Local public health official issues current guidance on COVID-19

ROME, GA: Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District, reminds everyone that the risk of COVID-19 to the general public currently remains low, including at social events and gatherings, schools, and healthcare-provider waiting areas such as in hospitals, health departments, emergency rooms, and urgent cares. “However, COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, and we will update our guidance accordingly,” Voccio says.
Voccio has guidance for anyone currently seeking medical attention for any respiratory illness. “It’s still cold and flu season, and like those common seasonal illnesses, the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is also a respiratory disease. If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a cough or difficulty breathing, stay home and contact your healthcare provider,” Voccio says.
“Tell your provider about any recent travel or if you have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19. Your healthcare provider will advise you on what to do next and will coordinate with your local public health agency and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. Be sure to call before going to a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care center for advice on how to proceed and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.”
According to Voccio, ”there is currently little to no risk from COVID-19 for students attending schools in the ten-county Northwest Health District. Parents should feel comfortable sending their children to school.” Current updated information on COVID-19 guidance for schools can be found here: https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may resemble the common cold or seasonal flu, which is a far greater risk this time of year. The best way to prevent infection with any respiratory virus is to use the same basic preventative strategies used during a normal cold and flu season, including:
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
“These precautions take on new urgency in the face of this new threat of unknown severity. Too many of us shrug off this advice in ordinary times. We should all take it to heart now,” Voccio says.
Voccio also reminds that “flu is still widespread and active throughout the state, so if you have not already gotten a flu shot, it is not too late. While the flu shot will not protect against COVID-19, it will prevent serious complications that require hospitalization and prevent overburdening the health care system in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.”

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