Updated March 10 at 8:30 a.m.
A South Korean national who was screened for coronavirus at the Atlanta airport does not have COVID-19, Gov. Brian Kemp's office said Monday night, as state officials announced further preparations to minimize the impact of the illness. As of Tuesday morning, there were 6 cases confirmed by federal testing and at least 11 more presumptive positive cases awaiting confirmation.
Flanked by members of his coronavirus task force, the governor said the unidentified passenger was flagged by customs officials for displaying signs of the illness and was immediately transferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine unit inside the airport for further evaluation. That person was later transferred to a hospital.
Federal officials are working to evaluate the system and any other potential exposure from the person’s flight from Incheon International Airport near Seoul.
The governor said Georgians must be “vigilant” in making sure populations that are especially vulnerable to coronavirus are protected by doing things like staying home from work and avoiding crowds when sick, avoiding cruise ship travel and keep away from places with a high number of coronavirus cases.
Kemp also said that more than 100 passengers of the Grand Princess cruise ship, at least 34 of them Georgians, would soon be arriving at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta for monitoring and quarantine. The Georgia residents will be returning to their homes for monitoring, officials said.
The state has also made preparations for Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County to serve as a potential isolation site for future residents with COVID-19.
“Let me emphasize this is only a precautionary measure,” Kemp said. “We have, however, identified a Cherokee County patient who has a presumptive positive test for coronavirus who may need to be transferred to that location.”
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Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said the state public health lab has tested about 50 or 60 individuals so far and they are trying to ramp up capacity.
Toomey also said that a “presumptive positive” case has to be confirmed by the CDC until the public health agency clears Georgia officials to be the final word.
“We're hoping we'll have that within a matter of days to weeks, and then there won't be a need for reconfirmation of that positive at CDC,” she said. “So until that time comes, our lab will test positive, it will be called presumptive positive, and then be sent to CDC for confirmation.”
Toomey said COVID-19 has been affecting older Georgians and those with chronic health conditions harder, and reiterated the governor’s plea that members of the public take precautions to protect themselves and others.
“We need to ensure that we're protecting the older people in Georgia along with those with chronic health conditions,” she said. “But also if you're sick, don't go out and expose them.”
The incubation period for COVID-19 appears to be about 2 to 14 days, Toomey said, and reminded Georgians to take precautions like washing hands, covering your cough and staying out of the office or school if you feel sick.
Schools are closed Tuesday in Fulton County after a middle school teacher who worked at Bear Creek Middle School and Woodland Middle School was hospitalized Friday and tested positive for COVID-19, GPB News previously reported.