What You Need To Know: Could Georgia See A Second Peak?

Apr 24, 2020

Georgia Public Broadcasting’s new series What You Need To Know: Coronavirus provides succinct, fact-based information to help you get through the coronavirus pandemic with your health and sanity intact.

Political Rewind's Sam Bermas-Dawes talks with Joshua Weitz, professor of biological sciences at Georgia Tech about whether Georgia is moving to fast to reopen the economy.

What do you think? Do you think Georgia is moving too fast to reopen its economy?

There are serious concerns at the moment about whether or not both the signals from cases and fatalities as well as the infrastructure to make sure that trends in the right direction continue to trend in that way are there in place at the moment.

So we've seen, as you probably noticed on the Georgia Department of Public Health site, that we still have hundreds of cases reported per day and dozens, if not 30 or 40 or more per day. And in some sectors of the state, rates of exceeding 100 per 100,000 is extremely worrisome. And the last part that worries me is that as a population, we remain almost entirely susceptible to COVID-19. And for all these reasons, I think we need to be prudent and cautious in deciding do we have the right infrastructure in place to reopen safely? Not in a few days, not a few weeks, but right now, are we shovel ready now to reopen safely?

We've heard a lot about this peak of cases that we may or may not have reached recently. Have we reached that peak? And is that even an important metric that we should be paying attention to when we consider these types of steps?

I think your second part of the question is spot on, should we think about this as a peak or not? Often when people hear about a peak, they think it's something that exists in a certain moment in time. And when that time has passed, the danger has passed. That danger has not passed until we have a vaccine, which, frankly, is a long way away.

And therefore, even if cases flatten, there's no rule in epidemiology that says there can't be a resurgence in cases and therefore a second peak or something similar to a dangerous plateau in cases in which we reach a point in which there is continued sustained high levels of both cases and fatalities. So there's been a lot of discussion of the peak timing and have we passed the peak or not. It's missing the point. The point is, as long as we remain almost entirely susceptible to COVID-19, then the danger remains of a resurgence.

What advice can you offer to businesses or to folks who will have to go out in the next weeks as some of these restrictions are lessened? What what's your sort of general advice to them?

My general advice is twofold. First of all, to recognize that the danger has not passed and therefore, to the extent to which they're able to continue to be vigilant and to follow the advice of those who remind us whenever possible to wear a mask to reduce contact unless necessary, and to be mindful that again, that the COVID-19 threat isn't gonna pass just because a particular date in the calendar has passed by.

And the other piece of advice, though, is to then seek out help and assistance from state and political leaders who may be able to give advice on infection control, mask, hand sanitizer or other ways in which individuals who are in a position interacting with others can be protected. As far as is possible and those are questions I think in thinking about priorities that have to balance the socioeconomic issues, the economic engagement issues with infection transmission issues. We need to be asking those very same questions to those who are making the hard choices to decide when to reopen and how.