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Shift Between Data Systems Led To Underreporting Of Coronavirus Deaths In Santa Barbara County

It was stunning.  An error in transition between data reporting systems led to a massive undercounting of coronavirus related deaths in Santa Barbara County.  Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart says there’s no way to sugar coat the news.

Up until Friday, Santa Barbara County had been reporting 32 coronavirus related deaths in the county since the start of the pandemic.  After the data issue was discovered, 28 additional deaths were disclosed, bringing the county’s total to 60.

The error surfaced last week, as some data was being double checked.  The error occurred when the county was moving from its manual data tabulation system to one run by the state.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Von de Reynoso says during the period in question, some death certificates weren’t properly counted.

75% of the just reported 28 deaths were mostly people over 70, with underlying health conditions.  78% of those who died were Hispanic, and lived in the northern part of the county.

Ten of the additional deaths were agricultural workers.

Data problem issues on coronavirus numbers aren’t unique.  Los Angeles County also had issues during the transition between reporting systems.

Santa Barbara County has already moved to correct the issue.  Hart says they are increasing funding and staffing for the health department’s data reporting efforts.

The county supervisor says the increased number add more emphasis to the fact that not only is coronavirus dangerous, it is continuing to make people sick, and taking lives right here, in our neighborhoods.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.