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COVID-19 isn’t gone, health leaders warn as false negative results raise concerns

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 11:09 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - COVID-19 cases in our area are reaching new records, and our local health experts are weighing in on some of the reasons why.

Health leaders say there are several factors: Many people have mistaken the state's reopening as a sign that the virus is gone. More young people are becoming infected. And as protests continue to sweep the nation, many asymptomatic carriers are having false negatives.

Hitting the town now may look a lot like it used to before the pandemic was declared, but the virus is far from gone.

“A lot of things opening up just means that cases are going to rise,” said Dr. Thomas Zickgraf of emergency medicine at Doctors Hospital.

Zickgraf says the spike isn't happening because Georgia opened up too soon.

“I don’t envy any state governor who’s trying to make that decision,” he said.

The spike is happening because they say, many people have a false sense of security that the virus is gone.

“Good hand hygiene, social distancing, mask-wearing, even if you start opening things up, those measures shouldn’t go away,” Zickgraf said.

And News 12 asked health experts why people under 30 are now testing positive more than any other age group.

“We’re still telling the older people, the ones who have co-morbidities the ones that are high risk, they need to stay still locked down,” Dr. Bozeman Sherwood of primary care at University Hospital said.

Sherwood says much of the older generation is still sheltering-in-place, and younger people tend to be more social anyway.

“If you’re asymptomatic and you get tested, then it could be a false negative,” Sherwood explained.

Symptomatic carriers, like the people who have fevers or coughs, are more likely to spread the virus but it's not impossible for it to be spread asymptomatically.

“Whether you have symptoms or not, if it is that contagious - and it is - then you want to protect other people too,” Sherwood said.

So, when going to protests or to the grocery store or even just a walk around the block, experts still say it’s best to keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

“Wearing a mask doesn’t mean you should get close to other people. Social distancing has its place as well,” Zickgraf said.

Health experts around the state say they can’t blame the recent wave of protests to the spike in new cases. But they do say, if you’re going to protest or be around any large group, do it responsibly -- with a mask and social distancing.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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