Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

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Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error
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By edhat staff

A major data error within the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) led to COVID-19 deaths being underreported by 28 cases.

There have now been 60 total deaths within the county due to COVID-19.

The data error occurred between June 22 and July 27, although PHD affirmed this did not impact the normal notification process to families. It was discovered on Wednesday during a formal "checks and balance system" and was reported to the public on Friday in an effort to be completely transparent. 

PHD Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso explained this happened due to a processing error at the end of May when they switched from manual data processing of contact tracing to the state's Cal Connect platform. During the transition the team lost count of death certificates that were coming through. This also took place during a surge in new cases where contact tracers were overloaded, she said.

To rectify the issue, PHD plans to add more data experts to their team and has established improved processes such as reporting deaths from death certificates as they're available. They anticipate a delay in reporting by a few days, however, due to the coroner's investigation it may take longer.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg stated death certificates are confusing as they need the cause of death, a little bit of history, and ay other diagnoses associated to the cause of death.

"Death certificates are notoriously complicated documents for any physician who has to fill them out and anybody who has to read them," he said.

He provided an example of someone who is in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) with severe pneumonia and also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung disease, and is COVID-19 positive. He said the cause of death would be respiratory failure due to COVID-19 pneumonia with underlying lung disease.

A COVID-19 death is defined by the state as a decedent having COVID-19 as an underlying or contributing factor.

Although sometimes doctors can be a little lax and say pneumonia due to COVID, Dr. Ansorg said while calling it an antiquated system that takes place all over the world.

How Do We Trust The Data?

Dr. Do-Reynoso stressed this data error is not unique to Santa Barbara County and every region is enduring data challenges in one form or another. 

PHD is continually refining data with safeguards in place which is how this error was caught, she said.

Supervisor Gregg Hart stated the county is committed to ensuring accurate, transparent, and timely information to the community. He stressed they are being fully transparent and wanted to share this as soon as possible as it underscores the severity of COVID-19.

"This disease is very dangerous," he said.

Data of the 28 Missing Deaths

Dr. Do-Reynoso stated of the 28 newly added deaths, 20 occurred in the hospital, 2 at home, and 2 within care facilities. Ten were agricultural workers.

The majority of those who passed, 16 deaths, were over 70 years of age while there were 9 deaths in the 50-69 age range, 2 deaths in the 30-49 age group, and one death between the ages of 18 and 29. 

The locations of the decedents were spread throughout the county but 16 were from Santa Maria and 3 were from Santa Barbara. Regarding ethnicity, 22 identified as Hispanic and 6 as Caucasian. 

During the first week of July there were 5 deaths, in the second week there was an additional 5 deaths, the third week had 9 deaths, and this last week of July had 5 deaths.

Date of Death Age Underlying Conditions Region
4/1/20 50-69 Yes North County unincorporated areas Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama and New Cuyama and City Guadalupe
6/15/20 18-29 Yes City of Santa Maria
6/22/20 50-69 No City of Santa Maria
6/29/20 30-49 Yes City of Santa Maria
7/1/20 70+ Yes City of Santa Maria
7/4/20 70+ Yes City of Goleta
7/4/20 70+ Yes Santa Ynez Valley inclusive of Cities of Solvang and Buellton, and Communities of Santa Ynez, Los Alamos, Los Olivos and Ballard
7/6/20 70+ Yes City of Lompoc and Communities of Mission Hills and Vandenberg Village
7/6/20 70+ Yes South County Unincorporated Area Including Communities of Montecito, Summerland and the City of Carpinteria
7/8/20 70+ Yes City of Santa Maria
7/9/20 70+ Yes City of Lompoc And Communities of Mission Hills and Vandenberg Village
7/12/20 70+ Yes Community of Orcutt
7/14/20 70+ Yes Community of Orcutt
7/14/20 50-69 Yes City of Santa Maria
7/15/20 70+ Yes City of Santa Maria
7/15/20 50-69 Yes City of Santa Maria
7/18/20 70+ Yes Santa Ynez Valley inclusive of Cities of Solvang and Buellton, and Communities of Santa Ynez, Los Alamos, Los Olivos And Ballard
7/18/20 70+ No City of Santa Maria
7/20/20 70+ No City of Santa Maria
7/20/20 70+ No City of Santa Maria
7/20/20 50-69 Yes City of Santa Barbara and unincorporated area of Mission Canyon
7/20/20 30-49 No City of Santa Maria
7/21/20 50-69 No City of Santa Maria
7/23/20 50-69 No City of Santa Maria
7/24/20 50-69 No City of Santa Maria
7/25/20 70+ Yes City of Santa Barbara and unincorporated area of Mission Canyon
7/25/20 50-69 Yes City of Santa Maria
7/27/20 70+ No City of Santa Barbara and unincorporated area of Mission Canyon

Friday's Numbers

PHD added 74 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Of the new cases, 47 were located in Santa Maria.

