See more of the story

California needs a reality check.

The COVID-19 data debacle calls into question whether Gov. Gavin Newsom has the leadership skills necessary to guide the state through the pandemic. The past week makes clear that his approach to dealing with the novel coronavirus is in tatters.

The governor on the afternoon of Aug. 3 cited data showing a decline in California coronavirus cases and the percentage of tests coming back positive as “encouraging signs” after a disastrous July when the virus spread through the state like an out-of-control wildfire. Never mind that deaths from the virus were continuing to climb to record levels and hospitalizations, while declining, remained far above the levels seen in the spring.

Then on Aug. 4 came the stunning news that a glitch in the reporting systems led to tests and cases going unreported throughout the state.

By the time it’s eventually fixed, by the state’s estimate, California will have been without accurate data for more than two weeks.

Meanwhile, Newsom’s premature rush for “cautious optimism” suggests that he’s once again looking for every excuse to quickly reopen the state — and calls into question whether he has learned from his past mistakes.

A major reason that California’s COVID-19 numbers soared in July was because Newsom opened up the state before he had the testing and contact tracing capacity that he — and the best science available — had said was necessary to contain the spread of the virus. California residents and businesses share in the blame for not taking the most basic safety precautions, such as wearing masks outside of the home.

Newsom must significantly dial back the state’s reopening. We must get this crisis under control — and that begins with accurate data, sufficient and timely testing and rapid contact tracing.