After a spiraling coronavirus outbreak that pushed California to the most infections in the U.S., the trends appear to be brightening: Daily reported cases have plunged, as has the rate of tests that come back positive.
The trouble is, it’s unclear if those figures are accurate.
California officials have uncovered a bug in their virus reporting effort — the nation’s largest, with more than 120,000 people tested each day. On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom touted a 21% drop in the average daily rate of new cases from the prior week as a sign of stabilization. The next day, his top public health official warned the numbers were likely too low — by how much he couldn’t say — and the state didn’t know when the problem would be fixed.
The glitch doesn’t affect the accounting of deaths and hospitalizations. California on Friday became the third state to lose more than 10,000 people to the virus, behind only New York and New Jersey. But hospitalizations have fallen 17% from a July 21 high, perhaps a sign that the current surge is peaking. Without confidence in the number of new cases, officials can’t quite be sure what’s going on.
“We don’t know if our cases are plateauing, rising or decreasing,” Sara Cody, public health director for Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara County, said at a press briefing. “I would say that right now, we’re back to feeling blind.”