California Coronavirus Testing Backlog Eliminated As State Health Officer Resigns

California Coronavirus Testing Backlog Eliminated As State Health Officer Resigns


Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California’s response to coronavirus following the resignation of Dr. Sonia Angell as state Public Health director on Sunday night.

You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.

HEALTH OFFICER RESIGNS FOLLOWING PROBLEMS WITH STATE’S COVID-19 DATA SYSTEM

The governor declined to comment on what he called “personnel conversations” when asked about whether he asked for Dr. Angell to resign and whether it had anything to do with the state’s COVID-19 data reporting issues, which led to inaccurate case numbers and positivity rates. Newsom said that he considers Angell a friend.

While the governor’s administration didn’t know about the problem with the data until Monday evening, problems with the state’s computer systems were known earlier but not reported to the governor’s administration, Newsom said.

“Forgive me for being human here,” Newsom said when asked for additional details about Dr. Angell’s job performance and why she was leaving. “One thing I won’t do as a human being is get into detailed personnel conversations with you, out of respect, and a deeper responsibility not to go into a back-and-forth.”

Newsom said that the data reporting issue was an IT problem, but added that “there were some personnel judgment questions as well.”

When pressed about Dr. Angell’s resignation again, Newsom added, “We’re all accountable in our respective roles for what happens underneath us,” but declined to get into specifics about Dr. Angell.

“I don’t want to air any more than that, but if it’s not obvious, then I encourage you to consider the fact that we accepted the resignation, appreciated her work — we all have a role and responsibility as it relates to what happens within our respective departments,” Newsom said.

Newsom said that he felt it was appropriate to accept Dr. Angell’s resignation.

California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that there were personnel changes being made in the Public Health Department and thanked outgoing state Public Health director Dr. Angell. The acting health officer will be Dr. Erica Pan.

TESTING BACKLOG ELIMINATED

Newsom talked about the problems with state systems tracking COVID-19 cases. The decades-old equipment used in state systems hasn’t been up to needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor were they up to the needs before the pandemic, Newsom said.

California has added system capacity to better handle the volume of COVID-19 data coming in, Ghaly said. They’ve also added additional oversight to make sure that the data is accurate. The state has been able to process four times as many records per day with changes made over the weekend, according to Ghaly.

There were 295,000 backlogged records — they have all been processed by the state over the weekend, Ghaly said. Those cases still have to be processed by counties, who add demographic information to those cases.

Once processed by counties, those will be added to the state’s final case counts. That information will be available in the next 24-48 hours, Newsom said — case rates won’t be available until the state has that information.

It will be a long-term issue to fix the state’s IT systems, Newsom said.

FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT RESPONSE

Newsom began by addressing President Donald Trump’s executive action on unemployment, which would require states to pick up 25% of a $400 per week pandemic unemployment assistance extension. The White House proposal would cost California at least $700 million per week, Newsom said.

The state doesn’t have the ability to provide this funding without cutting other programs, Newsom said.

“There is no money sitting in the piggy bank,” Newsom said.

When the national fund is drained down, the state would have to absorb the entire cost of $2.8 billion per week.

Newsom said that the program would leave out people with the greatest need and delay unemployment checks. The new system would require extensive reprogramming of the state’s unemployment system, according to Newsom.

COUNTY MONITORING LIST

The state’s COVID-19 county monitoring list was frozen due to the problems in the state’s data system, Newsom said. Once the data has been updated, the state will update its list, which currently includes 38 counties, but he said he didn’t expect any dramatic changes.

EVICTIONS

The state is working with lawmakers to address concerns about evictions in California, Newsom said. He noted that a lack of compromise at the federal level is making the problem more difficult for the state.

More than 50% of Californians live in jurisdictions with local eviction moratoriums, Newsom noted. So far, 62% of those who have fallen behind on rent are Latinx, while 9.5% are Black, Newsom said. The state is working with the state Legislature to protect vulnerable tenants and landlords, according to Newsom.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS: DECREASES IN HOSPITALIZATIONS, ICU ADMISSIONS

Due to the issues with the state’s COVID-19 data, an updated positivity rate across the state was not shared.

There were 7,751 COVID-19-positive cases Sunday, Newsom said. An average of 137 people have died from COVID-19 over the past two weeks, with 66 deaths reported Sunday. The governor again stressed that these deaths are a lagging indicator of COVID-19 spread in the state.

There has been a 19% decrease in COVID-19-positive hospitalizations over the past two weeks. Right now, COVID-19 cases are using 8% of the state’s hospital beds. ICU admissions for COVID-19 patients have decreased 13% over the past two weeks. Those ICU patients are using 20% of the state’s ICU beds. The number of available ventilators has risen, with 13,105 ventilators available.

There were 172,000 tests reported yesterday, with 111,000 on Saturday. The state has conducted 9 million tests so far.

FUNDING FOR CONTACT TRACING, ISOLATION, QUARANTINE

Newsom announced $63 million in grant funding from Kaiser Permanente to provide community-based support and services to help with contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine efforts. An additional $18.8 million has come from philanthropic partners to support local public health efforts, according to Newsom.

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