Georgia DPH adjusts COVID-19 models to include asymptomatic transmission

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – As of April 1, Georgia had 4,748 cases and 20,328 completed COVID-19 tests, but Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has only tested symptomatic and high-risk patients. As a result, some cases have gone undiagnosed across Georgia.

Currently, DPH is following CDC guidelines, which still states online that not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Most people who contract the virus will recover and can care for themselves at home. CDC gave healthcare workers four priority categories to help decide who receives tests.

Asymptomatic individuals were ranked last, and those exhibiting mild symptoms or subjected to potential community spread should only be tested if resources are available.

White County Public Safety Director David Murphy went on record about the issue.

“Some people take care of themselves at home and never go to a doctor, especially those who have minor symptoms,” he explained. Murphy added that White County first responders have encountered a dozen or more patients with coronavirus symptoms in the last two weeks.

DPH guidance for healthcare facilities when it comes to testing lower priority potential cases is as follows:

Patients with mild illness who do not require medical care or who are not a DIRECT contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case (meaning the person has NOT been within 6 feet of a confirmed case for greater than 10 minutes, will not meet criteria to be tested at GPHL but can be tested at commercial labs—see below:

These patients should self-isolate at home until symptoms resolve. If respiratory symptoms worsen, they may need to be re-evaluated. Guidance for safe home care can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-homecare.html.

If you want to test these patients for COVID-19, commercial laboratory testing is the best option. Commercial laboratories are expected to conduct a substantial number of COVID-19 tests going forward. Currently, the primary source of testing is LabCorp, but we expect other laboratories will be testing in the near future as well, including Quest and ARUP. Neither LabCorp nor Quest will collect specimens at their facilities. Providers should contact LabCorp or Quest regarding supplies needed for testing.

DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey addressed that asymptomatic individuals in Georgia aren’t being tested but could be transmitting the virus to numerous Georgians. The state and DPH now believe the time is now appropriate to take “very aggressive measures.”

“We have not been testing everybody. We have only been testing those who have symptoms and those who are the most ill. And now, we recognize a game-changer, in how our strategy to fight COVID has unfolded. We realize now that individuals may be spreading the virus and not even realize they have an infection. As many as 1 in 4 people with coronavirus don’t realize they have the infection because they have no symptoms whatsoever,” explained Toomey.

“Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before they see signs,” remarked Gov. Brian Kemp. “Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad.”

Kemp is expected to sign a shelter in place order on Thursday, April 2 to prevent people from ignoring self-quarantine recommendations. The details on the order are yet to be released.

Toomey further voiced that they knew asymptomatic community spread was possible due to the cruise ship cases. As of March 4, the CDC website also stated that asymptomatic spread is possible, but not as common as among individuals who are visibly sick.

Until the past 24-hours, all the DPH models relied on data solely from patients with symptoms.

“I think it’s a combination of recognizing not only that there are probably a large number of people out there who are infected who are asymptomatic, who never would have been recognized under our old models, but also seeing the community transmission that we’re seeing and now is the time to stop that transmission before the hospitals are overrun,” said Toomey.

How can Georgians prevent exposure/slow the spread?

Follow the CDC guidelines:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds – wash often
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces
  • Avoid social contact and stay home
  • Social distance if in public – stay six feet apart from each other
  • Avoid touching the face – mouth, nose, eyes
  • If sick, stay home
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it away
  • Wear a facemask if sick

By following these guidelines and Kemp’s shelter-in-place order, Georgian’s should be able to flatten the curve and hopefully protect themselves and loved ones.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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