Coronavirus has claimed its first victim in the United States. Washington state health officials have confirmed the first death from coronavirus occurred in the Seattle area. More information on the victim is expected to be released this afternoon.
“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus,” Washington’s governor Jay Inslee said.
In Georgia, the Department of Public Health says it is working closely with the CDC, and state partners to prepare for a potential outbreak of coronavirus in the U.S., including Georgia. The goal is to quickly identify cases of coronavirus and take the appropriate public health action to reduce its spread and protect the general public.
Health officials say they want to make clear that at this time, the overall risk of coronavirus to the public remains low.
“We urge Georgians to prepare for hurricanes or flooding or take measures to prevent flu, so preparing for an outbreak of COVID-19 is no different,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “DPH is working to make sure our health systems, first responders and county health departments have the resources they need to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.”
The department already has a detailed pandemic flu plan that was developed in partnership with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the Georgia Department of Education and other state agencies, and will be adapted for a coronavirus outbreak in the state.
Department of Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response is providing CDC information and guidance about coronavirus to all health care and hospital facilities throughout Georgia, and holding weekly calls with the entire public health and hospital community to update information and answer questions.
The department says epidemiologists are on-call 24/7 to help health care providers evaluate individuals presenting with symptoms of coronavirus to ensure that possible cases are managed safely, support laboratory testing and implement recommendations from the CDC.
In the event of coronavirus in Georgia, epidemiologists would also be monitoring outbreaks and recommending control strategies, including guidance regarding testing and isolation.
If an outbreak does occur, health officials may recommend certain measures for affected communities, such as temporary closure of child care facilities and schools, colleges and universities, school and workplace social distancing measures, and postponement or cancellation of mass gatherings. Additionally, businesses should consider ways to implement strategies to reduce the impact of a potential coronavirus outbreak on their workforce, including teleworking and cross-training employees on essential job functions.
Gov. Brian Kemp named an 18-member task force Friday to handle Georgia’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The governor acted following a Friday morning phone conversation with Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading the Trump administration’s federal response effort to the virus, which also goes by the name COVID-19.
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