While uncertainty looms over the total number of deaths caused by COVID-19, the total number of deaths for all causes in Carroll County was the lowest for April than they’ve been in years.

The Georgia Department of Public Health keeps track of the number of total COVID-19 cases, including deaths and hospitalizations caused by the disease.

However, this data can and does fluctuate, so the Times-Georgian examined why the fluctuations occur.

According to the agency’s website, the numbers reported “are preliminary and may change as more information is gathered on a person under investigation.”

The data presented may also be incomplete, according to the agency, due to a lag between when the case is tested, reported, and then submitted to DPH.

In Carroll County, instances of a fluctuation did occur. The total number of cases on some occasions decreased — which they should not do, based on the agency’s reporting methods. That’s because an individual COVID-19 case isn’t removed, even if the patient recovers.

When asked for an explanation by the Times-Georgian, a spokesperson for DPH attributed this to incorrect reporting, such as a person not actually residing in the county.

Another issue the Times-Georgian found in the reporting system surrounds the number of deaths reported.

On April 25, the Times-Georgian published an article about nursing homes. At that time, the Department of Community Health was reporting 15 deaths in long-term care facilities but the DPH — a separate agency — was only reporting 11 deaths.

A spokesperson for DPH has attributed this discrepancy to a possible lag in reporting between the two Georgia agencies.

The most recent data from these agencies, however, does show that there are 20 total deaths in the county and 16 deaths in long-term care facilities that are attributed to COVID-19.

Regardless of the lag, the Vital Records department of the Georgia Department of Public Health keeps track of the total number of deaths in the county, regardless of residency, as well as the number of residents who die, regardless of place or cause of death.

From January 2015 to April 2020, there was an average of 93 deaths a month. In April 2020, there were 63 total deaths in the county, the lowest monthly total for the five year period. In March 2020, there were 103 deaths.

Further, for those whose county of residence was Carroll County, monthly deaths averaged to approximately 91 deaths. But in April 2020, there were 58 registered for the county.

Governor Brian Kemp issued a shelter in place order to flatten the curve of COVID-19 on March 23 only for those of increased risk due to age or health condition. On April 2, the governor then issued a shelter in place order for all citizens of Georgia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes anywhere from two to 14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to develop, which would mean the latest a person might develop symptoms after the governor’s social distancing orders could have been April 14.