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District 4 Public Health Director: Troup County has four confirmed, three suspected COVID-19 cases

Georgia Department of Public District 4 Director Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo confirmed Troup County had four cases of COVID-19 Monday morning but said there could be a total of seven to be confirmed by noon Monday.

“So, we’re looking at four confirmed cases, and up to seven cases by the close of business today (Monday),” Obasanjo said.

The statement was made during a Facebook Live roundtable discussion with LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton, Troup County Chairman Patrick Crews, WellStar West Georgia Medical Center Vice President Coleman Foss and Obasanjo.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, the health department still reported four confirmed cases with 800 confirmed cases in the state and 26 deaths.

Foss confirmed Obasanjo’s comments saying the hospital has identified seven cases. He said six of those individuals are at home and the hospital has set up home healthcare with them.

“They are self-quarantined,” Foss said.

Foss said the seventh individual was in the worse shape and has been sent to WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Atlanta for further care. He said he didn’t have an update on the patient for Monday, but as of Saturday, he heard the patient was doing better.

Obasanjo said the public should continue to practice diligent handwashing, avoiding touching their face and, most of all, continue to practice social distancing.

“The vaccine, the treatment for the outbreak at this time, is social distancing,” he said. “I cannot overemphasize that enough.”

Obasanjo said following property hygiene protocols means less if a person isn’t practicing social distancing.

“In fact, it may work against you because if you are handwashing, it may give you a false sense of security, and you tend to interact even a bit more than you normally would,” he said.

Georgia was up to 772 coronavirus cases Monday at noon. Foss said that due to the turnaround time on COVID-19 testing, the hospital is sending some people home to self-isolate before the test comes back.

“A lot of the positive tests of the seven that we’ve gotten back, those patients have already been discharged back home,” he said. “The critical thing for us has been we’ve got to get quicker turnaround time, and there has been a whole lot of movement on that.”

He said the hospital is hoping it can start getting test results back within 48 hours.

Foss said when the hospital waits so long for results, it can start to run out of materials because of the staff going in and out of the patient’s rooms. He said the hospital is trying to minimize the exposure of its staff, but when they are waiting five to seven days for results, it’s more equipment they have to use.

He said the WellStar is holding up well, but they also know they are most likely at the beginning.

“We absolutely are handling it, but we are absolutely tired, (and) we’re overwhelmed,” Foss said. “We know this is truly a marathon, and if you’ve ever run a marathon, it’s 26 miles. We feel like we’re probably at about mile six right now.”

He said WellStar physicians and nurses are calling the individuals who are being tested and have tested positive to check on their well-being and that they are adhering to self-isolation tactics.

“I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but the reality is the best thing that the public can do for us is stay home,” Foss said. “The more they stay home, the quicker this thing is going to end.”

Vaccine

Obasanjo said the four coronaviruses that health officials know affect humans do not have a lasting immunity, which is why people can get the common cold multiple times because it doesn’t have lasting immunity.

He said that’s the struggle the health community is facing when developing a vaccine. He said typically, a vaccine works by giving the human body a low dose or modified exposure of the virus and the human body knows anytime it’s exposed to it again.

However, because coronaviruses don’t give lasting immunity, those are the challenges health officials are working on now in terms of developing a cure.

“That will probably lengthen the time it will take to develop a vaccine,” Obasanjo said.

He said in the best scenario, health officials are looking at 12 to 18 months, but due to the lack of immunity, it may take longer.

“So again, to go back to the way of controlling the disease, for the time being, it’s going to be social distancing,” Obasanjo said.