Georgia sets one-day record for COVID-19 cases

Georgia’s mounting COVID-19 case numbers Friday came as failures with the state’s public health data systems yet again prevented DPH from producing its daily report on pandemic information. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
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Georgia’s mounting COVID-19 case numbers Friday came as failures with the state’s public health data systems yet again prevented DPH from producing its daily report on pandemic information. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Credit: AP

Problems with COVID-19 case data continue for state health officials

The swift spread of the coronavirus’ omicron variant brought Georgia to a new single-day record for new COVID-19 cases Friday. The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 26,033 combined confirmed and probable coronavirus infections.

The new record exceeded the previous record of 25,212 cases, set on Wednesday.

Overall the state, with a population of 10.8 million, has recorded nearly 2 million infections throughout the pandemic as of this week.

It’s not clear yet whether omicron’s big spike in cases will also lead to record levels of hospitalizations and death, as the delta variant did over the summer. Hospitals will find out in the next two weeks. The number hospitalized with COVID in Georgia was 4,658 on Friday.

Georgia’s mounting case numbers Friday also came as failures with the state’s public health data systems yet again prevented DPH from producing its daily report on pandemic information. DPH maintains a public website, https://dph.georgia.gov/, listing daily updates on COVID case counts, hospitalizations, deaths and other data, and it has reported multiple data problems this week. The website didn’t update Monday, Thursday or Friday.

DPH instead issued a press release Friday evening with the basic numbers.

ExploreComplete coverage of COVID-19 in Georgia

“Due to ongoing issues with Electronic Laboratory Reporting (ELR), the Georgia Department of Public Health will not publish an updated COVID-19 Daily Status Report today,” the agency stated. “Data for case counts, hospitalizations and deaths come from sources other than ELR, and as such are not impacted by the same problem.”

It’s an inopportune time for the problems as omicron continues to spread across the state and the seven-day rolling average of new confirmed and probable infections is at its highest point of the pandemic.

Hospitals and other health care and science workers are watching the numbers with deep concern to understand what the next days hold and how to respond. Their resources are stretched and they are filled already with COVID-19 patients.

The DPH typically updates its COVID-19 dashboard each weekday, with Monday reports including data from over the weekend. But DPH was unable to publish its Monday report, citing an “overwhelming” volume of data.

On Tuesday, DPH reported 2.6 million PCR tests since its last update four days earlier on New Year’s Eve, a figure that appeared to be an error. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday the testing figures actually revealed a data processing problem that stretched back nearly two years.

DPH delayed its daily report on Wednesday by several hours because of the data issue and said it would temporarily remove a column on daily PCR tests as a result. In a press release Wednesday night, the department labeled the data issue a “coding error.” But the AJC learned a processing issue caused DPH to under-report daily COVID-19 tests and positive results in at least one prominent location on its website since the beginning of the pandemic.

Nancy Nydam, a DPH spokeswoman, told the AJC earlier this week the problem does not reflect an overall undercount of tests administered or infections and that vital data in other locations on its website were accurate.

Issues with testing data carried on into Thursday, and DPH scuttled its Thursday dashboard update as well. Instead, the agency reported new statewide case, hospitalization and death data in a news release.

“DPH is actively working to resolve the issue with the COVID-19 testing numbers received through (Electronic Laboratory Reporting) to ensure we are providing accurate and transparent data about COVID-19 in Georgia,” Nydam said in a news release Thursday. “We ask for your continued patience as we address this issue.”