1 year since Georgia’s first confirmed coronavirus case; what local doctors have learned


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It has been one year since the coronavirus pandemic officially entered the Peach State. On this day last year, Gov. Brian Kemp announced to the world that Georgia had its first two coronavirus patients in Fulton County.

Sixteen days later, the Coastal Health District soon followed with its first confirmed case in Glynn County. Concerns about its severity were quickly confirmed.

“I think it’s been real clear to us that this has been a much more devastating outcome for our communities in a very short time compared to what influenza does,” said Memorial Health’s Chief Associate Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker, as he reflected on a year of the pandemic.

From treatment styles to the virus itself, he says the pandemic has been a learning experience — and one that will be studied for decades to come.

“I’m definitely thankful where we are right now, a year later,” said Dr. Thacker. “I was certainly worried about how our communities would handle the guidance around distancing and masking as it came out.”

For that reason, Dr. Thacker says local health systems prepared for a “worst-case scenario.” And we did, in fact, see surges in April, July and February. But if there is another one, changes in how coronavirus patients are treated means ventilator shortages will not be as big of a problem.

“It’s less a conservation about access to the devices,” explained Dr. Thacker. “I’ve found in areas where [we have] our more recent surges, conversations have been about, ‘do we have enough capacity?’ It’s been more about beds and staffing.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Thacker says this time next year, our communities will hopefully look different, with fully open schools and businesses and herd vaccination. But one practice will likely not change — mask-wearing.

Because of masks, Dr. Thacker says flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus cases have been low or nonexistent. The latter, at one point, was the leading reason why children were admitted to the hospital.

“The clinical trials that are currently ongoing for evaluation of some of these vaccinations in children are happening now, so expect in the summertime, we start getting information about their safety and their efficacy and we start providing them to children,” he said.

Dr. Thacker expects hospitalization numbers to remain steady for the remainder of the pandemic. Right now, those numbers hover in the mid-20s to low-30s for Memorial Health.

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