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