A technician conducts COVID-19 tests at a new facility Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new $120 million, 134,000 sq. foot coronavirus testing facility in Valencia Friday. The state is working with corporate partner PerkinElmer to run the lab. It will enable the state to process an additional 150,000 COVID-19 tests per day. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool)

(CALMATTERS) – A few hours after Newsom departed to Mexico, the state released a seven-month-overdue report into its problem-plagued COVID-19 testing lab, for which it recently auto-renewed a contract worth up to $1.7 billion. State health inspectors had warned in February that the lab could lose its license; in the Monday report, they said the lab had “satisfactorily addressed all the identified deficiencies” and inspections were closing “with no sanctions imposed.” But the report shows that as recently as Oct. 21, state inspectors planned to impose sanctions on the lab for certain deficiencies that weren’t satisfactorily addressed until Nov. 10 — more than a week after California auto-renewed the lab’s contract. A separate federal investigation into the lab is still ongoing.

Other key takeaways:

  • February inspections found the lab failed to assess the competency of 55% of staff members before allowing them to process, test and report COVID-19 samples.
  • Inspectors in February warned lab director Adam Rosendorff — the former lab director of failed blood-testing startup Theranos — that “the deficient practices of your laboratory pose immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety.”
  • April reports revealed that the lab was altering testing results days after notifying patients — and not informing them of the changes.
  • The lab, which is contractually obligated to turn around test results within 48 hours, took more than three days to return results for 30% of tests processed between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2.

In other COVID news, California is seeing “encouraging” numbers, including the nation’s lowest positivity rate of 1.9% and declining hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions, Newsom said Monday at the San Francisco vaccine clinic. But, he warned, Californians can’t “let their guard down.” Although the state as a whole is doing better than it was a year ago, at least 18 of 58 counties on Monday had more COVID hospitalizations than they did at the same time last year — and another five had just as many, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra and Hannah Getahun report. And although virtually all adults are now eligible for booster shots, appointments can be hard to come by: In most Bay Area counties, none are available until least early December. Santa Cruz County, meanwhile, has reinstated its indoor mask mandate to help stave off a possible winter surge.