Public health chief warns of coronavirus surge in Cobb, Douglas

Healthcare workers Twisha Bhatt (right) and Christie Kuzma (left) test people for CO-VID 19 at the Cobb County CO-VID 19 testing site at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta, Georgia, on Friday, April 17, 2020. The site has expanded its hours and no longer requires a doctor’s referral to be tested for the virus. (Christina Matacotta, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Healthcare workers Twisha Bhatt (right) and Christie Kuzma (left) test people for CO-VID 19 at the Cobb County CO-VID 19 testing site at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta, Georgia, on Friday, April 17, 2020. The site has expanded its hours and no longer requires a doctor’s referral to be tested for the virus. (Christina Matacotta, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Residents of Cobb and Douglas counties should take extra precautions heading into the holiday season as coronavirus infection rates rise locally, the head of the public health department warned this week.

As of Friday, Cobb recorded 188 cases per 100,000 people, while Douglas reached 197 per 100,000. The state of Georgia considers anything over 100 in 100,000 to be high transmission.

Dr. Janet Memark, the physician who heads the Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department, said she thinks the state’s data likely underestimates the true spread. She pointed to the fact that the number is rising despite a fall in the number of tests being conducted, and that not all the different types of tests are included in the state’s numbers.

“It’s decreased demand [for testing] but yet the percentage positive is going up,” she said. “I do think we have some substantial transmission that’s happening.”

Memark said the spread is being fueled by businesses, restaurants, weddings, birthday parties, church services and other gatherings. Schools seem to be less of a concern, however.

“All three of our school districts have required masks and I think that’s been a huge transmission prevention in classrooms,” Memark said. She added that her department has seen a “trickle” of cases from schools, and anything above that seems to be tied to athletic teams rather than classrooms.

Memark said the state is heading into “concerning times” as the temperature drops and families travel to be together for holidays.

She urged the public to be aware of local transmission rates where they live and where they might be travelling or receiving guests from. She also recommended family members limit their exposure by “pseudo-quarantining” for a period before and after they travel, and get tested.

“If you have medically fragile family members, be really, really careful,” she said. “We have a rise in cases and I do believe it is undercounted ... Start again doing the things we know to work: Wear your mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, and please do not get together in large crowds.”

Cobb has confirmed 480 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and lists another 12 as probable, according to state data. Douglas has confirmed 78 with another 5 suspected.

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