COVID-19 UPDATE


Summarized by Dr. Ed Ewing

COVID-19 is continuing to spread in Georgia. As of noon Monday 4/20/20, there were 18,947 confirmed cases across the state with 733 deaths. There were 3,550 hospitalizations  ( https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/coronavirus-dozens-new-deaths-reported-georgia/R3ZIX6JCJZAULEY7GXMIBY5RRQ/ ). The graph below from the Georgia Department of Public Health COVID-19 Daily Status Report  shows confirmed cases of COVID-19 by date of earliest known sign of illness.  "Please note that these data represent our most current understanding of the cases at the time of report. The most recent days of these trend data are impacted by a reporting lag that varies based on how the case is reported to public health and are subject to change" ( https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report ). The current population of Georgia is 3,990,639 as of Monday, April 20, 2020, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data ( https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/georgia-population/).   If you do the math, 18,947 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far in a state population of 3,990,639 represents less than half of 1% of Georgia citizens.  This suggests that, if we let it, this highly contagious virus could further infect enormous numbers of susceptible people in our state within a short time.  That would crash the health care system, food supply chain, police, fire and rescue, and all other vital services.  We must prevent that catastrophe at all costs. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. infectious disease expert and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, emphasized that local economies won’t recover from the current downturn until the coronavirus outbreak is contained. “Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen,” he said Monday 4/20/20 in an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America. If you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back.”  Fauci said that “as painful as it is,” it’s essential officials follow guidelines for gradually phasing into a reopening or “it’s going to backfire. That’s the problem.” ( https://www.wsbtv.com/news/trending/coronavirus-live-updates-us-deaths-pass-40k-total-cases-near-760k/5NCEW7ZRARBXFJAV7JNH6CZJUA/) Meanwhile, we have no idea how many people in Georgia have already had COVID-19 and recovered.  We can't safely reopen until we know.  There is no way to get this information other than to carry out widespread testing for the antibody that those patients now have.  There is no way to get the testing done without all of the reagents, materials, and personnel to do the testing.  And then we need extensive contact tracing and quarantines once social distancing gets the patient numbers down to a manageable level.  As of this date, there is no evidence of a plan or coordination at the federal level to get all this done.  We also have no idea how complete and long-lasting any post-infection immunity will last.  We are flying blind without these data.   Until we have effective treatments and vaccines, and until we know who is immune and who isn't, social distancing with economic shutdown is the ONLY WAY to slow this virus down.  We may still have a long way to go.  We have to be smart.   There is one other issue.  The Georgia Department of Public Health  ( https://dph.georgia.gov/preparing-and-responding-covid-19) warns that  "Further, fear and anxiety about this disease have led to unnecessary stigma and discrimination against certain populations. It is important to remember that viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities or racial backgrounds. For more about stigma related to COVID-19 and how to prevent it, please see  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/related-stigma.html