FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – With COVID-19 spreading across the country, EMA Director Robert Graham presented an update on the virus during the March Board of Commissioners meeting.
“You might start seeing a spike in cases. We’re probably going to get some cases in Fannin County,” said Graham. “There might very well be some cases in Fannin County now. People might think they have a cold, when they have this Coronavirus, and they’ll get better and never know it.”
At this time, Georgia has six confirmed cases and 16 unconfirmed cases. Graham relayed to the board that the hospital has contracted with a lab that can test for it now. This will result in more cases being uncovered in the area. However, it will reach a peak and start going back down.
COVID-19, now officially classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), is part of a large family of viruses like MERS and SARS. Common coronaviruses include some that cause mild upper-respiratory symptoms like the common cold.
The 2019 disease can be transferred from person to person, and the first case was identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. It spreads like the flu through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people close by within six feet.
“Eventually my opinion from everything I am reading from the CDC and department of health, we’re probably going to start thinking of it like the flu,” said Graham.
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure. The average incubation period is five days.
80 percent of patients with a confirmed case of COVID-19 have mild symptoms. In severe cases, patients have developed pneumonia in both lungs, and in others, patients have died. The current death toll in the United States is 29 out of a total of 938 cases. Also, 38 states and the District of Columbia have reported coronavirus cases.
“None of us have immunity to it because it’s a virus that’s never been around before. Our bodies haven’t had a chance to build up immunity to it,” said Graham.
Those at high risk for developing coronavirus are the elderly 60+ and the young, but as of March 11, 2020, no child has died from the virus. Those with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.
The best way according to the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health is to wash your hands, regularly and for 20 seconds. If you can’t use soap, then use a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. To make sure that you’re washing your hands long enough, sing “Happy Birthday” twice or the chorus “Raspberry Beret” twice by Prince.
Also, you should avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, or nose; cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue and then throw it away, stay home if you’re sick; and avoid close contact with people who are sick. Finally, get a flu shot. It wouldn’t prevent COVID-19, but it will lessen flu symptoms which will make the jobs of health facilities easier.
“Maybe it’s better than shaking hands, to fist bump or use the elbows,” stated Graham.
When it comes to the home, everyone needs to regularly clean all surfaces, such as tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles, as well as all electronic devices.
Not everyone will have the ability to be tested for COVID-19. If you’re feeling sick, call your healthcare provider if you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing; had been in contact with someone with the virus; or recently traveled to an area with COVID-19.
Your healthcare provider will work with the department of health to determine if you need to take a test for Coronavirus. However, those who suspect they might have the virus must call their provider before going to the doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care.
The department of health and CDC advise people to keep an adequate supply of water, food and pet food in your home. If you take prescription drugs, contact your health care provider about keeping an emergency supply at home.
“I don’t want anybody to start panicking or anything. We’ve heard reports of people in the county buying cases of hand sanitizer. That’s all well and good, except what happens when you buy it all and your neighbor doesn’t have any? When your neighbor doesn’t have any, they get the Coronavirus. You’ve got all the hand sanitizer, but they can’t protect themselves, so they’re going to pass it on eventually to you as well,” explained Graham.
He urged to just keep your normal amount of preparedness supplies on hand, don’t go overboard.
From the department of health:
- Discuss with family members relatives, and friends to determine needs in the case of an infectious disease outbreak and make plans on how to care for higher-risk individuals.
- Choose a room in your home that could be used to separate family members who become sick.
- Create an emergency contact list of family members, friends, neighbors, health care providers, teachers, employers, and others.
- Keep a working thermometer and medications, like decongestants, expectorants, and ibuprofen or acetaminophen on hand.
- Know the preparedness plans of your children’s childcare, schools and/or colleges.
- Plan for childcare should schools temporarily close.
- Ask about your employers’ preparedness plans, including sick-leave policies and telework options.
“The biggest thing I can say is, just stay calm and wash your hands,” said Graham. “Don’t panic.”