Backlogs in Orange County COVID-19 data reporting artificially decrease case rate

The Orange County, Calif., COVID-19 dashboard is showing the rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents is dropping, but that isn’t cause to celebrate. According to the Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau, MD, a backlog in reporting test results is artificially lowering the COVID-19 case rate.

The Orange County Register reported a sudden drop from 221 to 150 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past week after some labs were slow to report data to the health department. The local government has used the COVID-19 case rate data to guide lockdown decisions, but the backlogs have been “throwing the measure sharply out of focus” for weeks until the backlogs are rectified.

Dr. Chau said the slow reporting is an issue for counties across California and anticipates there will be a large increase in cases when the state fixes the reporting system.

Duplication is also a problem. Dr. Chau said on July 30 the Health Care Agency removed 1,337 live-virus tests from its original count due to duplication.

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