KEY POINTS

  • California reported an encouraging but  puzzling 37% drop in new cases in a 48-hour period of Aug. 1-3
  • State health officials determined unintentional human reporting errors were the cause of the dramatic drop
  • Californians shouldn't let their guards down against COVID-19, warns Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) again urges vigilance against the COVID-19 resurgence, noting recent reports of a decrease in daily case counts do not mean the state is winning its battle against the disease.

Newsom issued the warning Monday even as state health authorities said the welcome and stunning drop in daily new cases since Aug. 1 might be the due to unintentional reporting errors and not the result of an actual decline in infections. 

Data about the misreporting seems to have led to the cautious tone of Newsom's statements. Newsom repeatedly warned Californians not to let their guards down despite the noticeable drop in daily cases.

“The overall trend ... is showing a decrease from where we were over a week ago,” said Newsom. “But one week does not make the kind of trend that gives us confidence to generate headlines. We are looking forward to that and need to see another few weeks of this kind of data to come in to feel more confident about where we are as a state.”

Newsom again cautioned against complacency.

“This virus is not going away," he warned. "It’s not just going to take Labor Day off. It’s not going to take Halloween off. Or the holidays off.”

He said until California has quality therapeutics and until it has a vaccine, "we are going to be living with this virus."

Triggering suspicions human error was at play were head-scratching statistics showing California’s daily new cases plummeted from a recent high of 9,032 on Aug. 1 to only 5,719 on Aug. 3-- a remarkable drop of 37%.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services (CHHS), later explained reporting discrepancies were to blame.

“Over the past few days -- the state system -- we’ve discovered some discrepancies,” Ghaly admitted.

“We’re working hard and immediately to reach out to the labs that we work with to get accurate information in a manual process so that we can feed that to our county partners, so that we can validate and make sure that our numbers are accurate."

Ghaly also said CHHS and its partners are working hard on the technology side to ensure systems are capable of accepting all of the data. He pointed out many counties depend on the state’s information to keep their own data up to date.

He acknowledged many public health officials and public health offices that depend on the state’s data over the past few days reported an unnatural a drop in case numbers.

"We’ve been in communication with them about what these discrepancies are," said Dr. Ghaly. "They’re concerned, as we are. There is no doubt that, their ability to address in a specific way contact tracing and case investigation” has been negatively impacted over the past few days.

On Monday, California reported 522,000 cases and 9,500 deaths since the pandemic began, making the state the hardest hit by the disease in terms of total infection numbers. It has the third highest number of deaths in the U.S.

Governor Gavin Newsom imposed stay-at-home orders on all 40 million Californians on March 19 Governor Gavin Newsom imposed stay-at-home orders on all 40 million Californians on March 19 Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JUSTIN SULLIVAN