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California's health director quits after glitch skews COVID-19 figures

California's health director quits after glitch skews COVID-19 figures
A priest conducts mass outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Cupertino, Calif., on August 5. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 10 (UPI) -- California's director of public health resigned abruptly late Sunday, days after officials said hundreds of thousands of records -- including coronavirus tests -- hadn't been properly recorded.

Dr. Sonia Angell, who'd been in the post for less than a year, announced her departure in an email to staffers.

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California has had more COVID-19 cases than any other state in the nation, more than a half-million.

"Since January ... our department has been front and center in what has become an all-of-government response of unprecedented proportions to COVID-19," Angell wrote in the email. "In the final calculation, all of our work, in aggregate, makes the difference."

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California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said a data error caused a significant undercount of coronavirus cases. The mistake was human error, he said, combined with a server outage in the state's infectious diseases database.

"I am grateful to Dr. Angell for her service to the people of California during this unprecedented public health crisis," Ghaly said. "Her leadership was instrumental as Californians flattened the curve once and in setting us on a path to do so again."

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State officials said over the weekend that California had been underreporting its cases since late July due to the glitch. Officials say the problem has been fixed and workers are now going through a backlog.

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"Our data system failed and that failure led to inaccurate case numbers and case positivity rates. It also prevented counties from having some of the data they need to monitor and respond to the virus in their communities," Ghaly said.

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