State public health officials are helping about 200 people in Georgia monitor themselves for signs of COVID-19, the pneumonia-like disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus.
They’re all travelers who have spent time in China in the last two weeks, where the virus has killed more than 1,000 people and sickened tens-of-thousands of others.
Public health officials said none spent time in the country’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
“Our overarching strategy is to poise ourselves to be able to detect any cases early on, so that they can be appropriately managed and isolated to prevent spread,” said state epidemiologist Cherie Drenzek during a Georgia Department of Public Health meeting Tuesday.
Drenzek said the group of travelers was referred to the state by federal agencies screening incoming passengers from China for COVID-19 at 11 U.S. airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International.
Georgia DPH has instructed them on how to monitor themselves for symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath–and to call the agency before visiting a doctor’s office or hospital if they feel they might be sick. In a statement, the agency says the individuals are “self-isolating at home.”
Drenzek said, so far, only a “handful” of people in Georgia have been tested for COVID-19, but those tests have come back negative.
“The potential for a global pandemic is high,” she said. “But the risk for most Americans, most Georgians, most of us is low.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, only 13 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S. None of them are in Georgia. More than 40,000 cases of the disease have been confirmed globally–many of them in China.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued rules mandating that any travelers coming into the country from China undergo health screenings and as many as 14 days of “self-quarantine” to stop the potential spread of the coronavirus.
The agency said anyone who had spent time in China’s Hubei province would be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine. State public health officials said nobody in Georgia has required such measures.
While the World Health Organization has called the current coronavirus outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” U.S. officials continue to say it poses a low risk to the American public.