesday. . – the nation 525,000 positive tests. But California health officials say the real number is even higher. They don’t know how this is until they can add backward testing data and fix the problem with the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE). Incomplete data in the nation’s most populous state has hampered the ability of public health officials to follow up. with those who test positive and contact the people who have been around them to limit the spread MORE | Questions and Answers: Expert explains how problems can occur in reporting COVID-1
California has stopped removing or adding to a list of counties facing further restrictions on businesses and schools as it seeks to determine the impact of an unsolved glitch with the state’s coronavirus testing database, health officials said Wednesday. .
The state has recorded 525,000 highest positive tests in the nation. But California health officials say the real number is even higher. They don’t know how this is until they can add backward test data and fix the problem with the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE).
Incomplete data in the nation’s most populous state has hindered the ability of public health officials to follow up with those who test positive and contact people who have been around them to limit the spread.
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“In February and March, when we didn’t have enough tests, I’d say we felt blind,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Director of Public Health. “I’d say now we’re feeling blind again. We don’t know how the epidemic is going.”
In Los Angeles County, which has a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, public health officials have reached out to labs to obtain test data directly so that it is not state dependent. Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said she hopes to have an updated case count by the end of the week.
The CalREDIE system collects data from test labs throughout California. The state uses data such as infection rates to determine which counties fit on a checklist. Counties must go off the list for 14 days in order to reopen certain businesses and offer classroom education to elementary students. There are 38 counties on the list, including Los Angeles and every other major county.
In a statement, the state Department of Public Health said that while it works to “assess the impact of data issues on disease transmission metrics,” no counties will be moved or removed from the list “until further notice.”
The problem comes as California appears to be making progress against a wave of infections that led Governor Gavin Newsom last month to close indoor bars and restaurants across the state and shut down school campuses across much of the state. On Wednesday, the state only reported about 5,300 new cases of the virus, a far cry from the high of nearly 13,000 reported about two weeks ago.
The state’s infection rate, a harbinger of how much hospitalizations are likely to rise, has dropped rapidly in the past week as the data problem became apparent. It stood at 5.5% on Wednesday, but it is unclear whether the decline will be so pronounced when the additional data is added.
Meanwhile, hospitalization data showed improvement. It is collected differently and in the past two weeks it has decreased by more than 12% to 6,184 patients.
County health officials say without knowing how many cases are missing, it’s hard to know where the virus is heading.
In Riverside County, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, a public health official, said the county’s virus case rate is now frozen at too high a level for elementary schools to ask for a waiver to reopen classrooms. Kaiser told school officials in a letter that the state will not accept waivers until the county has a reliable case rate and is below the state-imposed level – 200 cases for every 100.00 residents. Riverside rate is now 202.
In San Francisco, public health officials receive test reports directly from the labs so they don’t depend on the state to track or trace cases, said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. But long delays can make contact tracing useless, seen as a key tool to stop the spread of the disease.
“From a disease control perspective, the more time infected and infectious people have without isolating themselves, the more people will be exposed,” he said.
In Los Angeles County, Ferrer urged anyone who tested positive to call county health officials so they can conduct a contact tracing interview and identify those who may have been exposed so as to avoid infecting others.
“We are really concerned that we are missing out on some cases and that this may actually lead to some small increases in transmission in the weeks to come,” he said.
Associated Press writer Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco and Adam Beam in Sacramento contributed to this report.