Transparency is important in all sectors of government but nowhere more crucial than in the public health sector. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated just how important reliable, easily accessible information is to all of us. 

The public has both a right and a need to know things such as infection rates, death rates, hospitalization numbers and overall impact of the pandemic globally, nationally, statewide and — most important — locally. 

Only with timely, reliable information are we able to make the best decisions about our health and wellbeing. 

In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials struggled with how much information to release and how quickly to release it. As time has gone on, the process for disclosing data has improved. 

Locally, the South Heath District and South Georgia Medical Center have disclosed important COVID-19 data, including deaths, hospitalizations and infection rates, on an almost daily basis. 

The newspaper has shared all of that information with the public in real time on the newspaper website as breaking news, on social media and in print editions. 

Our analytics indicate those daily reports continue to be among the most read news reports on our digital platforms, highlighting the high level of public interest in public health data on the pandemic. 

So, the timely release of this information by our hospital and health department is good news. 

The bad news is that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, open records requests, especially at the state level, have been back logged, delayed by weeks and months. 

At first, when government offices shutdown and staff had to learn how to work remotely, the delays in satisfying records requests were understandable and reasonable. 

Now, however, it is time to stop using the public health crisis as a ruse to not disclose vital information to the press and the public. 

In this edition of The Valdosta Daily Times, we take a look at nursing home inspections and the challenges that have been faced at many facilities across the nation. 

Families have every right to be able to access inspection reports and data around all incidents occurring at a nursing home. 

And, that kind of information is of little value if it is not released in a timely manner. 

COVID-19 has impacted us all in many ways, but it must not be used as a ruse to permanently erode the public's right to know. 

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