COMMENTARY: Nearly 45 percent of state's COVID deaths occurred in Long Term Care facilities - maybe?
Updated: Jun 23
Official Georgia COVID-19 reports again fail to provide trustworthy, complete data that would allow for honest assessment of COVID-19
According to the latest Georgia Department of Public Health figures, there have been 64,701 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the first four recorded case, which are shown as having been diagnosed on Feb. 1.
The GDPH June 21 COVID-19 update listed 2,643 deaths, equaling 4.1 percent of confirmed cases. According to the notation on the death total update,
Although the report states that the number of deaths “includes confirmed COVID-19 cases that were either reported to DPH as deceased by healthcare providers, medical examiners/coroners, or identified by death certificates with COVID-19 indicated as the cause of death,” it does not specify whether the number also includes deaths of individuals who had not been confirmed as being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
According to the June 19 Long-Term Care Facility COVID-19 report, provided by the Georgia Department of Community Health, 6,591 (10.19 percent) of those 64,701 confirmed cases in Georgia have been residents of Long Term Care Facilities such as nursing homes, and 1,182 (44.72 percent) of the state’s 2,643 deaths occurred among individuals living in long term care facilities.
The data listed for each of the 541 long term care facilities in the state do not seem to match with the report’s description of the data.
According to notations on the report, the number of “COVID-Positive Residents”, the number of “Resident Deaths” and the number of “COVID Positive Staff” are all “cumulative” numbers, not “current” numbers.
However, the cumulative total of “”COVID Positive Residents” listed for The Clary Care Center and Wilkinson Center is two, while they list a cumulative total of 14 residents who have recovered from COVID 19.
Not only has the state reporting system mis-identified what appears to be a “current total of COVID Positive Residents” as a cumulative total, they have also failed to supply that cumulative total, making the “resident’s recovered” statistic meaningless. Without the cumulative total of confirmed cases, there is no method of determining a recovery rate. A total of 14 recoveries means one thing if there were 16 confirmed cases; it means an entirely different thing if there were 100 confirmed cases.
Similarly, the Total Cumulative number of COVID-Positive Residents (as defined by report descriptions included in the report) for the PruittHealth Toccoa facility is five, with one death and four recoveries. There is no way to determine if the five Confirmed cases is a cumulative total, as stated in the report, thus making the recovery rate 80 percent and the death rate 20 percent, or if the five confirmed cases are a “current” count, as with the Clary Center, making the cumulative count unknown, and recovery and death rates impossible to determine.
The report identifies five Covid-positive staff members at the Clary Center, and three Covid-positive staff members at PruittHealth Toccoa. These numbers are identified as “cumulative totals” by the report; considering the discrepancies in the confirmed case “cumulative” numbers, it is not certain whether that designation is accurate, of if the numbers are, instead, “currently infected” staff members.
Theses discrepancies – such as “cumulative confirmed” numbers significantly fewer than “recovered” numbers – are apparent within the data from facilities throughout the state.
Shoddy regulation, inaccurate and conflicting reports, missing data and the refusal to be accountable for COVID-19 data has laid the groundwork mistrust among the public in a time when trust is paramount - and should be a given.
The justification for shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, business closures, restrictions on civil rights - all of these were steps taken by the Governor in an understandable and defensible effort to "flatten the curve." Not to eradicate the virus, no to wait until the threat from the virus was over, not until there was no fear left. Simply to flatten the curve - to stretch out the infection slope, to slow down how quickly it spread. The justification for the state's Executive Orders - the reason many residents reluctantly accepted those restrictions, was to safeguard our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. The purpose was never to stop the spread of the virus, or even to reduce the number of people it infected - remember "Flatten the curve" - there was never any possibility of eliminating the disease - only rationing out its infections to allow the medical community to keep up with it.
Without accurate, complete, thorough and reliable data from the government entities in charge of managing and reporting this effort, citizens are left with no yardstick by which to measure if the purpose for the Executive Orders have been accomplished, and the Orders should be rescinded completely, or if original justification for the Orders still are in effect.
Extension of the Orders under new justifications should not be allowed. If new Orders are needed using a new justification - to attempt to eradicate the spread of the virus, for example, instead of "flatten the curve" - then that is all well and good. Draft that new Order, bring it before the full legislature, let both houses vote on it again to approve it, and go from there.
But the state cannot continue to operate under Executive Orders passed under the guise of one justification, when that justification is no longer valid.
And it is impossible to determine if that justification is still valid, without accurate and trustworthy data.