The Georgia Department of Public Health was forced to backtrack on Monday after a “data coding error” led to an accidental uptick in the state’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases, and a subsequent correction caused charts on the department’s website to show a steep, nearly overnight decline.
Experts are watching Georgia’s coronavirus numbers closely. As the first state to “open up” almost completely, releasing nearly all restrictions put in place to control the spread of coronavirus, Georgia’s continued infection count is key to understanding whether lifting lockdown measures in other states could lead to a second COVID-19 “peak.”
Over the weekend, Georgia’s numbers appeared to take a steep dive, forcing critics to call the Georgia Department of Health’s accounting methods into question. On Monday, the department admitted that the decline happened after they corrected a “math error” that led to a previous increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The department explained the strange jump in a Tweet.
“Yesterday, a processing error inadvertently included 231 serologic test results among the positive #COVID19 cases. The error was corrected, but it caused a decrease in positive cases between reporting periods on our dashboard. We apologize for the error and the confusion,” they said.
The term “serologic test results” refers to antibody tests showing at least 231 Georgians tested positive for having antibodies for the novel coronavirus. Those were accidentally added into the state’s virus count and then, subsequently, subtracted.
This is the second time in two weeks the Georgia Department of Public Health has issued incorrect coronavirus numbers.
“The apology came after the controversy last week over a bar chart posted on the state health department website that appeared to show new confirmed cases in the counties with the most infections had dropped every single day for the past two weeks,” Fox News reports. “In actuality, there had been no clear downward trend. The bar chart titled ‘Top 5 Counties with the Greatest Number of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases’ was first posted to the department’s website on May 10.”
That bar chart seemed to show steep declines among confirmed coronavirus infections in some of the hardest-hit counties in the state. The chart was not organized by date, and some counties were misplaced, making the chart unreadable — and, unfortunately, useless.
The two big mistakes have led to claims that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who ran afoul even of President Donald Trump when he began releasing his state’s lockdown measures, is deliberately hiding Georgia’s infection numbers to mask problematic results.
The governor’s office, however, says that cases have remained steady at around 38,000 statewide and that Kemp has no control over how Georgia’s Department of Public Health chooses data to include in graphs it releases to the public.
Georgia’s public health department says they’re “working diligently to provide the most accurate information, and we apologize for any confusion.”
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