Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said at a press conference Wednesday that he was not aware until recently that people who are infected with coronavirus but do not exhibit symptoms can spread the novel virus to others.
“Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs, so what we’ve been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home … those individuals could’ve been infecting people before they ever felt bad … But we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours,” Kemp said during a press conference Wednesday.
“[T]his is a game-changer for us,” he said, citing a comment that Georgia’s top health official, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, told him.
Kemp spokesman Cody Hall told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the governor was referring to a March 30 Centers for Disease and Control Prevention guideline suggesting that up to a quarter of cases do not show symptoms.
“[T]his helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country because we have asymptomatic transmitters and we have individuals who are transmitting 48 hours before they become symptomatic,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an NPR interview published March 31.
Health officials have hinted in the past that asymptomatic spread is possible but mostly dismissed it as a major spreader of the virus. (RELATED: Chinese Government Finally Acknowledges Underreporting Coronavirus Cases)
“Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC website noted as early as March 19. Others mirrored this position.
Asymptomatic spread is “not the major driver” of the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos during a March 1 interview. “You really need to just focus on the individuals that are symptomatic,” he said. “It [the containment strategy] really does depend on symptomatic presentation.”
Kemp announced during the conference that he is signing a shelter-in-place order that runs from Friday through April 13. There are more than 5,348 confirmed cases in at least 142 of Georgia’s 159 counties with 163 reported deaths as of April 2. State and commercial labs have performed nearly 23,000 tests as of April 2, according to local reports.
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