‘We’re not perfect, we make mistakes’: Ga. officials address COVID-19 data reporting issues

Georgia News

ATLANTA (WSAV) – State public health officials have been criticized in recent days on their handling of Georgia’s COVID-19 testing data.

Last week, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) removed a graph on its website that apparently showed a downward trajectory in the state’s cases. But the dates were listed by county, not by date, causing confusion among viewers.

Earlier this week, DPH included over 200 antibody tests in the total number of positive COVID-19 cases.

Wednesday evening, the department announced the inclusion of 57,000 antibody tests that inflated published test counts.

As of today, the number of serology tests reported to DPH is 57,000, and we will get new reports so that number will change daily. Serology tests are useful in determining the prevalence of the disease in the population and have been authorized by the FDA for use in COVID-19.  We will update the website to reflect the number of “Total Tests” that are serology vs pcr.

DPH statement

During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp urged Georgians to “please afford them some patience.”

“Please steer clear of personal attacks,” he added. “We are all in this fight together.”

The governor also assured Georgians that they can be confident in the data.

“We’re not perfect. We make mistakes,” said Kemp. “I think people can be very confident in the decisions that we’re making are based on more than just one thing.”

DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said Thursday that “the integrity of our data is absolutely our number one priority.”

“We have to have transparency, we’re continuing to work, to improve all of our reporting systems,” she added.

Toomey addressed the difficulties of not only creating but effectively evolving a public health data surveillance system. Still, she said her department is working to address feedback and concerns.

“This is a time when we need the public’s trust,” she added. “We won’t have the public’s trust unless we can assure them that these data are accurate, timely and do represent what is going on in the community.

WSAV.com NOW reached out to Rep. Buddy Carter about the data reporting issues who said in a statement:

This is something we have to get right. While it’s a problem that the state’s data was not correct, Governor Kemp and the Department of Public Health have acknowledged the problem and are moving to correct it.

Rep. Buddy Carter, (R) GA-1

The department on Thursday reported a total of more than 407,000 tests “including molecular and serology.”

WSAV.com NOW is providing daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in Georgia. Visit wsav.com/gacoronavirus for more.

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