Alameda County remains on COVID-19 watchlist while state works to fix data malfunction

The county was placed on the watchlist one month ago, along with surrounding regions.

A technical glitch in the state’s COVID-19 data reporting system, CalREDIE, now being fixed, was believed to be resulting in a widespread underreporting of cases in the state and Berkeley. Photo: Pete Rosos

COVID-19 trends in California show continued improvement after the state eliminated a large backlog of tests over the weekend, but Alameda County and most other Bay Area regions will remain on its “watchlist” with limited reopening activity while the numbers are finalized.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his press briefing on Monday that the state is responding quickly to improve the programs that caused an error that was made public last week, which included an outdated, “inherited” information technology system. A technical glitch in the state’s COVID-19 data reporting system, CalREDIE, was believed to be resulting in a widespread underreporting of cases in the state and Berkeley. The state public health department said it affected positive case counts, but not deaths and hospitalizations, which are reported through a different system

The state resolved between 250,000 to 300,000 cases backlogged in the CalREDIE system over the weekend, and counties are now processing them to report back complete numbers.

“I can assure you we haven’t been passive about addressing the concerns of large-scale information technology systems here in the state of California that are decades and decades old, simply incapable of meeting this moment – let alone a pre-COVID moment – in terms of efficacy, efficiency and capacity,” Newsom said.

There are several criteria for watchlist counties, such as having more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, 10% or greater increase in hospitalized patients over the past three days, and doing fewer than 150 tests per 100,000 residents daily. Alameda County has been on the state watchlist for one month now.

Berkeley has updated its case totals through Monday but Alameda County has not yet released the latest numbers. As of Tuesday, there are 448 cases of COVID-19 in Berkeley with a 2.11% positive rate, and four deaths. These numbers are still incomplete, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko.

Public health officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez said the state data delays are a concern, but city staff are continuing contact tracing efforts, and implementing quarantines and isolation when needed. She emphasized that anyone who suspects they have COVID-19 should stay home.

“We’re lucky to live in a state that has been actively engaged in slowing this virus earlier than anywhere else in the nation.” — Dr. Lisa Hernandez

“These data reporting delays can impact disease control efforts. Therefore, we are appreciative that the state has been moving rapidly to address this situation, and we’re lucky to live in a state that has been actively engaged in slowing this virus earlier than anywhere else in the nation,”
she said.

Over 9 million tests have been conducted throughout the state, and hospitalizations have been tending downward by 19% over the last two weeks. Newsom said these figures, as well as a decline in ICU admissions are “encouraging,” but do not reflect the stability and long-term decline needed to move forward with reopening. There have also been an average of 137 people dying each day from the virus, Newsom noted.

California Department of Public Health director Dr. Sonia Angell resigned on Sunday following the announcement of the technical error, but Newsom declined to comment on the reason behind her departure on Monday. Former Alameda County public health officer Dr. Erica Pan and Sandra Shewry, vice president of a healthcare nonprofit, will now split the role.