San Mateo County Health Officer Blasts State's COVID-19 Watch List, 'Data Meltdown' In Reporting Cases

With hair salons opening across most of the state, many in the Bay Area will still have to wait
Photo credit Joe Raedle/Getty Images

San Mateo’s County Health Officer isn’t mincing words when it comes to the state’s COVID-19 watch list and his county’s place on it.

"I wish to apologize to all the businesses that were closed this week," Dr. Scott Morrow said in a statement posted to San Mateo County’s COVID-19 website Thursday. "I am not supportive of these actions and, for San Mateo County, I believe they are misdirected and will cause more harm than good."

Dr. Morrow likened the process that led to the restrictions on specific businesses to "looking for your lost keys under a streetlight even though you lost them miles away."

"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," wrote Dr. Morrow. He added that health officials "have a good idea of what’s causing the spread and it’s not primarily from barber shops, nail salons, or the other businesses that were targeted in this most recent closure."

Dine-in restaurants, places of worship and nail salons were among the businesses forced to close last Saturday when the county was not able to move above the state’s required new case threshold after a three-day period. The county’s case rate, based on a 14-day rolling average, was over 110 positive cases per 100,000 residents at the time.

That's well over the case rate of 100 for counties on the monitoring list.

In the statement, Dr. Morrow addressed those benchmarks, which the state has put in place to monitor as counties are considered as additions to the watch list, which he said "feels like some newly created bureaucratic box…just itching to be checked."

Concerns on that specific issue range from unachievable time frames at a local level, state actions impacting local case counts and perceived overreaching by the state in placing San Mateo on the watch list, when he wouldn’t have done so.

"I do not believe I’m being negligent," Dr. Morrow explained.

Dr. Morrow went on to call a newly-revealed glitch in California’s coronavirus case counting a "data meltdown."

According to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, San Mateo’s hospitalizations have been steadily decreasing over the last few weeks. There have been 120 deaths related to the virus in the county and confirmed cases are approaching 6,000.