'I Know You're Tired,' But Don't Let Guard Down, Scientist Says Of Pandemic
"I know you're tired, I'm tired too," Dr. Amber Schmidtke said Friday afternoon during a virtual town hall hosted by state Rep. Betsy Holland.
Schmidtke is a microbiologist and immunologist who previously worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She combined her skills as an educator with her medical knowledge to create a newsletter to inform Georgians about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
That newsletter, published three times a week, now has more than 12,000 subscribers, Schmidtke said.
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In Friday's update, she notes the state health department reported the youngest-to-date pediatric death of a 1-year-old Black boy from Cobb County who had underlying issues when infected with SARS-CoV-2.
His is the state's fifth death of a child under age 18.
A new research article published recently suggests that reinfection with the virus is possible.
"There have been a few reports of this in the past where it was hard to tell whether it was just the same infection that never truly went away or a brand new infection," Schmidtke wrote in her update. "The article I link to here is more suggestive of a brand new infection for two reasons – the genetic fingerprint for the virus collected from the patient during their two bouts of infection are different enough that it is unlikely the virus mutated to that degree in a single human."
The second reason is because the second infection was worse than the first, requiring hospitalization, Schmidtke said.
This could suggest herd immunity is an unrealistic goal right now, she said.
Georgia continues to rank high in the number of new cases being reported, and the 9% positive rate may not be reliable.
"Further, 21.2% of today’s newly reported cases were backdated prior to the 14-day window of uncertainty on the case graph by date of symptom onset," she said.
Schmidtke said, if the percent positivity rate is high, we could be missing asymptomatic spread. The most informative data, she said, is the rate of new cases over the most recent 14-day window.
The largest contributor to Friday’s count is non-rural counties with 41.2% of the cases followed by rural counties with 30.2% of the cases.
While the pandemic is nearing the six-month mark, Schmidtke said, Georgia should take comfort in knowing its residents have twice flattened the curve and continue to have the power to affect transmission rates.
Social distancing choices such as ordering take-out instead of dining at a favorite restaurant and wearing masks continues to be the best course until a vaccine becomes available, which could be next spring, she said.
"It’s not the time to let our guard up," she said.