Data Glitches Delay Whether CA School Districts Can Seek Waiver For In-Person Instruction

August 11, 2020 14:30 pm · 17 comments

By Theresa Harrington – EdSource

The state of California has processed a backlog of nearly 300,000 lab records related to COVID-19 and other cases, which will enable it to update its county monitoring list this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.

The data problems had resulted in an undercounting of the rate of COVID-19 infection and has led to the freezing on July 31 of a monitoring list that the state uses to tell localities whether they were ready to open schools or businesses. Without an updated list, districts have been unable to seek waivers in order to offer in-person instruction for elementary school students.

Officials blamed human error and inadequate technology and an expired certificate for a third-party organization that processes results for one of the largest labs in the state.

Newsom said the newly processed data has been sent to counties, where he expects that within 72 hours they will be counted on the dates they were collected, with demographic data added. This retroactive data will be used to update county dashboards over the last 14 days and determine if any should have been added to or removed from the state’s monitoring list, which tracks several metrics related to COVID-19.

Newsom said he didn’t expect the county monitoring list to change dramatically after the backlogged data is added. Currently, 38 of the state’s 58 counties are on the monitoring list, representing more than 95 percent of
the state’s population.

Being on the list means that schools can’t open in that county for in-person instruction. Currently, at least 5.8 million students are enrolled in schools in nearly 800 districts in counties on the monitoring list.

In addition to data on COVID-19 infection, the state decides which counties are on the list based on the following additional criteria: numbers of tests administered, positive test rate for coronavirus per 100,000 residents, number of patients hospitalized and the availability of intensive care unit beds and ventilators.

Based on the guidance issued by the state, no public or private school in a county on the monitoring list can open for in-person instruction unless it has received an elementary school waiver for students in grades K-6 or until the county has been removed from the list for 14 consecutive days.

During the freeze, county public health departments have been unable to decide on applications for elementary school waivers because they could not be sure how many cases were occurring in their jurisdictions.

Based on the waiver guidance, the California Department of Public Health recommends that schools in areas where the 14-day case rate is more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents, “should not be considered for a waiver to re-open in-person instruction.” However, Newsom said that variations within counties could be evaluated when making waiver decisions.

For example, in response to a question, Newsom said that in a large area such as Orange County, if case rates are higher in some parts than they are in others, that is the “kind of nuance that needs to be considered.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary for Health and Human Services, said the waiver process allows school districts and county public health officials to address these issues and to make decisions “as to whether that district is ready to move forward.”

He said county health officials are “looking broadly at their entire county.” As the backlog gets processed, Ghaly said he hopes more counties will have the opportunity to consider waivers.

Reporters focused questions on the data problems and why they resulted in the resignation of Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the Department of Public Health. Although Newsom declined to say why Angell resigned, he said it was an appropriate decision and noted that Ghaly announced Friday that a delay in communications about the problems would be investigated and people would be held accountable.

Newsom said he has accepted Angell’s resignation and looks forward to working with a new team that has resolved not to repeat past mistakes.

Newsom said he did not find out about the problems until last Monday afternoon, after he announced during his noon press conference that COVID-19 cases were trending downward. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that some local officials throughout California received communications from the state Department of Public Health the previous week about a problem with the CalREDIE data-tracking system.

While the infection data was a problem, Newsom said the state’s other data indicators on hospitalizations, intensive care units and ventilators are trending positively. Although the state has seen a recent spike in deaths, he said that is a “lagging indicator,” which he expects to trend downward based on recent decreases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

Tired August 11, 2020 at 1:03 PM


ZZ August 11, 2020 at 1:30 PM

Hmmmmmmm, the health director resigned…

America August 11, 2020 at 2:38 PM

Who will suffer? The children who cannot learn properly through online instruction, as well as children with autism and other disabilities.

Original G August 11, 2020 at 2:48 PM

Given the over abundance of this state’s bureaucracy, why is it we as citizens have to endure such a recurring level of pernicious incompetence ? ? ?

CJRN August 11, 2020 at 8:19 PM

@ Original, because the majority of our California citizens keep voting these incompetent fools in to office. We need to vote them out!

Pookie August 11, 2020 at 3:19 PM

Guess she took one for the team….

Sancho Panza August 11, 2020 at 3:27 PM

So now we are going to use data from 14 days ago to update dashboards—data that is ‘stale’ as quarantine window is over. I say throw that data out the window as it has been most likely manipulated six ways from Sunday! And the Director of Public Health resigning…something smells fishy to me!

The Fearless Spectator August 11, 2020 at 4:39 PM

Something tells me there is a lot more to this story……..

If you haven’t signed the recall please do so.

Obamavirus August 11, 2020 at 4:45 PM

The Marxists are is disarray
The federal bailout isn’t coming
The health directors have had their credibility destroyed
What to do.. what to do…..
Kamala is the most unappealing choice they could have made
It is now open season on Kamala
It is going to be entertaining….

Gittyup August 11, 2020 at 9:46 PM

Keep America Great!
Trump 2020 🇺🇸

Sam August 11, 2020 at 4:59 PM

That’s funny. So many health officers resigning this week. Why?

FPN August 11, 2020 at 5:15 PM

Obamavirus, Kamala is going to be Bidens care giver. I am sure its gonna get old fast, trying to keep Biden from saying stupid stuff. Its going to be very amusing. But seriously this is elder abuse.

Sam August 11, 2020 at 5:52 PM

Why would a woman of color want to sneak in the back door, riding the coattails of an old white man? She will forever be known as the woman who couldn’t get to the White House on her own. It doesn’t make sense.

Gittyup August 11, 2020 at 9:42 PM

Actually, if you heard Willie Brown take credit for her advancement in California politics, Kamala Harris has never gotten anywhere on her own. She got into California politics through the “backdoor,” so to speak, with the help of an old black man.

And, yes, she will be Biden’s “mouthpiece,” making sure his shoelaces are tied and he doesn’t ad lib. Pretty demeaning, but her numbers as a Presidential candidate were unimpressive because she is unimpressive.

Then, there is the problem with her, as a former prosecutor, jumping immediately to the defense of Jussie Smollet. You remember Jussie Smollet … he hired two guys to beat him up wearing red MAGA hats making it look like a hate crime perpetrated by Trump supporters. He still hasn’t gotten around to apologizing to Trump supporters for his deceit and deception, nor to Kamala Harris who was taken in by it making her look really, really Al Sharptonesque.

The Fearless Spectator August 11, 2020 at 10:17 PM

She used to ride on Willie Brown’s coattails also. It’s just politics.

MikeyV August 12, 2020 at 6:42 AM

She definitely rode more than Willie’s coattails.

Puffandstuff August 11, 2020 at 7:44 PM

And yet New York is opening in person classes

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