Two cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Fulton County.
Last night, March 2, at 10 p.m., Gov. Brian Kemp held a joint press conference with Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey to inform Georgia residents that two Fulton County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the newest Coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2.
One of those who has tested positive for the virus is a male who “recently” returned from Milan, Kemp said, declining to say specifically when the patient had visited, or returned from, Milan. The other patient is a female who lives in the same home as the first patient.
“Both have mild symptoms; they are isolated at home with other relatives to keep the illness from spreading,” Toomey said.
Although Toomey repeatedly stressed that the source of the infections in Georgia were “travel-related” and not a result of “person-to-person contact” in the state, only one of the infected individuals traveled to Milan. The other individual lives in the same house as the man that traveled to Milan and contracted the virus, but she did not travel with him, indicating that she contracted the virus from him after his return from Milan.
During Monday night’s press conference, Toomey said a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Georgia had probably been inevitable.
“We knew that Georgia would likely have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and we planned for it,” she said. “The immediate risk of COVID-19 to the general public, however, remains low at this time,” she added.
Following statements by Kemp and Toomey, media representatives were given a chance to ask questions, many of which dealt with the level of risk for exposure from the two infected patients.
“Already, state health officials have established contact with these individuals to gather more information, monitor their condition, and determine any exposure,” Kemp said. However, Toomey and Kemp declined to provide specific information that would allow the public to asses for themselves any risk of exposure to the two infected individuals.
Citing confidentiality concerns, Toomey and Kemp would not specify a more specific location of the patients other than Fulton County, would not identify what medical facility they had gone to for testing and diagnosis, would not give the date of one of the individual’s return flight from Milan, landing at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and would not specify the date that they were tested for COVID-19, nor the amount of time that passed between the man’s return from Milan and when the two were quarantined in their home.
“DPH is working to identify any contacts who may have been exposed while the individuals were infectious,” stated a press release distributed by Kemp’s office following the press conference. “People who are identified as having been exposed will be contacted directly by a DPH epidemiologist and monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.”
Bruce Aylward with WHO led a recent mission to China to learn about the virus and the country’s response. While many individuals who get COVID-19 will “experience nothing worse than seasonal flu symptoms,” Aylward said the “overall profile of the disease, including its mortality rate, looks more serious.” Even at a 1 percent fatality rate, COVID-19 would be approximately 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu, which kills between 290,00 and 650,000 each year globally. Estimates from WHO place the mortality rate at 1.7 percent, while the Chinese Center for Disease Control puts the fatality rate closer to 3.5 percent.
The mortality rate for COVID-19 is significantly lower than other coronaviruses such as MERS (34.4 percent) or SARS (11 percent), and that fact alone could make COVID-19 more dangerous, according to many health officials. Although the mortality rate for both SARS and MERS were high, the total fatalities for each disease was fewer than 1,000 people, due to the fact that illness caused by the viruses were so severe, with unique or identifiable symptoms, that infected people were identified and isolated – or they died – quickly, and therefore spent little time spreading the virus.
COVID-19, on the other hand, can cause mild symptoms that may be mistaken for the flu, resulting in infected people who are contagious spending a large amount of time in the general population after becoming contagious. Several recent studies have shown that a person can be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and be contagious, while still exhibiting no symptoms.
“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,” states a press release distributed by Kemp’s office shortly following the press conference. “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.”
At approximately 3 p.m. on Monday, Kemp posted on social media that “Georgians can rest
assured that - while there are no confirmed cases (of COVID-19) in Georgia – local, state and federal partners are hard at work preparing for any scenario.”
On Monday morning, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reported that there were currently 91 “confirmed or presumptive positive” cases in the United States – a jump of more than 30 cases in a 24-hour period. A portion of that increase in cases is the CDC’s decision to include presumptive cases to their tally. Presumptive cases are patients who have tested positive at state or local labs and are awaiting confirmation from the CDC.
More than 45 of those cases are repatriates from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, and from a Diamond Princess cruise ship where more than 700 passengers and crew members were infected with the virus.
Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that travel restrictions to some of the hardest-hit countries may expand, depending on the number of new confirmed cases in those countries. “The action the president authorized this weekend, raising the travel advisory; the American people should know we’re saying you should not travel to certain sections of Italy or South Korea,” Pence said.
On Friday, Feb. 28, Kemp held a press conference to announced the creation of a Georgia ‘Coronavirus task force” In accordance with the Administration's initiatives, Georgia's coronavirus task force represents a coalition of subject-matter experts from the private and public sectors who will work together on preventative measures, strategic deployment of resources, and collaboration across all levels of government,” Kemp said about the task force.
Toomey, who also attended the task force press conference, said, "At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, but we remain vigilant and continue to plan for all contingencies.Fortunately, the Peach State boasts some of the world's most advanced healthcare experts and institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We are taking action now - ahead of any confirmed cases - to make sure that we are ready for any scenario.”
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report released Monday, the number of new COVID-19 cases outside China was almost 9 times higher than those confirmed inside China over the previous 24-hour period. WHO statistics indicate that the number of confirmed cases outside China stands at more than 8,739 cases in 61 countries, and accounts for more than 127 deaths, with Iran (43), Italy (29) and South Korea (18) suffering the highest fatalities. Worldwide, including China, the number of confirmed cases exceeds 80,000, and the number of deaths have topped 2,700 – a majority of them occurring in China.
America’s first fatality was reported on over the weekend with the death of a man in Washington state. Five more patients with confirmed COVID-19 have died since the first U.S. fatality – all of them in Washington State.
Current US Travel Advisories due to COVID-19
South Korea - Level 3: Reconsider Travel – Issued Feb. 29
Daegu, South Korea – Level 4: Do Not Travel To
Italy - Level 3: Reconsider Travel – Feb. 29
Lombardy and Veneto, Italy – Level 4: Do Not Travel To
Iran - Level 4: Do Not Travel - (Do not travel to Iran due to the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens. Those present in Iran should exercise increased caution due to an outbreak of COVID-19.) - Issued Feb. 26
Mongolia - Level 3: Reconsider Travel – Issued Feb. 26
Japan - Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution – Issued Feb. 22
Hong Kong - Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution – Issued Feb. 20
Macau - Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution – Issued Feb. 11
China - Level 4: Do Not Travel – Issued Feb.