Six Bay Area counties demand virus testing data
Seven Bay Area jurisdictions have demanded that academic, commercial and pop-up labs report all COVID-19 testing data, including negatives, to health authorities as they attempt to track the fast-spreading virus across the region.
On Tuesday, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, along with the city of Berkeley, which has its own public health department, announced a new order that mandates all labs to report test results for all residents to both the health care provider and county officials.
Required data includes all positive, negative, and inconclusive results, along with identifying information like patients’ names, genders, ages, phone numbers, ZIP code and pregnancy status, according to the San Mateo County order.
“If we have both the positives and negatives, then we can have the denominator of who’s being tested, where we have hotspots,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody Tuesday.
Individuals’ confidential health data would be shared with officials through a system known as CalREDIE and kept private.
Health officials have been hampered by a lack of data when it comes to tracking the growing pandemic, instead relying solely on the number of positive tests — which paint a woefully incomplete portrait of the virus’s reach.
That’s made it difficult for public health departments — particularly in Santa Clara, which has recorded 16 deaths and 375 cases as of Tuesday — to adequately trace viral clusters. Ever since the county recorded its first case early this year, community spread was already abundant, Cody told this news organization earlier this week.
But without clear information about how many people have been tested through commercial labs like Quest and LabCorp now coming online, as well as pop-up sites in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and the city of Hayward, officials lag far behind in basic data.
Officials may not even know the extent of labs that are conducting testing, Cody added, not to mention demographic data about who exactly in the Bay Area is being affected.
“That’s really, really imp information everyone agrees we don’t have right now,” Cody said.