Calling the coronavirus spread “very alarming and very disturbing,” the director of the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest District delivered perhaps his most impactful update yet on Friday.
Asked whether conditions would be getting better or worse soon, Dr. Gary Voccio wasted no time in responding: “It’s going to get worse.” That includes not only the 10 counties in the Northwest region but also Northeast Alabama, Southwest Tennessee and the rest of our state and the country, he says.
The spread isn’t confined to one specific area, Voccio says. Heightened reports are coming in from healthcare facilities, prisons, hospitals, schools, courthouses and other high-volume areas, he says.
Why he’s alarmed:
- All 10 counties in the Northwest Georgia region are seeing a surged in cases. All 10 have positivity test rates about 10%. In some areas, it is approaching 20%.
- The district is seeing 40 to 50 new cases a day. Testing had been about 500 people a day but that’s now doubled. Those tests are averaging a 14 percent positivity rate. (Floyd was 14.3%, Bartow was 15.1%, Gordon was 15.2%, Polk was 16.8% and Chattooga, 9.1%)
- The average age of those testing positive remains low, around 38.
- Thanksgiving: He pleaded with area residents to have reduced guests over the holiday because how easily the disease is transmitted. Also, eat out doors is possible. Most important, he says, is to be vigilant.
- When should you get tested? 10 days after you were perhaps around someone with the virus — unless you develop symptoms earlier, Voccio said. The range of the virus’ maturation rate is 2 to 14 days; it peaks at 10 days so if you don’t have symptoms but are concerned, that’s the best day to go, he says. It might now show at one or two days.
- Best preventions remain social distancing, wearing a mask and frequent hand washing.
As for the flu, Voccio says the district is investigating a potential first case this season (late September-mid May). So far, local and state numbers have been very low.
Voccio’s full report is available in the video atop this story. He was interviewed by Logan Boss.
State Department on Public Health cautions residents about Thanksgiving: COVID-19 spreads easily whether gatherings are large or small, putting families and friends at risk – especially individuals who are elderly or have underlying medical conditions. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to stay home and celebrate with people in your own household. Travel increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
“The surge of COVID-19 infections in Georgia and across the country mean we must rethink our idea of a traditional Thanksgiving this year,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “Each family must assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19, especially among elderly or medically fragile individuals, as they weigh the decision to host or attend a holiday gathering. Everyone needs to follow the guidance of wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing your hands frequently. And get a flu shot.”
If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people you don’t live with, take steps to reduce the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends individuals who have not lived in the household during the two weeks ahead of the holiday (members of the military or college students home for the holiday) stay in a separate area of the house with a designated bathroom, if possible. Other recommendations include:
- Wear a mask
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
- Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Attending a Gathering
- Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils.
- Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
- Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
- Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates and utensils.
Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering
- Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
- Limit the number of guests.
- Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.