Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the ten-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District, acknowledges there is now clear indication of community spread of COVID-19 in Northwest Georgia. “Everyone should operate under the assumption that there is transmission in your community already,” Voccio says. “Many people are going to get sick, but based on what we know about this virus, most people will not develop serious illness,” Voccio says.
Voccio reports that COVID-19 testing is only available at this time for those that are symptomatic and have been evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. He also endorses the CDC’s recent recommendation to cancel events and large gatherings over fifty people and urges use of social distancing to mitigate spread of the virus and protect local communities.
Voccio stresses that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness, including older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. These people and their family, friends, and caregivers should take special precautions.
Public health currently recommends that for the next eight weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of fifty people or more. You can find CDC guidance here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/mass-gatherings-ready-for-covid-19.html
Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
This recommendation does not apply to the day-to-day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses and is made to help reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.
If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.
Voccio emphasizes that anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, shortness of breath, and cough, should contact their healthcare provider immediately for instructions. “Please do not go to your healthcare provider without calling ahead,” Voccio urges. “Otherwise, if you’re sick, stay at home.”
For everything you need to know about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community, go to