San Mateo County health officer: We should not be on state monitoring list

San Mateo County Health Officer Scott Morrow says the state made the "wrong diagnosis" in adding the county to the COVID-19 watchlist as the its monitoring framework is flawed.

"Our numbers indicate we are in a relatively stable state in regards to the spread of the virus. For those who want to drive the spread to zero, this is simply not possible," Morrow said.

"Over the last few weeks, our hospitalizations are stable and/or decreasing. Recently, our deaths have been low," he said.

San Mateo County was added to the state's COVID-19 watch list on July 29 for having a case rate above the state's threshold of 100 per 100,000 people. As of Friday, Aug. 7, that number stands at 114.8 according to the California Department of Public Health's county data chart

However, the state froze the county monitoring list on July 31 to ensure that hospital data was accurate. Then the state health department announced Tuesday that there were technical issues and delays with the state's reporting system, leading to an underreporting of cases.

Even with this data glitch, Morrow said Thursday that he remains of the same opinion and described the framework as "arbitrary" and "constantly changing", citing data quality and consistency issues and changing numbers that do not reflect reality. He said the framework does not take into account what's going on locally and that San Mateo County's risk reduction strategies seem to be working.

FILE - Test tubes with blood samples seen at the lab center.According to Sanquin test lab second results, approximately 5.5% (+/- 0.5%) of Dutch blood donors have developed antibodies against the coronavirus, a modest increase compared to the 3% in A

Because of this, he said, "I feel the state has made the wrong 'diagnosis' and therefore is prescribing the wrong 'treatment' for San Mateo County."

As of Aug. 2, after three consecutive days on the watch list, additional business in San Mateo County such as salons, barbershops and fitness centers were required to close unless they can provide outdoor or curbside service

"I wish to apologize to all the businesses that were closed this week," Morrow said. "I am not supportive of these actions and, for San Mateo County, I believe they are misdirected and will cause more harm than good."

He said that barbershops, nail salons and other businesses required to close are not the main cause of spread.

In a statement on July 20, Morrow noted that "seemingly innocuous "get-togethers" are driving spread as many infections are related to small gatherings of family and friends.

"Our collective best course of action: No gatherings outside of immediate households, use facial coverings extensively, and social distancing," Morrow said.

As of Friday, San Mateo County remains on the state monitoring list.

Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency Dr. Mark Ghaly gave an update Friday about the COVID-19 data reporting issue. He said the state would be working over the next 48 hours to address a backlog of up to 300,000 records.

The CalREDIE (California Reportable Disease Information Exchange) system handles records for all diseases, including COVID-19 test results.

The state will have to separate COVID-19 records, remove duplicates, distinguish between negative and positive test results, then calculate positivity rates from there.

Despite the backlog, Ghaly said that no changes to their response policies were based on incomplete data, and trends discussed earlier this week remain the same.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that there was a slight drop in the number of positive cases.