Virus Outbreak Georgia

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks about COVID-19 during a news conference at the Georgia state Capitol on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in Atlanta.

(The Center Square) – Responding to criticism of the state's COVID-19 data reporting, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp vowed to offer more transparency to the public.

Critics have voiced concerns over the state's public health website, which has shown lags in data, inaccuracies, and, at times, has been unclear. 

Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, director of the Georgia Department of Public Health, pledged Thursday to revise the data.

"Georgia families, businesses, local leaders and the press deserve accurate data, and I know that Dr. Toomey's team is working around the clock to collect, sort and produce that information," Kemp said. "I just want people to know they can be confident in the data, but also look we're not perfect. We've made mistakes. When we do that, we'll own that, change it, and make sure that people are aware of that."

Kemp has based his decisions to reopen Georgia and lift restrictions put on businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic based on data and the advice of public health officials, he said. However, from the announcement of the first phase of reopening, opposition leaders and medical experts said they could not find the downward trends that would support loosening restrictions. The department itself has posted disclaimers with the reports that warn about the gaps in data.

"Data during the reporting period may be incomplete due to the lag in time between when the case was tested and or reported and submitted to the Georgia DPH for reporting purposes," one of at least seven disclaimers on the state's dashboard says.

Reports have surfaced about duplications in dates and numbers, while some Georgians told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the information left them "confused" and "scared."

Toomey said Thursday the data inconsistencies result from having to streamline multiple sources of information onto DPH's website. Local public health departments, hospitals and other facilities and state agencies report COVID-19 information to DPH periodically.

Constant updates in the characteristics of the disease also happens, Toomey said.

"So I guess what I'm trying to say is this an unprecedented ask of health surveillance to be this agile, be able to expand this quickly," she said.

Toomey said the department is working daily to update the website to match the reports and graphics to what experts' decisions are based on while simplifying the information for public consumption.

The department will be performing more accuracy checks and be more receptive to feedback from the public, Toomey said.

Kemp and Toomey asked for patience and the public's trust as they work to fix the data issues, but they also warned that one source of data should not be the comprehensive tool in the decision-making process.

"I also think it's important for people to know that … I'm not following one data point," Kemp said. "It's been kind of interesting as we've moved through the pandemic and the response, and what people have been focused on here and there."

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.