Atlanta, GA – With the announcement by Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday evening of the first two positive cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) in Georgia local schools and hospitals are gearing to deal with any cases that may impact the local community in the future. The two first confirmed cases were two residents of Fulton County who live in the same household, one of whom recently returned from Italy. Both have mild symptoms and are currently isolated at home with other relatives to keep the illness from spreading.
The Department of Public Health is working to identify any contacts who may have been exposed and those individuals will be contacted directly by a DPH epidemiologist and monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.
Piedmont Walton, the primary health facility in Walton County, report that the hospital is following screening guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when evaluating patients who present with fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness and have a history of travel to the affected areas.
“The elevated screening is being conducted at all of our hospitals or ambulatory clinic settings, including emergency rooms, urgent care and physician practices,” Walton Piedmon noted in a statement. “For the last month, Piedmont has been educating its clinical staff – and in particular those who are in the position to have first contact with patients – on the screening guidelines and reinforcing the use of appropriate isolation procedures. In addition, the screening questionnaire has been added to Piedmont’s electronic medical record, Epic.
Piedmont shared the following screening guidelines currently in force. These include: “presentation of symptoms (for example, fever, cough and shortness of breath) in combination with either travel to China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea and/or close contact with a person confirmed to have the virus. If the contact is with a person who is under investigation for the virus, the patient presenting must also have a fever to be considered a positive screen. If a patient’s screen is positive, appropriate isolation procedures are implemented and the clinical staff are immediately notifying their Infection Preventionist and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). When necessary, we also are consulting with DPH when patients arrive who have traveled outside the United States and have the aforementioned respiratory symptoms.”
In a press release, Kemp had announced the formation of a Georgia Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and said he had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence on Monday night about the two confirmed cases in Georgia.
“Our team has been working around the clock to prepare for any scenario. Already, state health officials have established contact with these individuals to gather more information, monitor their condition, and determine any exposure,” Kemp said in an updated press release. “They are confident that our efforts to prepare for this moment have enabled us to manage these cases appropriately and minimize any risks moving forward. We remain in constant communication with our partners at all levels of government, and we will continue to update members of the public as information becomes available.”
“We knew that Georgia would likely have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and we planned for it. The immediate risk of COVID-19 to the general public, however, remains low at this time,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, MD, MPH, DPH Commissioner. “I cannot emphasize enough the need for all Georgians to follow the simple precautions that DPH always urges to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”
COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and symptoms appear within two to fourteen days after exposure. These symptons include fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. Those considered at risk for contracting the virus are individuals who have traveled to areas where there are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 or individuals in close contact with an infected person.
Officials shared the following best practices to minimize the risk of the spread of the disease.
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The flu is still widespread and active throughout the state, so if you have not already gotten a flu shot, it is not too late. While the flu shot will not protect against COVID-19, it will prevent serious complications that require hospitalization and prevent overburdening the health care system in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
If you have recently traveled to areas where there are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 and develop fever with cough and shortness of breath within fourteen days of your travel, or if you have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19, stay home and call your health care provider or local health department right away. Be sure to call before going to a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care center and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
For updated information about COVID-19, visit dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html. Find answers to frequently asked questions at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html.