House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused California Gov. Gavin Newsom of hiding coronavirus data on Tuesday.
McCarthy, who represents California's 23rd Congressional District, criticized Newsom for lifting a regional stay-at-home order less than a week after President Biden took office and failing to explain why the state dropped its ICU capacity threshold for determining lockdowns.
After state health officials said last week they were keeping all the data secret because it is complicated and might mislead the public, California's health department on Monday released to the public previously secret projections for future hospital intensive care unit capacity throughout the state, the key metric for lifting the coronavirus stay-at-home order.
State officials did not, however, explain how regional per capita virus cases and transmission rates that also were released might influence how much ICU space will be available in four weeks.
"One thing that has been clear throughout the pandemic is that Americans have been deprived of the resources to do what is best for ourselves, families, and community," McCarthy said in a statement. "The most recent example of this is California Governor Gavin Newsom hiding key data about the virus in his state and refusing to publicize it because it would 'confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public.'"
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"Not only does this logically not make sense, it suggests Newsom doesn't think his constituents are capable of doing what's right for themselves and their families," McCarthy continued.
In this Friday, May 22, 2020, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, Pool, File)
Rather than a county-by-county approach, Newsom created five regions and established a single measurement — ICU capacity — as the determination for whether a region was placed under a stay-at-home order.
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In short order, four regions — about 98% of the state's population — were under the restrictions after their capacity fell below the 15% threshold.
At the start of last week, no regions appeared likely to have the stay-at-home order lifted soon because their capacity was well below 15%. But within a day, the state announced it was lifting the order for the 13-county Greater Sacramento area.
A giant banner reads in Spanish, "Stay Apart to Stay Together," in Los Angeles Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar said last week that officials are committed to transparency, providing twice-weekly updates on whether regions can relax restrictions. But she said projected ICU capacity is based on multiple variables, including available beds and staffing that change regularly.
"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 last week.
Dr. Lee Riley, chairman of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health infectious disease division, disagreed.
"There is more uncertainty created by NOT releasing the data that only the state has access to," he said in an email. Its release would allow outside experts to assess its value for projecting trends and the resulting decisions on lifting restrictions, he wrote.
Newsom, a Democrat, imposed the nation’s first statewide shutdown in March. His administration developed reopening plans that included benchmarks for virus data such as per capita infection rates that counties needed to meet to relax restrictions.
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Fox News' inquiry to Newsom's office was not immediately returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.