A week after the state learned of a pair of technical issues resulting in 295,000 uncounted COVID-19 tests, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the backlog has been cleared and hinted that the departure of a top public health official was related to the incident.
Dr. Sonia Angell resigned as director of the California Department of Public Health on Sunday, after less than a year on the job. Though, in an email to colleagues, she did not offer an explanation for her departure.
Newsom initially declined to provide details on Angell’s resignation in a press briefing Monday, citing it as a personnel matter. After being pressed by reporters, the governor said: “I accepted her resignation. We’re all accountable for our respective roles and what happens underneath us. I don’t want to air any more than that.”
He did not say whether he asked for Angell’s notice. While Newsom maintains he learned of the issues with California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE), the state’s disease reporting system, on the evening of Aug. 3, some counties said they were told of the issue by CDPH on July 31, leaving open the possibility that Angell or one of her deputies knew of the issue but waited days to alert top state officials.
Counties are still processing the backlogged results, which will likely result in higher-than-usual numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases at state and local levels in the coming days.
But Newsom said all indications are the coronavirus is continuing to slow down in California after spiking in June and July. He also pointed out that hospitalizations continue to decline statewide.
“Those numbers don’t lie,” he said.
California Can’t Afford Trump’s UI Order
The governor began his news conference by noting his disappointment that congressional leaders did not reach a deal on a new coronavirus aid package following the expiration of a $600 weekly unemployment boost.
He said executive orders signed by President Donald Trump over the weekend would be unworkable for California due to a requirement that states pay for a portion of a new $400-per-week unemployment benefit.
Newsom said that would cost the state nearly $700 million per week, which it cannot afford.
“We need the federal government to front those dollars. We simply do not have the capacity,” he said.
The governor has called for additional federal aid to states responding to the pandemic amid their own budget struggles. Thanks to plummeting tax revenues, California had a $54 billion deficit when lawmakers passed a budget earlier this summer
Newsom also said he is working with legislative leaders on a longer-term solution for renters facing possible eviction when a moratorium expires later this month. He noted that around 75% of renters who have fallen behind are either Latinx or Black Californians — groups who are infected and dying of the virus at disproportionately high rates.
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