New backlog adds 1,700 coronavirus cases in Alabama for second consecutive day

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported an increase of exactly 1,700 new coronavirus cases in Alabama on Sunday, including 944 confirmed cases and 756 probables. The state also reported six new virus deaths.

The majority of those probable cases came in just two counties in northwest Alabama, and ADPH reported many of those new cases are the result of a new backlog of cases entering the system.

“On October 31, the Alabama Department of Public Health processed a historic lab result file from an entity in Northwest Alabama,” a notice on the state’s coronavirus dashboard read. “This file will result in 846 positive lab results from June, July and August of 2020. These results primarily affect data from Limestone, Lawrence, Franklin, Colbert, and Lauderdale counties.”

Lauderdale County reported 270 new probable cases Sunday, and neighboring Colbert County reported 149 probable cases.

Similar backlogs have been frequent lately – APDH reported two very large backlogs of probable cases on Oct. 22 and 23, and the state dashboard currently shows a message about a backlog of 90 confirmed cases from Covington County, in south Alabama, that entered the system on Oct. 30.

Those data problems make tracking the state’s virus outbreak difficult. The 7-day average for total new virus cases – including both confirmed and probable cases – has moved around drastically in the last two weeks because of those backlogs. But the 7-day average for confirmed cases has been more reliable, and despite the backlog in Covington County reported on Halloween, it’s clear that number continues to trend up.

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On Saturday, the 7-day average for new confirmed virus cases topped 1,000 for the first time since Sept. 1. On Sunday it ticked up again, and stood at 1,051 – the highest it’s been since Aug. 14. With probable cases included, the state’s 7-day average for new cases was 1,376 as of Sunday morning.

The state now has a total of 193,985 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 165,239 confirmed and 28,746 probable cases. It has also reported 2,973 deaths due to the virus.

Jefferson County, the most populous county in the state and home to Birmingham, saw the largest increase in new confirmed cases on Sunday at 172. Jefferson has now added at least 100 new confirmed cases in each of the last 13 days, and the county’s 7-day average for new cases has ticked up steadily over the last few weeks.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

The 7-day average in Jefferson for new total cases – including probables – rose to 169 on Sunday, the highest it’s been there since Sept. 3, and an 80 percent increase since Oct. 8, when the average fell below 100 cases per day.

Only two counties reported new deaths on Sunday. Jefferson reported four deaths, bringing its total to 374 since the start of the pandemic. Two new virus deaths were reported in Mobile on Sunday, bringing the total there to 317. Those two

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Backlog in reporting of test results swells coronavirus case count in L.A. County

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 12: Cars line up at a COVID19 test site at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Cars line up at a COVID-19 test site at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 12 in Los Angeles. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County swelled significantly this week — the result, officials said, of a sizable backlog in the reporting of test results because of technical glitches.

While the full extent of the problem, and how much it will ultimately affect the county’s COVID-19 case counts, remains to be seen. Public health officials said Thursday that they’ve addressed the issues, though they expect to receive more accumulated results in the coming days.

Of the 3,600 new cases reported in the county Thursday, officials said roughly 2,000 were from the backlog.

“In addition to processing issues in the state’s reporting system that resulted in a large volume of duplicate records being sent to L.A. County, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a real-time build out of reportable disease surveillance systems that were not initially set up for the sheer volume of data nor the real-time demand for highly processed data necessary to respond to COVID-19,” the county Department of Public Health told The Times in a statement. “As we build out additional capacities and solutions while continuing to process, sometimes there are technical issues with one of the numerous functionalities in the pipelines.”

Reporting issues have popped up periodically throughout the pandemic. The most significant snafu came to light in August, when state officials announced that a series of data failures had created a backlog of 250,000 to 300,000 test results in California.

While always essential, access to complete, trustworthy data is all the more vital now as California works to ward off the kinds of coronavirus surges that are striking many other states.

Already, more than 893,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in California — the most of any state — and over 17,200 people have died from the disease.

L.A. County alone accounts for more than 294,000 cases and is nearing 7,000 deaths.

Separate from the data issues, the county has also seen a slight uptick in its daily number of reported cases since mid-September, “and this is a cause for some worry,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said earlier this week.

The latest data logjam comes as L.A. County is looking to relax some coronavirus-related restrictions to bring local rules in line with wider state guidelines.

The changes, expected to be incorporated into a revised health officer order Friday, would eliminate a requirement that customers at wineries and breweries make reservations, remove the food service requirement for wineries, and allow family entertainment centers to reopen outdoor attractions such as go-kart tracks, miniature golf courses and batting cages.

State officials also announced this week that all personal care services — which include hair removal and massage and tattoo parlors — will now be allowed to resume modified indoor operations.

Officials also said that all L.A. County schools will be allowed to bring on campus up to 25% of their

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