In a late-night news conference on Monday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced that two cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, have hit the Atlanta metro area. According to WSB-TV, both cases were confirmed for state officials by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"These cases involve two individuals who reside in the same household. One who recently returned from Italy," Kemp said.
At present, the two people are being quarantined inside their home in Fulton County alongside their family, who are all showing minor symptoms. Kemp urged Georgians not to panic and to remain calm. He added that the state has been "preparing for weeks," referring in part to the newly formed Georgia coronavirus taskforce. He said that the task force has helped the state be more proactive to handle any cases of the illness, which has now claimed 3,100 lives, according to CBS.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey also spoke at the news conference about the chances of the virus being spread through the community.
"We thought it was important that we come today and tell you about this even as our epidemiologists are still investigating and find any potential contacts in the community."She added that the patients and physicians seemed to be handling the situation as best they could. The patient who had returned from Italy called his doctor once he began experiencing symptoms when he returned to the Atlanta area. Upon arriving at the physician's office, the two patients were guided into the office through a separate entrance to minimize the potential exposure to other patients and staff.
She added that they are performing their due diligence in seeking out any additional contacts to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus, though there has not yet been any evidence of local transmission. Additionally, she urged Atlantans to be diligent about washing their hands.
Toomey also praised the CDC for their quick turnaround, saying that they received the specimen on Saturday, February 29.
State Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler released a joint statement Monday night reminding residents to continue to "take extra precautions," and said that they are working with Kemp and the Trump Administration to ensure the safety of all Georgians.
"Fortunately, we have the best and brightest working at the CDC here in Atlanta to continue to help prepare the country," the statement read.
The coronavirus is a novel virus with symptoms similar to the flu. Like most viruses, it is spread through person-to-person contact. According to the World Health Organization, common symptoms of the virus include cough, fever, and respiratory symptoms. While health officials urge people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, the Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warns against the use of face masks as they may actually increase the risk of contagion.