Georgia’s COVID-19 cases spike after state misrepresented numbers to indicate a decline

Georgia’s COVID-19 cases spike after state misrepresented numbers to indicate a decline
Brigadier General Randall Simmons, Commander of the Georgia Army National Guard; Brig. Gen. Stephen Melton, chief of staff of the Ga. Air National Guard and Brig. Gen. Reginald Neal, Director of the Ga. Department of Defense Joint Staff speak with Governor Brian Kemp shortly after he was sworn in as the 83rd Governor of the state of Georgia Jan. 14, 2019 at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia National Guard photo by Maj. William Carraway

On April 27, Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp made his state the first to reopen after numerous states issued lockdown orders meant to slow the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Kemp allowed the state’s cinemas, churches restaurants, gyms, tattoo parlors and beauty salons to all resume operations, albeit with some social distancing protocols in place.


In order to show the state’s progress after reopening, Georgia’s Department of Health (DOH) released a graph in early May which seemed to show the state’s number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on a steady decline. However, Los Angeles Times columnist Matthew Fleischer noted that the totals on the graph were sorted out of chronological order, rearranging the counts from different dates in order to give the appearance of a decline.

Kemp and the DOH both issued public apologies, but it seems the reopening’s damage is done.

Immediately after reopening, the state saw a spike of more than 1,200 new confirmed cases on May 1. Over the last 10 days, the state has reported between 700 and nearly 1,000 new cases each day. As of June 20, Georgia ranks 11th amongst all U.S. states for the highest overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Numerous politicians including President Donald Trump, who had personally encouraged states to reopen quickly, said that Kemp had reopened his state too quickly. Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called the decision to reopen the state “dangerously incompetent and deeply callous.”

Despite the increasing case numbers, Kemp recently announced that he’ll allow spectator sports and live performance venues to reopen, for conventions to resume in July, and told state residents over 65 that they no longer have to shelter-in-place. People over the age of 65 have died of COVID-19 at rates far higher than any other age group.

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