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First 2 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Georgia

Medical workers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, China. (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP/TNS)

The governor late Monday confirmed the first two cases of coronavirus in Georgia.

Gov. Brian Kemp said at a 10 p.m. press conference March 2 that two members of the same household had been diagnosed with the virus, which has been spreading across the globe since first breaking out in China in 2019.

Officials with the state Department of Public Health said one person had traveled to Milan, Italy, where they believe the person was infected, and then spread the disease to another member of the same Fulton County household after returning home.

Both patients are under home quarantine, officials said, and in good condition with mild symptoms.

The governor’s office said the Department of Public Health is working to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the patients while they were infectious. People who are identified as having been exposed will be contacted directly by a Department of Public Health epidemiologist and monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms, according to a press release from Kemp’s office.

The governor said that he’d spoken with Vice President Mike Pence, who has been tasked by the president with directing the American response to the virus, and that Pence emphasized that the virus continues to present a “low-risk” so far.

“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,” said Gov. Kemp. “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.”

Meanwhile, China’s coronavirus caseload continued to wane Tuesday even as the epidemic took a firmer hold beyond Asia, with three countries now exceeding 1,000 cases and the U.S. reporting its sixth death.

“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 Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey. “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. Symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and 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 a person infected with COVID-19.

China in January imposed a virtual lockdown around Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, where the illness was first detected in December and which has been the epicenter of the outbreak. Many countries have canceled or curbed public events and discouraged travel to virus hotspots, but quarantines and similar restrictions have been on smaller scales, focused on those directly exposed.

The worst-hit places outside China were South Korea, Iran and Italy. South Korea on Tuesday reported 477 new cases, bringing its totals to 4,812 with 28 deaths. Most are in the southeastern city of Daegu and neighboring towns.

In Iran, a confidant of Iran’s supreme leader died from the virus. The Islamic Republic confirmed 1,501 cases and 66 deaths, but many believe the true number is larger. Its reported caseload surged more than 250% in just 24 hours.

Italy’s caseload rose to 2,036, including 52 deaths. Officials said it could take up to two weeks before they know whether measures including quarantining 11 towns in northern Italy are slowing the spread of the virus.

Take Precaution

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 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 14 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.


© 2020 The Times