ATLANTA (WSAV) – Two cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Georgia, the first of the new virus in the state.
Governor Brian Kemp announced during a press conference Monday night that both of the patients are in the same household in Fulton County, though the exact location will not be released.
Authorities say a 56-year-old man returned to Atlanta on Feb. 22 from a conference in Milan, Italy, and showed symptoms of coronavirus three days later. Two days after that, his son started showing symptoms.
“I want to take a moment to emphasize that Georgians should remain calm,” the governor said. “We were ready for today. We’ve been preparing, as you know, for several weeks now and so far every development has come forward just as we expected it would.”
On Friday, Kemp officially named his coronavirus task force, including state and private officials such as Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.
“Everything about this situation demonstrates how well the system is working,” Toomey said during the press conference. “This individual had traveled to Italy, recognized that there was a potential risk for themselves and their household members, contacted the physician ahead of time so that they would not put any of the other patients at risk in the practice.”
She said the clinician directed the patient to come in through an alternative entrance, so those in the waiting room wouldn’t be exposed.
A patient specimen was later sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and “turned around in record time,” according to Toomey.
“We will work very, very diligently to identify any contacts in the community that these individuals may have had,” said Toomey. “I want to reassure you that they are at home in home isolation with other household members and are doing well; minimum symptoms.”
Health experts will be testing the man’s spouse and a younger child in the home but at this time, they are all showing mild symptoms.
The CDC said passengers who traveled with the man from Milan to Amsterdam and then to Atlanta do not need to be tested because he didn’t show symptoms until three days after he was back in Fulton County.
“If you’ve traveled to Milan, if you’ve traveled to South Korea, if you’re coming home from China, you’re much more likely to have encountered coronavirus there than anywhere in Georgia,” Toomey said. “At the present time, we know of no other cases.”
She did say, however, that more cases are expected. “And I hope all of them go as smoothly as this did with early recognition,” Toomey added.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease.
State and federal officials recommend taking simple measures to protect themselves, including avoiding contact with those who are sick and simply staying home if not feeling well.
“Wash your hands and get a flu shot. I’ll keep saying that,” Toomey said.
Symptoms of coronavirus, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
The most at-risk individuals are the elderly, those with existing health conditions and individuals who have traveled to areas where there are ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks.
According to Toomey, by Friday, Georgia will have the resources to test for COVID-19 in public health labs to turn around results even faster.
That’s also when President Donald Trump is expected to visit the CDC to evaluate the coronavirus response.
For more stories and the latest updates on the respiratory illness outbreak, visit wsav.com/coronavirus.