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Broken Data Collection System Hinders California's Battle With COVID-19

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California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly

California appears to be flying somewhat blind as it battles rising rates of COVID-19.

The massive growth of coronavirus cases appears to be overwhelming state officials. California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said on Tuesday that the state’s data collection system is broken as the volume of cases coming in is challenging the system’s capacity.

The result: An under-reporting of cases.

He said that the state’s working to "understand in detail" what the problem is, and that the department doesn’t know when the system is going to be fixed.

The state is working to provide counties the data manually. But a note on Santa Clara County’s data dashboard provided a starker message: It said that without timely reports, it is impossible to identify the extent to which COVID-19 is circulating. It also hinders effective contact tracing.

As of Wednesday, the Bay Area’s nine counties have had more than 57,000 cases.

Sarah Lai Stirland is a freelance journalist and editor living in the South Bay. Her reporting background is in technology, science writing, law and policy. For the past few years, she's written about issues related to aging.