The county's grand total is now 6,167 with 249 active cases, meaning these have currently tested positive and are infectious. On Thursday there were 290 cases that were active.

There are 85 hospitalizations including 28 in the intensive care unit (ICU). On Thursday there were 89 hospitalizations including 29 in the ICU. 

Dr. Ansorg reported the community transmission rate of COVID-19 fell for the first time in many weeks leaving him feeling "encouraged."

The county has been averaging above 200 new COVID-19 cases within two weeks, however, on Friday the number dipped just below 200. The goal is to get below 100 to be removed from the state's monitoring list.

Dr. Ansorg hopes this is not a shortlived trend and believes people are taking the virus more seriously. Getting the community transmission rate down means we'll be allowed to reopen schools, he said. 

More data can be found at publichealthsbc.org/status-reports/.

COTTAGE HEALTH SPECIFIC NUMBERS

The below numbers are from all Cottage Health locations and does not include the numbers from Marian Regional Medical Hospital.

Below is a status update as of July 31, 2020 from Cottage:

  • Cottage Health is caring for a total of 272 patients across all campuses.

  • 217 are acute care patients; 171 acute care beds remain available.  

  • Of the 217 acute care patients, 13 patients are on ventilators.
    77 ventilators remain available (adult, pediatric and neonatal ventilators).

  • Of the 217 acute care patients, 30 are in isolation with COVID-19 symptoms;
    29 are confirmed COVID-19 positive.

  • Of the 30 patients in isolation, 8 patients are in critical care.

  • From July 13-19:  
    4,256 COVID-19 laboratory tests were collected by Cottage Health.
    Results: 260 positive, 3,994 negative, 2 pending

  • From July 20-26:  
    3,730 COVID-19 laboratory tests were collected by Cottage Health.
    Results: 202 positive, 2,984 negative, 544 pending

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35 Comments

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a-1596405489 Aug 02, 2020 02:58 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

The failure not only to report- but for the leadership of the County and Public Health to even BE AWARE OF the rapid, significant occurrence of Civid-Deaths in our county during that four week period- is just mind-numbing. WHO is minding the store?? If this were a wildfire, and the responsible agency in charge somehow lost track of a fire spread and blamed it on some data entry clerk...... that might raise some eye brows. So should this.

Kew Aug 01, 2020 09:20 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

Our PHD's recent revelation is as mind-numbing as California's EDD still using COBAL. We are in deep doo-doo. Seniors are afraid and are now feeling more and more isolated. Children are restless and deeply miss their playmates. Please remember to connect with people who may have been forgotten. It looks like it's going to be a long time before we are out of the woods.

ChemicalSuperFreak Aug 01, 2020 02:27 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

Currently, the Status Report shows 334 deaths, alone, in Santa Maria. You need to scroll to the duplicate set of numbers (that will eventually be archived) to see this. Clearly there's an extra "3" in that number (it's only 34). What I find odd is the total at the bottom of that column, representing each of the regions in the county, is only 60. It seems they're typing in each value in by hand, which is probably why I find error after error on a daily basis. You'd think they'd have a self-totaling spreadsheet that they could import into the HTML code on the website to avoid such errors. Such a spreadsheet could be set to scrape data from the appropriate sources so there's less chance of errors. They need to join the 21st century and leave whatever antiquated system they use in the dust. Makes me wonder if they're not also counting deaths on an abacus.

a-1596469634 Aug 03, 2020 08:47 AM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

Transparent California shows where resources are being spent in Santa Barbara County- on whom and for what job descriptions. County needs to cross-train its many employees to respond better to changing conditions, and eliminate duplications of services found across the county, cities and special districts within the county..

a-1596299629 Aug 01, 2020 09:33 AM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

As long as those counting the data and issuing the regulations never worry about missing their own paycheck, they will not be concerned about those who do. We are not all in this together. Not by a long shot.

SBLetsGetAlong Aug 01, 2020 08:44 AM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

I demand every Covid death be subjected to a Covid blood test. We only have 60 deaths, and more than enough testing to test these poor souls.

