Infectious disease Dr. Mitchell Blass has updated Atlanta Jewish Times readers throughout the pandemic. His social media is lit up with questions of how to interpret data or just how frightened we should be with the climbing cases predominantly in the Sun Belt, which includes Georgia.
Blass weighs in:
AJT: Are we back to “square one”?
Blass: I believe there are several differences between the current increase in positive COVID tests being reported throughout the United States, and the original rise of pandemic coronavirus we experienced in February, March and April of this year. While the current number of cases being reported have risen substantially since my last report for the Atlanta Jewish Times (June 26), this rise has not been the exponential growth we saw previously. During the early part of this year, the number of cases reported doubled every five to 10 days. What we are seeing today, I believe, is an expected consequence of several different variables.
AJT: The variables being young people socializing?
Blass: There are many reasons for the recent increase in reported cases of COVID. These include, but are not limited to, increased testing availability, the relaxation of infection prevention measures, lack of adherence to guidelines, as well as individuals who initially tested positive and have returned for follow-up testing. It takes time to sort out the data in this context. Therefore, without the support of epidemiologists, the raw number of positive tests must be interpreted with caution.
Testing availability has increased such that across the metro Atlanta area there are dozens of locations where an individual (after a brief screening questionnaire) can have a PCR test, and results are generally available within less than an hour.
AJT: There are numbers of cases, then there is mortality.
Blass: We have also learned a great deal about COVID-associated mortality over the past few months. Death from pandemic coronavirus is highly associated with advanced age, and the presence of comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes and other pre-existing conditions. While an otherwise young and healthy individual is highly unlikely to die from COVID, they may unknowingly expose their grandparent.
New treatments continue to be investigated. Vaccine trials are ongoing and hopefully a safe and efficacious vaccination will be available before 2021.
AJT: Should we still be cleaning grocery boxes?
Blass: Person-to-person transmission remains the predominant mode of infection. I have received several questions from parents regarding a group of fraternity brothers who got together and subsequently many individuals were exposed and became infected. While the majority were asymptomatic, they still have the potential to infect others. I believe it is important that when clusters are identified that the county health department be notified in order that we understand more about how this occurred and allow contact tracing efforts to begin.
AJT: Your son is enrolled in sleepaway summer camp.
Blass: Joshua was enrolled and excited about going to overnight camp; however this has been canceled for this season.
AJT: Closing thoughts?
Blass: We must find a reasonable means of protecting our communities and continuing our lives in a manner with purpose. Infection prevention measures and adherence to guidelines remain of paramount importance in preventing the spread of contagious diseases.
“Fear does not stop death. It stops life. Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace” – Vi Keeland.