California to create new coronavirus data system after tech failure

California will create a new COVID-19 data reporting system that will be more “robust” in handling large numbers of coronavirus cases than the state’s current system, which malfunctioned in July and led to as many as 300,000 cases being underreported.

© Randall Benton / Associated Press

FILE – In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., as Gov. Gavin Newsom listens. A technical glitch that has plagued the data system the state relies on to make decisions about reopening businesses and schools has been fixed but it could take up to 48 hours to get the numbers updated, California’s top health official said Friday, Aug. 7. Dr. Ghaly said that up to 300,000 records might have been backlogged, but not all of them are coronavirus cases and some may be duplicates. (AP Photo/Randall Benton, File)

The state has signed a six-month, renewable $15.3 million contract with Optum Insight, a Minnesota company, to build the new COVID data reporting system. The system should be up and running by October, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said on Tuesday. It will be funded by a federal grant that helps states and local health agencies combat infectious diseases.

CalREDIE, short for the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange, is the system that keeps track of all communicable diseases statewide. Prior to the coronavirus, the system received about 200 reports a day and was not designed to handle the thousands of new cases that began streaming in daily once the pandemic began surging.

A CalREDIE server crashed in July, and the state made technical changes to compensate. The state failed to reverse that temporary fix, which caused delays in data reporting. That made it difficult for many counties that rely on the system to get an accurate picture of how the virus was spreading in their community.

Former state Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell resigned a few days after the technical failure went public.

“As we think about this increased number of tests the state will see in the months to come, having a robust system will be key,” Ghaly said. “This system is built to handle the high volume of test results, both negative and positive, and it gives us a chance to be more robust.”

Catherine Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Cat_Ho

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