California state health officials have tried to justify the state playing its cards close to the chest with COVID-19 data, saying the data is too "complex" for the public and that it may "mislead" them if released, KTVU reported.
Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom has said since the start of the outbreak that his response policy would be driven by transparency with the public on data and information as it develops. Now his administration is contradicting that sentiment by refusing to disclose key information on COVID-19 findings.
Newsom's administration initially released data models projecting the probable behavior of the pandemic and whether deaths, infection and hospitalizations are likely to rise or decline.
Health officials argued that they "rely on a very complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public," KTVU reported.
Not everyone is onboard with the state government's stone-walling of the public. "There is more uncertainty created by NOT releasing the data that only the state has access to," Dr. Lee Riley, chairman of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health infectious disease division, wrote in an email, KTVU reports. He went on to explain that the release of the data would allow outside experts to contribute to analyzing the data and discovering vital trends or other findings.
"The state is wielding extraordinary power these days — power to close businesses, to directly impact people’s livelihoods and even lives — and so it owes it to Californians to disclose how and why it makes those decisions," First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder argued, urging the state to maintain data transparency.
"At the moment the projections are not being shared publicly," Department of Public Health spokeswoman Ali Bay wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar insisted that state health officials are committed to transparency. They reportedly provide twice-weekly reports indicating whether regions of the state can pull back on stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 restrictions.
"These fluid, on-the-ground conditions cannot be boiled down to a single data point — and to do so would mislead and create greater uncertainty for Californians," she said in a statement.