USA

More than 13,000 new coronavirus cases recorded as state reports test result backlog

With a backlog of coronavirus test results now flowing into a state database, California reported 13,149 coronavirus cases on Monday, with additional older results expected to increase daily totals throughout the week.

“The issue with the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system has been addressed and the system is now performing as expected,” the California Department of Public Health said in a media statement Monday. “The entire backlog has been completely eliminated, and new cases attributed to the backlog will be reported over the next few days.”

Without an accurate picture of confirmed cases in recent days, many local officials who relied on the system had to conduct their own tallies to understand how the virus was spreading in their communities. The infection rate is a closely watched indicator for counties looking to reopen businesses and schools.

The Central Valley is currently the hardest hit part of the state, with infections spreading rapidly in places such as Kern County, where there are now more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents, and Merced County, where there’s 827 cases per 100,000 residents. Both counties have now banned outdoor gatherings as a result.

Los Angeles County has about 340 cases per 100,000 residents. It reported 1,920 new cases on Monday and 19 more deaths. More than 1,500 people are hospitalized with the COVID-19 infection.

State officials provided more details on the data glitches at a news conference Monday, where they said the reporting delay could be traced back to a server outage on July 25 within the state’s database tracking system, the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange, or CalREDIE, that kept somewhere from 250,000 to 300,000 test results from being uploaded.

The delays were exacerbated by decisions made behind the scenes, officials said, and on Sunday, the state’s director for the Department of Public Health, Dr. Sonia Angell, resigned.

“These things are unfortunate, but we are moving forward,” Gov. Newsom told reporters during a news briefing Monday in Sacramento. “I’m governor. The buck stops with me.”

But with the data now beginning to arrive, California’s case total continues its climb. Overall, the state has 574,240 confirmed coronavirus cases, more than any other state, and 10,476 virus-related deaths, including 99 that were reported on Monday.

After officials discovered the data backlog, the state stopped adding and removing counties from its watchlist of areas experiencing higher rates of transmission. Inclusion on the list subjects them to more restrictions than parts of California with lower caseloads. Thirty-eight counties, representing 97% of the state’s population, are on the list.

Newsom said he was confident that the updated statewide data on the rate of positive coronavirus test results would “look favorable,” and cited other public health indicators showing a 19% decline in COVID-19-related hospitalizations over the last two weeks.

That progress also includes a 13% decline in admissions to intensive-care units, Newsom said. About 8% of statewide hospital patients are being treated for COVID-19, down from 9% last week.

A new California system could allow local public health officials to grant waivers to reopen some elementary schools if the surrounding counties meet some state standards. Officials have said that counties with coronavirus transmission rates higher than 200 cases per 100,000 residents should not apply.

As hospitalization rates and ICU admissions fall, “more and more counties will have an opportunity to consider the waiver process and determine if it is the right thing” for local school districts, said Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary.

Officials in Los Angeles County have said that no elementary schools will be allowed to reopen immediately. Teachers, administrators and other staff will still be allowed to return to school buildings if they observe social distancing and wear face coverings, officials said.

Times staff writers Taryn Luna and Melody Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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