California COVID-19 data discrepancies leave health official 'feeling blind'

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Several issues are contributing to the state underreporting COVID-19 cases and deaths, California health secretary Mark Ghaly, MD, said on Aug. 4, according to The Press-Enterprise.

The flawed data shows COVID-19 cases dropped 17 percent in the past week while deaths increased 20 percent; Dr. Ghaly said the California health department has identified some discrepancies in data reported and is working to obtain accurate information from labs. The issues are due to a glitch in the reporting system that affects the number of cases reported, but not the number of deaths or hospitalizations.

Los Angeles city officials are frustrated with the inaccurate data as they try to make decisions about resource management and reopening.

"We just don't know if our cases are rising, plateauing or decreasing," said Sara Cody, MD, Santa Clara County health officer in the report. Some health experts have said California hit its peak of COVID-19 cases based on current data, but Dr. Ghaly's announcement of case under-reporting casts doubt on whether the state actually hit its peak.

Dr. Ghaly said the glitch in the state's COVID-19 case reporting system affected the seven-day positivity rate, and Dr. Cody said in an Aug. 5 news conference that the incomplete data means the county is "back to feeling blind," according to a report from a local CBS station.

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