California Gov. Gavin Newsom sought to reassure residents that the state’s data is reliable and trending in the right direction Monday, just days after officials first detailed a glitch that led to a backlog of nearly 300,000 coronavirus test results.
In an afternoon news conference, Newsom (D) said the state was working to “ensure the kind of accuracy that all of you deserve.” His remarks came one day after the abrupt resignation of California’s director of public health, one of the leading voices in the state’s pandemic response.
“These things are unfortunate, but we are moving forward,” Newsom said.
The governor repeatedly declined to discuss why Sonia Angell, the public health chief, resigned, and he pointedly responded to a reporter’s question about whether her departure was related to the data failure.
“Forgive me for being human here,” Newsom said. “You want accountability, it’s with the state, it’s with the governor.”
“One thing I won’t do as a human being is get into detailed personnel conversations with you,” he added.
The data debacle — and the subsequent staffing shake-up — occurred at a critical time in California’s pandemic response. After the state spent weeks bearing the ignominious label “coronavirus hot spot,” Newsom allowed for a glimmer of optimism in his Aug. 3 briefing, showing slides of lower-than-expected case numbers. But later that night, the governor said Monday, his staff informed him of the computer error that caused 295,000 records to go unprocessed, undoubtedly contributing to an undercount.
“We would not have put out those data points had we known that,” Newsom said.
Even so, he added, he expects virus hospitalizations and the state’s test positivity rate to continue their downward trends.
“I believe over the course of the next day or two, when we assess the total number of positives based on that backlog, you’ll see exactly what we said was occurring a week ago,” Newsom said.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly told reporters Monday that the state has already made changes to its systems that will help correct the errors that led to the undercount.
“Although there’s always more work to do, we are reassured by the level of collaboration and work that we have the right way forward,” said Ghaly, who just three days before said the state’s computer system “was not built for this volume of data.”