CA clears COVID-19 backlog as state health officer resigns

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of the Office of the Governor

After California’s public health officer resigned, state officials announced Monday the backlog of 295,000 COVID-19 records was eliminated over the weekend and counties, including Los Angeles County, can now process cases that will later be added to the state’s latest tallies. 

Dr. Erica Pan is the new acting health officer, State Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said during a live broadcast, following former state Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell’s resignation late Sunday. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom declined to clarify whether she was asked to quit and why. 

“We’re all accountable in our respective roles for what happens underneath us,” he said during the broadcast. “I don’t want to air any more than that, but if it’s not obvious then I will encourage you to consider the fact that we accept the resignation, we appreciate her work.” 

Newsom and Ghaly also said the backlogged records, to which L.A. County Public Health officials have recently attributed to undercounts, have been processed and are ready to be processed by counties. 

“We send it back to the counties to allow the counties to take a positive test and attach all of the relevant information, race, age, whether somebody was a worker in a health care environment so we have that important demographic information … so that we can be smarter and wiser about our interventions at the state level,” said Ghaly. “They will come back to the state over the next handful of days and become part of our final case count.”

Updates from counties to the state are expected in the next 48 hours, he added. 

On Monday, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county’s latest COVID-19 case count of 1,920 new cases, for a total of 210,424, was a “fairly accurate count of positive test results,” though they have yet to receive and process all of the backlog. 

The state backlog comes after a glitch in the current tracking system, which Newsom said is decades old and did not meet the needs of the pandemic nor before the health crisis. On Friday, Ghaly said the state is developing a new system.  

Newsom also announced $63 million in grant funding from Kaiser Permanente to support quarantine and isolation efforts and $18.8 million from philanthropic entities for public health efforts. 

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