As of Wednesday, July 1, Dade County had 67 positive COVID-19 cases since the pandemic tracking began and according to Department of Public Health Northwest Georgia Region Public Information Officer (PIO) Logan Boss, we still have a lot farther to go before the spread of the virus slows down.
Keeping in mind that eleven of Dade’s 67 tested and reported positive cases are actually positive antibody tests that do not count as active cases, Dade is a very long way from community (or shared) immunity, also known as herd immunity.
“What we expect with this virus is that it will keep spreading in some way until 60 to 70 percent of the population has been exposed, infected, or vaccinated,” Boss said. “When 60 to 70 percent are exposed, infected, or vaccinated the virus will slow it’s spread. Not stop, slow.”
Boss said of those who are exposed to the virus, 80 to 85 percent will be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms which will not even lead to a doctor’s visit or testing for COVID-19. It is the remaining 15 to 20 percent of the population, those at higher risk or considered medically fragile, that the masks, social distancing, and other guidelines are intended to protect.
“We need to protect those who are vulnerable,” Boss said.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) is seeing more of those in the 18 to 30 range falling ill with COVID, but generally the lower the age goes the more reduced the risks of complications from the virus. Those in that age range who do experience complications, or even death, usually have underlying health issues and a lot of them are overweight, Boss said.
Dade County has around 16,000 residents, so by the time the spread of COVID-19 slows, and shared immunity kicks in, a minimum of 9,600 people will have been infected, exposed to or immunized for COVID-19. At least 7,680 of those will have had no symptoms or very mild symptoms.
The expectation of the spread of COVID-19 is to stop completely is not realistic as Boss says COVID-19 will continue to be around, like influenza. Unlike influenza which has been the cause of most of the pandemics in the last 100 years, like the 1918 Spanish Flu, this is the first Coronavirus pandemic and it is being watched and studied in real-time.
Some reports of delayed active COVID-19 test results have been reported in Dade and the DPH is looking into them. Boss said generally test results through the DPH should be returned within 24 to 48 hours, although more recently there have been a few that have taken as much as 5 to 7 days. Testing delays due to the number of tests being processed each day moving forward are a concern as large businesses require testing for employees as they return to work. Right now the labs are processing 5,000 tests a day and two labs are being used by the state of Georgia – Quest and Ipsum.
Boss said the longer turnaround for test results has been due more to problems with labs being able to get the supplies to run the tests than with test shortages themselves. There is also the possibility of delays as labs work 24/7 getting test results and lab equipment is running 24/7 there will be equipment breakdowns and failures. Boss pointed out that the lab equipment had not been designed to run all day and all night, every day, and the pandemic has made that a necessity. Delays in test results mean delays for the Department of Health, making tracking of virus contacts far more difficult and less efficient.
So where do we stand now? Boss said they are estimating around 5 to 10 percent of people in Georgia have been exposed to or infected by COVID-19, but that percentage can vary. COVID-19 spreads differently, Boss said, across the world, throughout the US, from state to state and even within the states. In some areas such as New York City, NY and other areas with a high number of positive cases, that percentage may be higher.
Boss said it is very important for people to wear masks in public, frequently wash their hands, and distance, distance, distance. It is also good to remember that “outside is better than inside”.
“We still have a long way to go before we are out of the woods,” Boss said.