Gov. Kemp touts ‘positive’ COVID-19 numbers following AJC report about state withholding infoGov. Brian Kemp speaks during an April 8 press conference. Image obtained via Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Atlanta, GA — The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Aug. 14 published a lengthy report detailing how the state has worked to keep details about its COVID-19 response from seeing the light of day.
Not long after the publication of that report, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office sent out a press release touting “positive” COVID-19 news, citing declining case numbers and a lower hospitalization rate. Amber Schmidtke, a public health microbiologist who runs a popular newsletter analyzing the state COVID data, said the state hasn’t been close to meeting World Health Organization guidance for testing since June and the White House Coronavirus Task Force indicates that Georgia is in the red zone for both new cases and test positivity.
The AJC reports that the state has been withholding records that would shed light on how Georgia has responded to the pandemic and possibly violated open records laws in the process.
The AJC reports that thousands of documents it requested were withheld.
“Among them were charts showing the cumulative volume of personal protective equipment shipped to Georgia by the federal government and private companies over many weeks,” the AJC reported. “Also withheld were documents with federal statistics on ventilator usage by state, and ones on recent deaths and cases by state and county.”
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Kemp’s press release, which was labeled as a report from the Department of Public Health, cites several statistics that purportedly show Georgia’s success in fighting COVID-19. Among them:
– During 8/3-8/9, Georgia’s weekly statewide case numbers decreased by 7%.
– The CDC report indicates that Georgia has experienced a 22% decrease in case numbers over the past two weeks relative to the two weeks prior to that, and that we have seen a downward trajectory of cases for two weeks now.
– The highest % of case numbers still come from the high population counties in metro Atlanta (Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb have the highest case numbers) but these counties are actually experiencing decreases now.
Source: Gov. Brian Kemp’s Office.
Kemp’s Office also says that hospitalizations have decreased by 6.62 percent in the past seven days. The full press release appears at the end of this story.
Schmidtke said Kemp’s press release glosses over a harsher reality facing Georgia, especially as some school districts in the state reopen for in-person learning.
“The White House Coronavirus Task Force indicates that Georgia is in the red zone for both new cases and test positivity,” she said. “Our new case rate is 1.9 times higher (almost twice) the national average. The Governor is counting his percent positivity rate as a success when we haven’t been close to meeting the WHO guidance for testing (<5% positive for 14 days) since mid-June. In addition, what good is averaging nearly 31,000 cases per day if those tests are taking 2-3 weeks to be performed and reported?
“Curiously, there is no mention of the turnaround time for tests in the Governor’s report. Meanwhile, we are seeing more and more cases backdated outside of the 14-day window, indicating that the decline in cases that he’s citing is an artifact of testing backlogs. Our deficiencies in testing combined with our lack of sufficient workforce for contact tracing make it impossible to contain the spread of this virus. If we cannot build and sustain sufficient capacity for testing and contact tracing, then we need to bring community disease transmission back to manageable levels to accommodate our testing and tracing capacity.”
The governor’s report also makes note of “increasing outbreaks” including 14 at schools and school athletics teams.
“It is noteworthy that the second-highest origin of outbreak clusters in the Governor’s report are schools and school athletic teams,” Schmidtke said. “These outbreaks were predicted to happen due to widespread community transmission. I hope that this proves to be an important data point to other school systems who are weighing when to return to face to face instruction.”
She said the governor’s optimism is misplaced and there’s work to be done in order to get the pandemic under control.
“There is a very stark difference in the way that the White House Coronavirus Task Force sees the current situation compared to our Governor,” Schmidtke said. “I think we all value optimism but not when we are witnessing so many preventable deaths…deaths that warrant no mention whatsoever in the Governor’s report. We need greater action to limit the transmission of the virus and the White House Coronavirus Task Force also shares that concern.”
Here is the full press release from Gov. Kemp’s Office:
DPH Provides Report on COVID-19 Trends in Georgia
Atlanta, GA – Today the Georgia Department of Public Health released the following information regarding the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia:
During 8/3-8/9, Georgia’s weekly statewide case numbers decreased by 7%.
The CDC report indicates that Georgia has experienced a 22% decrease in case
The highest % of case numbers still come from the high population counties in metro
As of Aug. 13, the state reported over 1.9 million COVID-19 tests.
Eight of the last nine days reporting more than 25,000 tests per day.
Average of nearly 31,000 per day over the last nine days.
DPH is operating 180 SPOCs, including mobile and pop-up locations statewide.
The number of specimens collected at DPH SPOCs has now passed 750,000.
Positivity rates are decreasing from 11.86% on 7/27 to 10.98% on 8/3 to 9.5% on
Daily hospitalizations have decreased 6.62% in the past seven days.
Emergency Department Visits:
Emergency Department (ED) visits related to COVID-19 are slightly decreasing and ILI visits are slightly decreasing.
Areas of Concern
We are seeing decreases in many other areas, but we see growth and/or high
Aug. 6-12: 110
These outbreaks are occurring in settings where people are physically congregating and
Long-term care facilities: 23
Outbreaks were also documented in hospitals/outpatient facilities, daycares and grocery stores.
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