While announcing a statewide shelter-in-place order on Wednesday, Georgia governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, said that he had just been informed that asymptomatic individuals could spread the coronavirus.
The illness “is now transmitting before people see signs….Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt [symptoms],” Kemp said at a press conference. “We didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.”
It has been widely known for months that the coronavirus can spread through asymptomatic transmission. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidelines for outbreak mitigation regarding asymptomatic transmission, leading Georgia health officials to change their projections for an outbreak in the state.
“It’s a combination of recognizing there’s a large number of people out there who are infected and who are infected, who are asymptomatic, who never would have been recognized under our old models, but also seeing the community transmission that we’re seeing,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, head of Georgia’s Department of Public Health.
Governor Kemp had initially resisted signing a shelter-in-place order due to the effect it would have on the state’s economy. However, in recent days the governors of Florida, Texas, and South Carolina all introduced limitations on residents’ mobility to combat coronavirus spread. Georgia has 4,748 confirmed cases, with Florida at 7,773, Texas at 4,607, and South Carolina at 1,293, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker.
With the extent of coronavirus spread across the U.S. becoming clearer, Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said the outbreak in the U.S. was increasingly comparable to that of Italy, one of the worst outbreaks in the western hemisphere.