Coronavirus Panic Hits Woodstock After Erroneous Facebook Group Post Goes Viral
It doesn't really matter why shelves are empty. Items disappearing from stores will make others want to stock up, too. And that's what is happening in Woodstock days after the state's first confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The Sam's Club on Highway 92 in Woodstock is already sold out of all Lysol wipes, isopropyl alcohol and all hand sanitizer products. The wholesale club is also sold out of rice.
Kroger stores have notified shoppers of a limit on hand sanitizer products of five per person.
It's likely to get worse now that a member of a local Facebook group shared erroneously that a Cherokee County student tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus first reported in China late last year. The post went up about 9 a.m. Wednesday and a screenshot of the unedited version made its way around social media used by local students.
That panicked parents.
The Facebook user and admin of the What's Up Woodstock group who goes by Mr. Woodstock did correct his post to say the student is from Fulton County but attends a private Christian homeschool study center on North Arnold Mill Road. He explained his desire was to ensure students at Woodstock High School would be allowed to wash their hands.
As members of the group reacted, Mr. Woodstock said he would look for his source and later shared that one of his children attends the same homeschool group as the Fulton County teenager who tested positive after his father returned from Italy.
“This was an astute member of the public who recognized the potential risks because of travel,” Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public health commissioner, said Monday during a press conference. “This was not person-to-person contact in the community that created this case, this was a travel-related case.”
That teenager and his father are the only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia and their symptoms are currently mild, health officials said. The student attends a private homeschool co-op — Living Science Home Studies, which has temporarily closed in response to the student’s diagnosis, Cherokee County School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said in an email to parents send just before 2 p.m.
"We do not oversee private schools or home school students, but the Georgia Department of Health will notify us if any students who attend private school or who are home schooled and are diagnosed with COVID-19 have a household connection to CCSD," the statement said.
The Sam's Club in Woodstock sold out of cleaning items over the weekend, a manager told GPB News. She said the store has placed orders for Purell and other products, but despite having two truck deliveries a week she couldn't say when items would be back in stock because of recent demand.
"They sent us an email today saying 'stop asking; stop calling the buyers; it's coming," the manager said.
Limits on how much each person could buy went into effect earlier this week, she said. The limit is five.
"We're really not out of a whole lot other than that," she said. "We're doing pretty good."
Stores in the area have plenty of soap, and that's all you need to kill coronavirus.
Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, said what we know from other coronaviruses is that most household cleansers — such as bleach wipes or alcohol — will kill them.
Even wiping down surfaces with soap and water should do the trick, he said, because this coronavirus has a lipid envelope around it — like a coat that keeps the RNA inside the viral particle. And soap is a detergent that can break down lipids. "We use them to take grease and oil, which is a lipid, off our dishes," he notes.
Mr. Woodstock shared a link in the same post thread from the morning to a news article with a headline saying a Georgia school closed after a positive coronavirus test. The positive test was in Fulton County and widely reported Monday night.
Health and school district officials echo the same sentiments as Gov. Brian Kemp: Stay calm, wash your hands and get a flu shot.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reiterated there are no COVID-19 cases in Cherokee County.
"People identified as having had contact with individuals with confirmed COVID-19 have been contacted directly by a DPH epidemiologist," DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said Wednesday in an email. "The general guidance from CDC for any individuals who have had contact with a person infected with COVID-19 is to monitor for symptoms, at home, for 14 days."
Influenza and flu-like illness remains widespread and high in Georgia as of Feb. 22, DPH reported. Sixty-six people have died and more than 2,100 people in the metro Atlanta area have been hospitalized with influenza.
The risk of COVID-19 in Georgia remains low for the general public at this time. Georgians should continue to follow the same measures that are urged to prevent the spread of any respiratory virus:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Get a flu shot!
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.