(CALMATTERS) – Even as California appears to be nearing the end of the pandemic, many gaps remain in our knowledge about the past year’s events — raising questions as to the state’s preparedness for potential future disasters.
Today — with record-low hospitalizations, a 1.1% positivity rate and Los Angeles County set to enter the least restrictive reopening tier — it can be hard to remember the rampant uncertainty of March 2020, when Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that 56% of Californians could be infected with COVID-19 within two months. That projection appears to have come from figures calculated by Dr. Charity Dean, who at the time was California’s assistant director of public health and is one of the main characters in Michael Lewis’ latest book, “The Premonition.” Dean, according to an interview Lewis gave 60 Minutes on Sunday, was recruited by a group of doctors to push California to respond decisively to the virus, and was instrumental in getting Newsom to issue the nation’s first shelter-in-place order.
But a New York Times review took issue with Lewis depicting Dean as “unwaveringly principled and unfailingly right” while portraying Dr. Sonia Angell, Dean’s boss and nemesis, as “monstrously incompetent” — and not including Angell’s perspective in his book. Angell abruptly resigned as California’s director of public health in August, and neither she nor Newsom gave a reason for the departure — though it was likely tied to a massive data glitch. Dean, who was also co-chair of Newsom’s coronavirus testing task force, had resigned two months earlier to enter the private sector.
That even this behind-the-scenes of California’s pandemic response remains incomplete suggests we may never know the full sequence of events — an idea reinforced by a new Sacramento Bee investigation revealing that the state’s database of coronavirus-related deaths is riddled with inaccuracies, inconsistencies and gaps.
- Dr. Lee Riley, chair of UC Berkeley’s Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology: “There’s a lot of places where the information just gets lost. We’re never going to have a complete story on complete facts about this epidemic. It’s a moving target.”