The Georgia Department of Public Health published several improvements to the state's daily COVID-19 status report on Tuesday after weeks of complaints about misleading information, sudden errors and calls from public health experts for more transparency and honesty with how the state releases coronavirus information.
Some of the information published Tuesday still shows inconsistencies.
The department of health announced last week that it would be updating the site only once a day, every day, at the same time. Early in the state's outbreak, the health department updated new cases every day at noon. The state then changed to twice a day — once at noon and again at 7 p.m. — as the positive case count grew.
After a while, as Georgia ramped up testing, the state started to sporadically update its website as results came in from both public and private labs. This caused confusion for both the health department and the public. The department now says that the daily update will allow time to process and validate laboratory and case reports.
The update also clearly separates molecular PCR coronavirus tests, also known as the swab tests, and the number of serology antibody tests and the number of positives and percent positives for each type of test.
This distinction has made national news as Georgia was one of only four states that were combining the two tests in its total test count. It was also changing back and forth between including positive cases in the total confirmed cases and not, creating a rosier picture for the state when it came to the positive rate for cases.
Antibody and viral tests are not the same. The "rapid screen" antibody tests are not meant to serve as an official diagnosis of a COVID-19 infection but are designed to detect antibodies, the proteins that signal an immune response and are used to determine past infection. Viral tests are used to identify someone who is currently infected.
The state website now says only molecular test results are used in identifying confirmed cases, but that's not what the numbers show.
Tuesday's update shows Georgia has conducted 474,287 swab COVID-19 tests and 91,325 antibody tests. Of the swab tests, 43,178 have come back positive, However, the state is reporting a total of 48,207 COVID-29 cases.
Of the 91,325 antibody tests, 5,395 came back positive. Adding those two numbers totals 48,573, not 48,207.
The Times Free Press reached out to the Department of Health for comment but did not get a response by press time.
As of Tuesday, 2,102 people had died in Georgia from the coronavirus. There have been over 8,300 hospitalizations and 1,821 ICU admissions.
Locally, Catoosa County has reported 142 cases and no deaths; Chattooga County 25 cases and two deaths; Dade County 37 cases and one death; Gordon County 166 cases and 16 deaths; Murray County 96 cases and one death; Walker County 162 cases and no deaths; and Whitfield County 391 cases and seven deaths.
To check out the updates and more, visit the state's daily update site at bit.ly/ga-covid.
The DPH said it will regularly review and "update features of the dashboard to improve data quality and accuracy."
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.