CA could see another surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases following fix to backlog of 300K records, officials say

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says up to 300,000 records might have been backlogged, but not all of them are coronavirus cases and some may be duplicates.
California health officials are warning of a potential spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases now that a technical glitch that caused a lag in collecting coronavirus test information has been fixed, but it could take up to 48 hours to get the data updated.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says up to 300,000 records might have been backlogged, but not all of them are coronavirus cases and some may be duplicates.

"We expect that over the next 24 to 48 hours, that the backlog that is between 250,000 and 300,000 records will be resolved, giving us a better sense of the total number of tests that were delayed," Ghaly said Friday.

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California health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly addresses COVID-19 data glitch

Across the state, county health officials say they've been flying blind, unable to conduct robust contact tracing or monitor health factors without timely information. Ghaly said the problem began with a computer server outage in late July, and added that officials believe overall COVID-19 trends remain consistent.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 53 new deaths Friday, while Long Beach added one more fatality, raising the countywide total to 4,919. The county also announced another 3,116 confirmed infections, while noting again that problems with the state's electronic laboratory reporting system is contributing to an under-count of virus test results.

With the backlog issue resolved, Los Angeles County and other jurisdictions could see a sudden jump in infection numbers.

The number of people hospitalized due to the virus, however, continued its steady decline Friday, falling to 1,680 in the county -- down significantly from the 2,200 level of about a month ago. The hospitalization numbers were averaging about 2,000 a day last week.

The reporting problems at the state level do not affect coronavirus hospitalization or death numbers.

"The lower number of daily hospitalizations we are seeing is an indicator that we are making some progress,'' county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. However, we need to see lower rates and our future success depends on commitments we each make every day about doing our part, working together and sustaining efforts that get us to the other side of this pandemic.

At least three high-profile parties have occurred in the L.A. area over the past week in spite of health orders against such large gatherings. One of those events, a party in the Beverly Crest area, ended in a fatal shooting.

"Our collective goals of slowing the spread of this virus and reopening and keeping open vital community and economic sectors means we must put off the parties, gatherings and trips to crowded places in order to get low community transmission rates so we can reopen our schools and get more people back to work,'' she said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has authorized the city's Department of Water and Power to cut off utility service to homes or businesses that host such gatherings. Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu on Wednesday introduced a motion suggesting various penalties for people who host parties, including permit prohibitions or having a certificate of occupancy held or revoked.

RELATED: LA threatens to shut off utilities at 'super-spreader' house parties after recent mass gatherings amid COVID-19

Health officials have noted that younger people -- those more likely to attend such a large gathering -- represent the bulk of newer coronavirus cases being reported, and they are also representing a higher percentage of people being hospitalized.

The overall slow progress in controlling the spread of the virus has forced area schools to continue online instruction for the upcoming school year.

The state on Friday released protocols for colleges and universities that eventually reopen their campuses, although most for now are primarily holding virtual and distance-learning courses.

RELATED: State issues guidance on reopening CA colleges amid pandemic

The protocols include face coverings for everyone on campus, physical distancing and six-foot spacing of desks, a ban on most indoor classes for counties -- like Los Angeles -- on the state's coronavirus monitoring list, elimination of shared-space areas such as lounges and game rooms and limits on nonessential visitors and campus activities.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.
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