As States Reopen, Concern Grows Over Data Manipulation

The rush to declare victory may rely on misleading numbers.

Austin Mcafee/ZUMA

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The rush to lift lockdown measures, even as COVID-19 continues to pose major problems across the country, is sparking new concern over whether some states are using misleading data in order to justify reopening.

In Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has led one of the most aggressive campaigns to restart the economy, widespread confusion abounds after at least three errors in its recent data-tracking were caught by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Those mistakes included presenting days in the incorrect order, which created the appearance that infections in the state were rapidly declining. For some, the apparent error was too glaring to be just that, immediately drawing suspicion that it had been done intentionally, though Kemp’s office denies the accusation.

“Our mission failed,” Kemp spokesperson Candice Broce said after one reader noted that the cases along the x-axis were not in chronological order. “We apologize. It is fixed.”

Amid those mishaps in Georgia, the leading architect behind Florida’s coronavirus data dashboard revealed on Friday that she had been abruptly removed from her post. According to Florida Today, Rebekah Jones’ announcement followed weeks of strange website crashes and missing data. “As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months,” Jones said in an email announcing her dismissal. “After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it.”

That’s sparked worries that Jones’ removal may be a signal that the state is clamping down on transparency, as its governor rushes to declare victory against COVID-19.

The potential trend echoes a similar development at the White House, which has reportedly been pressuring the CDC to change its methodology for tallying deaths in a way that would undercount fatalities.

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate