The Georgia Department of Public Health has come under fire for sharing erroneous data that suggested the number of confirmed coronavirus cases decreasing – providing flattening-curve models that Gov. Brian Kemp used to justify the Peach State’s reopening, according to a report.
A recently posted bar chart on the agency’s website showed that new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the five counties with the most infections had dropped each day over two weeks, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
But there was no downward trend as cases have held steady or dropped slightly during that time period – and experts agreed that in those counties, the cases were flat when the state began reopening last month, according to the newspaper.
“Our mission failed. We apologize. It is fixed,” Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a tweet after DPH changed its graph Monday amid a flood of criticism and mockery.
Data issues by DPH in recent weeks sparked confusion over whether deaths from the pandemic had topped 1,000 — they are now more than 1,490. The agency incorrectly posted at least twice that children have died.
Some of the errors were made after the agency put days in the wrong order, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“It’s just cuckoo,” state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, who sent a letter outlining his concerns to the governor’s office on Monday, told the paper.
Surin Nguyen, wearing protection gear, works on the nails of a customer at Allure Nail Bar in Atlanta, Georgia.TAMI CHAPPELL/AFP via Getty Imag
The bar chart that sparked the latest controversy was changed shortly afterward.
“I don’t know how anyone can defend this graph as not being misleading. I really don’t,” Holcomb said.
A DPH rep told the paper that the chart was incorrect because of an error in how it sorted dates.
A Kemp aide told Holcomb that a software vendor caused the problem, the lawmaker said.
Broce said the governor’s office does not dictate what data DPH publishes.
People wait at the bar of a restaurant as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in Atlanta, Georgia.REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
“We are not selecting data and telling them how to portray it, although we do provide information about constituent complaints, check it for accuracy, and push them to provide more information if it is possible to do so,” the spokeswoman said.
But some worry the data is being portrayed in a way that favors the governor’s early easing of restrictions.
Another graph on DPH’s page has led people to believe cases were dropping dramatically, even though lower numbers were due to a lag in data collection.
“I have a hard time understanding how this happens without it being deliberate,” state Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, who has a doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics from Emory University, told the paper.
“Literally nowhere ever in any type of statistics would that be acceptable,” she added.