The role of epidemiological models is crucial for informing public health officials during a public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, traditional epidemiological models fail to capture the time-varying effects of mitigation strategies and do not account for under-reporting of active cases, thus introducing bias in the estimation of model parameters. To infer more accurate parameter estimates and to reduce the uncertainty of these estimates, we extend the SIR and SEIR epidemiological models with two time-varying parameters that capture the transmission rate and the rate at which active cases are reported to health officials. Using two real data sets of COVID-19 cases, we perform Bayesian inference via our SIR and SEIR models with time-varying transmission and reporting rates and via their standard counterparts with constant rates; our approach provides parameter estimates with more realistic interpretation, and 1-week ahead predictions with reduced uncertainty. Furthermore, we find consistent under-reporting in the number of active cases in the data that we consider, suggesting that the initial phase of the pandemic was more widespread than previously reported.