Georgia authorities confirmed the state’s first coronavirus-related death on Thursday, as health officials and government leaders scramble to address a COVID-19 pandemic that has already upended everyday life.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said the victim was a 67-year-old male who was hospitalized at Wellstar Kennestone. State officials said the victim, who tested positive for the COVID-19 illness on March 7, also had “underlying medical conditions.”
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“I know the medical professionals on site did everything that they could, and I greatly appreciate their efforts,” said Kemp, who urged calm. “We are in this fight together.”
Wellstar declined to identify the patient, citing privacy laws.
“However, we can confirm that our hospital and staff followed the appropriate protocols and recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health authorities — including informing state officials and isolating the patient,” Wellstar Health System said. “The patient was masked immediately upon arrival, which helped limit overall exposure to others, and the risk to our staff and visitors remains significantly low.
“Despite the low risk, and out of an abundance of caution, we are following guidelines from the CDC and public health authorities. Our thoughts are with those immediately affected by COVID-19.”
Cobb and Douglas Public Health also said it could not provide information about the patient because of federal privacy laws. Mike Gerhard, the operations manager for the Cobb County Medical Examiner Office, declined to identify the patient, saying his death is still under investigation.
“We are currently in communication with... Georgia Public Health — all those other agencies,” he said.
In all, Georgia has 12 confirmed cases of the disease and 19 presumed positive cases awaiting more testing across a dozen counties in Georgia. Most of the cases are in metro Atlanta, though several have been reported in rural areas.
The governor’s announcement came a day after President Donald Trump announced “strong but necessary” steps to keep new cases of the coronavirus from entering the U.S. by suspending most travel from Europe for 30 days.
Stocks took a nosedive early Thursday as jittery investors rejected Trump’s efforts to contain the outbreak. And Vice President Mike Pence warned of “thousands of more cases of coronavirus,” while saying Americans returning from Europe would need to self-quarantine for two weeks.