Virus online update

Georgia government and public health officials have called for the prioritization of COVID-19 tests for the people considered most vulnerable, as well as first responders and health workers as the state confirmed two more deaths from the coronavirus Wednesday, March 18.

“Many Georgians are eager to be tested right now, but we need to be mindful of our resources. We have to be in this fight together,” Gov. Brian Kemp, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) said in a joint statement. "According to federal and state health officials, we must start prioritizing COVID-19 tests for our most vulnerable populations and the people responsible for their care and safety. This will conserve precious medical supplies — like masks, shoe covers and gowns — which are becoming increasingly difficult to find for healthcare facilities due to overuse, export bans and hoarding.

"Georgia’s elderly, those with chronic, underlying health conditions, those who live in a long-term care facility like an assisted living facility or nursing home, and those serving on the front lines as a health care worker, first responder, long-term care facility staffer, or law enforcement need tests. The best way to serve the public is to protect the people who are protecting us in this battle.

The DPH on Wednesday evening confirmed reports from an Albany hospital that two people had died there as a result of the virus — a 42-year-old woman and a 69-year-old woman, both of whom had existing medical conditions.

That brings the state’s official virus-related death toll to three, with nearly 200 confirmed cases, according to the state’s latest figures. The DPH is updating its only county-by-county tracker every day at noon.

The actual number of cases in the state and the country (listed to be approaching 8,000 Wednesday evening) is believed to be much higher due to the lack of readily available testing for everyone.

"It is our responsibility to keep the elderly and chronically ill safe, back our law enforcement and first responders, and protect the doctors, nurses, and health care providers working around the clock,” the joint statement said. “We ask everyone to continue to pray for our nation in the weeks ahead."

Federal and state health officials have said those without symptoms of COVID-19 or who are “mildly” or “moderately” ill with “cold-like” symptoms do not need to be tested and say the majority of people with it can recover at home through self-isolation and symptomatic treatment. Diagnoses through testing does not change the care they would receive.

Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 and should always consult their health care provider if they are sick, officials have said.

People with mild respiratory symptoms — fever and cough — should stay home and isolate themselves from others for at least seven days after their symptoms began, or 72 hours after their fever has resolved and symptoms have improved, officials have said, adding that If anyone has been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, they “must self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.”

Correctly washing hands and practicing “social distancing” by avoiding large gatherings and close contact with people who are sick are recommended.

Officials have provided the following guidelines:

Practice social distancing by putting at least 6 feet between yourself and other people.

•Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

•Stay home if you are sick.

•Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.

•Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

•Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

•Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. 

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