California Governor Gavin Newsom held his first press conference in a week after it was revealed that his administration’s COVID-19 data collection database had been undercounting daily coronavirus case numbers for at least two weeks.
On Sunday, the state’s Director of Public Health resigned, presumably over the data lapse. Dr. Sonia Angell was the first Latina ever to hold the role and her resignation came after less than a year on the job. Newsom issued a terse, one-sentence statement thanking Angell.
Newsom was asked repeatedly about the resignation during his news conference. He repeatedly refused to discuss specifics of Angell’s resignation before saying, “I’m governor, the buck stops with me.”
Top Coronavirus Advisor To California Governor Gavin Newsom Resigns Abruptly Amid COVID-19 Data Disaster
As Newsom made his remarks, The Sacramento Bee reported that another recent resignation — that last week of CalPERS’ chief investment officer, who oversaw the massive state retirement fund — followed an anonymous complaint to the California ethics watchdog agency amid allegations that the CIO had approved a $1 billion deal with a firm in which he’s a shareholder.
Newsom did not comment about the reported ethics complaint
He did speak about the data issues at length.
On Friday, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly held a news conference and admitted that multiple errors on the state’s part had caused a backlog of 250,000-300,000 records in its case data reporting system. That system is used primarily to parse and distribute coronavirus data.
The error caused an undercount in the state’s daily new COVID-19 cases data for the past two weeks, said Ghaly. Hospital counts and deaths were apparently not impacted.
The data disaster is particularly embarrassing for the governor, who is fond of saying “data is foundational” to his coronavirus decisions.
Newsom said on Monday that the system is decades old, one “we inherited,” and not up to the demands of a pandemic. He said the state has “data bases that were never made for the world we live in.”
“We are committed to addressing these foundational data issues,” said the governor, before promising a “stubborn, long term, grinding effort” to create a system that works.
“We’re not going to just…band aid this,” said Newsom. “We are now accountable, accountable to be transparent in these things.
At the news conference on Monday, Ghaly announced Sandra Shewry, who led the Department of Health Services under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, would be acting public health director. In 2007, the state split the Health Services entity into the Department of Health Care Services and Department of Public Health.
Ghaly also said the state “nearly quadrupled” its capacity to process data over the weekend. As part of that, it was able to process all 250,000+ backlogged test records.
Newsom said that, after the data is back recorded to the day to which it properly belongs, the state will provide and update on numbers.
The governor reported 7,751 new coronavirus cases in the state. Newsom said that number of new cases is “accurate,” and not affected by the backlog.
Startlingly, the governor said 58.8 percent of COVID case numbers have “affected the Latino population.”
There were 66 new deaths for a total of just over 10,000. Newsom cautioned that that number may be low, as it often is on Monday, due to a regular backlog from the weekend. There has been an average of 137 deaths per day over the past 14 days.
The number of people hospitalized has dropped below 6,000, that’s down 19 percent over the past 14 days. There are currently 1,727 coronavirus patients in the ICU. That’s a 13 percent decrease.