Georgia health agency stymies requests for public records during pandemic

In the first four months of COVID-19 when Georgia saw more than 84,000 confirmed cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, journalists, advocates and lawyers submitted more than 40 records requests for emails about the Department of Public Health’s response to the pandemic. The requesters sought emails regarding the state’s allocation of resources, Gov. Brian Kemp’s April remarks about asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19, correspondence with corporate leaders and information that guided the state’s reopening.

But DPH, tasked as the lead state agency managing the crisis, did not complete a single request for emails during that period.

Open records logs obtained by Georgia Health News show that DPH had failed to produce emails in response to nearly four dozen requests submitted between March 1 and July 1. CNN, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other Atlanta news organizations were among the requesters.

Open government advocates accuse DPH of violating a state law requiring the agency to complete these requests in a timely fashion. (Read more)