So Mar to June 22, 4 months we had 32 deaths.
In one month we almost doubled that? Odd.
Didn’t see the hospitals numbers go up or down. So these additional 28 people were not in the hospital under professional care? Why not? If they were that sick from this nasty Covid, wouldn’t they seek medical attention?
Let’s hear the excuses why 28 people died of Covid without going through the hospitals.
And did the SPHD test these individuals? Or are all the deaths “assumed” to be Covid.
Seriously, these are life and death matters, not only for Covid, but children, businesses, jobs, livelihooods, etc....

Why do we allow our public servants to perform so incompetent.

letmego Aug 03, 2020 10:18 AM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

Uh...it's not particularly odd, actually. The total number of cases during that time more than doubled, from 2590 to 6167. It's only expected that deaths would follow cases.

Indeed, hospitalizations went from around 60 to a peak of 85, ICU from 20 to 29. As it so happens, most of the new cases during that time were in younger people. So, hospitalization increased, but did not double.

SBLetsGetAlong Aug 01, 2020 08:35 AM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

For a month no one checked the numbers? Seriously?
And did these peop,e die of Covid or did they die with Covid. Very important distinction.
As Dir of Illinois Public Health stated on TV, if you die in a car crash and tested positive or were assumed positive, it counts as a covid death.
Our CDC & Public Health have been a joke throughout this. Inaccurate accountun* if an extremely important public issue, making assumptions of Covid positive and not backing them up with tests.
You can go into Quest or Samsum or a medcenter and get a test any day of the week.
I was just there and they said they had plenty of tests.
So why would the government “assume” Covid, just test the darn people.
After hundreds of years of viruses and Trillions spent on research we are no further than “wash your hands, stay home and wear a piece of cloth”. Seriously, we have self driving cars, we put a Tesla into space. And our answer is good hygiene and masks.
So why does anyone trust the government agencies without question?
Are “we” just a bunch of cattle following without knowing why or where we’re going?

vvorker Aug 01, 2020 06:45 AM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

I wonder what's the data on Malpractice, or are we gonna have to wait for the lawyers to figure it out.
I had heard that Malpractice was the #3 cause of death before the cerveza sickness . You have to trust these people? Kinda funny we tell kids to become Doctors or lawyers when they grow up, yet at the end of the day they both make a living out of distorting the truth. As you might surmise, I was a Philosophy major so have a hard time with the concept of trust! In god we trust, right?

forrealnews Jul 31, 2020 09:36 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

There are not many hospitals in our area. It should't have taken so long to find this error. I can't figure out for the life of me how for over a month of updating numbers nearly every day, none of them, including the data people updating the charts, ever thought...hmm...weird how ICU numbers have been staying almost constant for several months and only about 10% of people are said to survive ICU and yet somehow our death numbers aren't changing. I couldn't figure out over the past month how that was possible thinking wow, people really hang in there a long time. Turns out because IT ISN'T!!! Those saying, "Yay, our numbers are down!" No trend of going down with something like this matters until it is sustained for quite a while and hits baseline. Ridiculous things like talking about opening things up and schools with not even a full week of truly going down is so dumb. This spreads super quickly and stealthly. Whatever numbers we see, we can count on 10xs more really being in the community and even slight loosening will quickly ramp those up unless we do what countries who have any real guidance have done. We have a crap contact tracing system in place (another number that is totally bogus and keeps going up is "under investigation" which never goes down because they aren't finding answers to those at all) and our testing is nowhere up to par with the real need to be able to control spread. Any discussion of loosening is a joke.

a-1596245496 Jul 31, 2020 06:31 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

It is NOT a clerical error. Someone needs to hold the BOS and CEO responsible for the inept actions of this Dept. Local reporters need to apply the same level of scrutiny here with the County, as they do with the City/Council/Mayor. The County and BOS skate by with hardly any scrutiny on the single most important public health issue in a century. Ask questions. Do public record requests. Demand answers.

pstarSR Jul 31, 2020 06:56 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

Yea heaven forbid they count wrong day to day when having to correlate multiple hospitals and locations. Its one thing if they dont revise the numbers. Its a total different thing to try to run them up the flag pole for an error. Slow down, he who is innocent can cast the first stone...... crickets

GeneralTree Jul 31, 2020 06:35 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

"A COVID patient on a ventilator will need more services and more complicated services, not just the ventilator," said Joseph Antos, scholar in health care at the American Enterprise Institute. "It is reasonable that a patient who is on a ventilator would cost three times one who isn't that sick."

Medicare will pay hospitals a 20% "add-on" to the regular DRG payment for COVID-19 patients. That’s a result of the CARES Act, the largest of the three federal stimulus laws enacted in response to the coronavirus, which was signed into law March 27. In many cases, this funding is less than the cost of treatment.

MountainMan4865 Jul 31, 2020 06:16 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

""Death certificates are notoriously complicated documents for any physician who has to fill them out and anybody who has to read them," he said.

He provided an example of someone who is in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) with severe pneumonia and also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung disease, and is COVID-19 positive. He said the cause of death would be respiratory failure due to COVID-19 pneumonia with underlying lung disease.

A COVID-19 death is defined by the state as a decedent having COVID-19 as an underlying or contributing factor.

Although sometimes doctors can be a little lax and say pneumonia due to COVID, Dr. Ansorg said while calling it an antiquated system that takes place all over the world."

This is what people have been calling into question... There was a guy in Florida - died in a motorcycle accident. Got listed as a Covid-19 death. Guy in Colorado, clearly alcohol poisoning - Covid-19 death. People in hospice, expected to pass.... Covid-19. This is happening thousands of times across the country, and we stare - deer in the headlights looking at the numbers that are thrust at us. Hospitals are getting paid for Covid admissions, Covid ventilation (three times the amount of just the admittance) and deaths, so regardless if it's a non-contributing factor to a death, but present... it gets counted as a Covid death. They (the public health agencies and the CDC) used to lump pneumonia in with influenza to try to advocate for the flu vaccine. All three are now lumped into the the "PIC" Pneumonia, Influenza, Coronoavirus. Oh, and I wear a mask when in stores....

haskelslocal Aug 01, 2020 04:32 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

If you want to split hairs chemical then it's time to stop running a tally for Covid. It's one way or the other, not both. Try for yourself. Go do a CDC practice death of filling out a death certificate. It's predicated on behaviors that are inherently more difficult across the vast spectrum which is medical care across the US. Accidents? Usually easy to asses and qualify. Illness? Much more difficult. And so on. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/training/improving_cause_of_death_reporting/

ChemicalSuperFreak Jul 31, 2020 08:06 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

MOUNTAINMAN: I meant to write that the +/- for reported deaths for other illnesses or diseases, such as influenza, is sometimes greater than 10%, so maybe the current COVID estimates, even skewed with this over-reporting, isn't that bad. Still, the final death toll rarely seems to be a focus, except when the numbers cross some mark, like 100k. The biggest concern for me is on the changes in the rates of infection and death. Changes in rates, the second derivative for you calculus fans, would be independent of the criteria for how deaths are reported, assuming the criteria didn't change.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jul 31, 2020 06:42 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

MOUNTAINMAN: Do you think those questionable COVID-19 positives really make a big dent in the overall numbers? There are approximately 5,000 motorcycle deaths annually. The prevalence of COVID-19 is estimated at 5% (based on FDA testing criteria), so that would be 250 motorcycle deaths where the rider might be COVID-19 positive. Add that 250 (over the course of a full year) to the total number of reported COVID-19 deaths, currently around 156,000, and those motorcycle deaths contribute 0.16%. Not much of a dent. Annual COPD deaths are around 130,000, with 5% being 6,500 shuffled into the 156,000 COVID-19 deaths. I guess you do this iteratively with all major causes of death you could possibly convince me that numbers are off by 10%. Is that a lot? Maybe. If you look at reported deaths the +/- (or SD) is sometimes quite larger than 10%, so maybe that's not bad.

RHS Jul 31, 2020 06:10 PM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

Do-Reynoso runs an incompetent department. Or perhaps she is incompetent. Either way these continuing "errors" and confusing reports are scandalous. I do not want to burn anyone at a stake but we need better and more reliable information.

letmego Aug 02, 2020 10:42 AM
Public Health Adds 28 Missed COVID-19 Deaths Due to Data Error

From my understanding (from reading the articles out there), the error occurred when the switch was made from manual to electronic submission of deaths. Unfortunately, your accuracy depends entirely on how good your computer systems are. As someone who works with data, databases, automated and manual systems mixing - I see this sort of thing on a daily basis. You can have a great system that works great, but if someone submits a sheet with a small change - the data is uploaded incorrectly. At least they caught it. Only 32 deaths seemed too good to be true, considering how our cases were increasing a lot.

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