A novel coronavirus, named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. (Photo Courtesy/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The Georgia Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 data has included errors three times in three weeks, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The most recent data error occurred last week when DPH released a chart that depicted a drop in cases in counties with the highest infections every day for two weeks, according to the AJC. In reality, the dates on the chart were listed out of order.

In response to the AJC’s coverage, Candice Broce, a communications director in Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration, said in a tweet that the values on the x-axis of the chart were arranged by descending values.

However, the AJC documented several different responses from DPH and the governor’s office, including an error in sorting the data, an error from the software vendor and the chart creator publishing the dates out of order with the thought of it being “helpful.”

Harry J. Heiman, a clinical associate professor in the Georgia State University School of Public Health, told the AJC that DPH is demonstrating a pattern with misreporting data and that the most recent data mistake was “criminal.”

Regardless of this confusion, according to the AJC’s analysis of DPH reports, there was a slight decline in the two weeks of seven-day rolling average of cases and the number of deaths seem to be levelling.

The DPH is also including antibody tests in its total test count, according to the AJC. An antibody test does not reveal if a person is currently infected, but demonstrates whether someone has antibodies due to a previous infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Benjamin Lopman, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Emory University, told the AJC that it is inappropriate to include the antibody test numbers in the total test count.

According to the Ledger-Enquirer, which first reported on DPH’s inclusion of antibody tests in total test counts, the inclusion of these test numbers causes the rate of positive cases to drop while the total number of tests increases.

Earlier this week, according to the AJC, Kemp praised the state for rising to 20th in the nation in the number of residents tested for the virus. However, according to the AJC’s data analysis of national numbers, with the removal of the antibody tests, Georgia’s rank would actually be 29th.

DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey told the AJC that the inclusion of the antibody tests was not an error but due to how the data was collected. She said she was unaware of how many antibody tests were being included in the data.

The CDC and DPH will begin separating the antibody and diagnostic test numbers on their websites as of Thursday, according to WSB-TV

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