DULUTH — At a meeting Monday morning in the Missions and Ministry Center, a sentiment pervaded that it was only a matter of time – perhaps as soon as a few days – that COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, would make its way to Georgia.
However, as a press conference in Governor Brian Kemp’s office that night revealed, two such cases were already in the Peach State.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, head of the state’s public health department, stated that a Fulton County resident who had recently returned from a trip to Milan, Italy experienced “mild” symptoms of the virus and immediately contacted medical officials. A specimen submitted to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Saturday returned with the diagnosis Monday evening.
Symptoms of the illness include a fever, coughing, and sometimes pneumonia and shortness of breath. Indicators point to its origination at a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, reported on Dec. 31. By Jan. 3 there were 44 cases in China. Now present on every continent except Antarctica, the virus has infected more than 93,000 people and killed nearly 3,200 according to the World Health Organization’s March 4 report.
A New York Times database places the number of at least 152 patients with the illness in 16 states as of Wednesday night. That came the same day California became the first state outside of Washington to have a death from the illness. That, plus California now having the most cases in the country at 54, prompted Governor Gavin Newsome to declare a state of emergency.
A time for prevention, not panic
At the Monday meeting of Georgia Baptists, Tanaya Meaders affirmed that a healthy level of concern was appropriate, but warned against panic and overreaction. The best course of action to preventing the spread revolves around common-sense practices, stressed Meaders, a registered nurses as well as Health & Wellness consultant with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
“Wash your hands with soap often for at least 20 seconds,” she said. “Disinfect your phone and laptop with an alcohol wipe. Avoid touching your face. It’s not rude to avoid shaking hands, just appropriate for a season such as this.”
Last Friday the International Mission Board announced the formation of a task force to address how the virus’ spread could affect its personnel and partners as well as church volunteer mission teams.
“We recognize the concern that coronavirus is causing, and we are grateful for individuals and churches who are praying for IMB personnel and for people around the world directly affected by the virus,” said IMB President Paul Chitwood. “We are continually monitoring the global situation and remain in frequent contact with our missionaries to take the best precautions possible related to their health and safety.”
Steps to follow
Chitwood – as did Meaders – strongly advocate getting the latest updates and guidelines from the Center for Disease Control’s section set up to address COVID-19. Those recommendations include:
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home from work when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces touched regularly with a household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using items such as gloves and respirators (facemasks).
- Wash your hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water, though, if your hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid handshake greetings.
- Stay hydrated and well-rested.
- Remember: panic is the opposite of preparation.
“This is a fluid situation that requires updated monitoring and reporting daily,” said Meaders. “As for church greetings, I’d suggest no handshakes for now. For concerns related to travel, check the updates on the CDC website where there is a tab for specific locations globally.”