Even Salem doesn't trust its own Covid numbers

The people running the Covid response for the State of Oregon have screwed up several things over the last two years. But until recently, at least they seemed reasonably good at churning out Covid case, hospitalization, and death numbers every weekday.

That changed a few weeks ago when the crud-counters revealed that they somehow misplaced 550 deaths over the summer. Five hundred fifty! Ever since then, the death numbers that the state reveals five days a week have become pretty worthless, because the backlog is being added in over time. When they tell you that they have 40 "new" deaths  to report, they don't tell you how many of those are from six months ago because something in their computer system didn't work right.

Less than a week after the 550-lost-body disclosure, the system went down over a weekend, and daily case counts were suspect for a while. But positive test statistics were supposedly okay.

Now we find out that their announced percentage of cases that come back positive also can't be trusted. Shortly after yesterday's announcement, they broadcast this:

I don't know who the next governor is going to be, but whoever it is, they need to get a real medical professional – not some all-purpose bureaucrat – running the health authority. And the state needs better technology – way better – across the board, not just for Covid. Yoo hoo, candidates for governor! Anybody campaigning on a platform that included fixing Salem's miserable computer problems would probably get a lot of people's attention.


  1. The state's lack of computer prowess has remained unrivaled for a generation.

  2. Getting and keeping good IT talent is a huge struggle for any stodgy, rule-bound employer in the best of cases. Now imagine trying to attract the same talent that Big Tech hunts for with the reward of working for an employer where a good portion of the board of directors starts out hating you, where you are subject to the whims of the Legislative budgeting process, and just having a job with a pension causes a lot of people to hate you. And, oh, the pay is low.

    Sometimes it seems like IT in the state is like the horse that sings badly — the wonder isn’t that they sing so badly, it’s that they can do it at all. The basic operating mode for creative work — the creative studio vs the industrial factory — is a terrible fit for a government employer that treats all people like factory drones who need to be carefully watched at all times to make sure that nobody uses their email wrong.

    There was a scene in The Wire where Carver and Herc watch two drug gangs going at it in a brawl, and Carver says to Herc, “This is why we’ll never win.” When Herc says “Huh?” Carver replies “When they screw up, they get their asses beat; when we screw up, we get light duty.”


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