CA's coronavirus 'data reporting errors were completely preventable,' expert says

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- More than a quarter million of California's COVID-19 cases were under reported due to what the state refers as a "technical glitch," but cyber security experts warn the mistakes were preventable.

"I accepted her resignation. We are all accountable on our respectable levels for what happens underneath us," said Gov. Gavin Newsom about the abrupt resignation of top health official Dr. Sonia Angell.

RELATED: COVID-19 data glitch resulted in 300,000 unprocessed records, California health secretary says

ABC7 asked the governor's office if the data reporting errors were tied to the resignation. But, we have yet to hear back.

"I'm governor, the buck stops with me. You want accountability? It's with the governor," Newsom said after being asked during Monday's press conference.

Here's what we do know. There were two big mistakes.

First, the state didn't have adequate capacity to monitor the influx of data. Second, the state failed to renew a certificate, which is a standard routine practice needed in order to receive data from commercial labs.

The state referred the issue as a 'technical glitch.'

RELATED: Technical issue leads to CA under-reporting COVID-19 cases

"This was not a glitch, this was no glitch," said Jeff Hudson, the CEO of cyber security firm, Venafi, that specializes on data collection.

"The human error in this case was there, wasn't enough attention paid to the machines to prevent this from happening," Hudson said.

VIDEO: Venafi CEO Jeff Hudson weighs in on CA's COVID-19 data 'glitch'
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More than a quarter million of California's COVID-19 cases were under reported due to what the state refers as a "technical glitch," but cyber security experts warn the mistakes were preventable.



Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's Health and Human Services Secretary, announced the state managed to quadruple monitoring capacity over the weekend. According to Hudson, this means there will be four times as many certificated needed to be renewed.

After the system issues were first described by Ghaly on Friday, ABC7 News reached out to Solano County Public Health Officer, Dr. Bela Matyas.

Reacting to the news, he explained, "It wasn't built for this type of volume, and for this type of a purpose. It's being taxed very heavily- not surprising that it's going to have some glitches. That's sort of what we're experiencing right now."

Matyas explained Solano County isn't completely reliant on the CalREDIE system.

"Prior to the current data reporting system, most things were done by hand. So, we're just back to doing it by hand. This is not unusual for us. This is how we were doing it normally, for the most part," Matyas shared. "The state, to its credit, created this ability for it to happen more smoothly,
more electronically, therefore more quickly. Just because that's down temporarily doesn't mean we don't have the backup plan. The backup plan was always there."

RELATED: Misreported data makes COVID-19 situation look better than it is, Santa Clara Co. health officer says

Surrounding Solano County's readiness, he continued, "We're able to stay current with the cases that are not being captured by CalREDIE. The problem for us is that we then have to hand-enter everything into CalREDIE. So, it's creating a huge labor problem, in terms of having to actually do a lot of double-data entry that otherwise we wouldn't have to do. But apart from that, at least it's not causing any additional delays for our case investigations."

The state said an effort to create a new lab reporting system is happening now.

"We want to make sure we start out right to end up right," Dr. Ghaly told reporters, Monday. "And so all of that is underway, all in an urgent but thoughtful way. So we can make sure we support that commitment to data and science to continue to guide our way."

ABC7 News has reached out to the state's Department of Technology and Office of Digital Innovation. However, both refused to comment further.

"The state needs to have a system designed for this purpose," Ghaly said. "To make sure these machines' certificates don't expire and they are automatically renewed."

ABC7 has also reached out to several members of the governor's task force to see if and how Silicon Valley companies are assisting with the issues.

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