California public health chief resigns amid coronavirus ‘data glitch’

It has been suspected by some that the numbers of positive cases and even deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus pandemic have been plagued by innacuracies, and now evidence has emerged which suggests that that is indeed the case in California.

Now, just days after it was publicly acknowledged that there was a huge “data glitch” involving cases reported by the California Department of Public Health, the top official in charge of that agency has abruptly resigned from her position, potentially at the urging of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, Just the News reported.

Health chief resigns

Dr. Sonia Angell, who served in a dual role as California’s top public health officer as well as director of the Public Health Department, submitted her immediate resignation on Sunday, which was accepted by Gov. Newsom.

Angell had been a leading figure in the state’s fight against COVID-19 from the very start, and while she praised the department for its work under her guidance, and Newsom thanked her for her work following her resignation, it seemed obvious that there was some sort of connection between her departure and the revelation of the data problem just days earlier.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Newsom declined to say whether he’d asked Angell to resign or not, but seemed to indicate that such was a possibility when he told reporters on Monday, “I accepted her resignation. We’re all accountable in our respective roles for what happens underneath us.”

“Data glitch” plagued state

As for the so-called “data glitch” that was just admitted last week — of which some officials were aware prior to the public acknowledgment — it was reported that the state had dramatically undercounted positive test results — perhaps by as many as 300,000 — in reports issued to the dozens of county health departments across the state.

While the glitch — which was actually two separate errors — has supposedly been fixed and a backlog of test results has now been processed, the inaccurate information is believed to have hindered pandemic-related decision-making at both the state and county level.

Indeed, with more than half a million reported cases already and at least 10,000 Californians dead from the viral contagion, the failure to include upwards of 300,000 positive test results into the totals would have led to incredibly inaccurate estimations regarding the spread of the virus or, perhaps more importantly, the true mortality rate of deaths compared to total cases.

Consider that with fewer reported positive cases than there actually were, the death toll would subsequently appear higher than it actually was, which may well have contributed to decisions by Newsom and other state health officials to reimpose lockdown restrictions on businesses and residents that had briefly been lifted earlier in the summer.

GOP assemblyman wants hearings

Meanwhile, Republican California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley has now called for hearings in the appropriate Assembly committees to get to the bottom of the reported glitch.

Kiley made it clear in a tweet and letter that “Governor Newsom and his ousted Public Health Director must appear before the Legislature to answer for their disastrous bungling of California’s COVID case data.”

It will be interesting to see if the Democratic-controlled California Assembly will actually hold those hearings and what both Newsom and Angell have to say about the glitch, the decisions based off of inaccurate numbers, and whether these things were factors in Angell’s sudden resignation.

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