COVID-19

A novel coronavirus, named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. (Photo Courtesy/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Fears about COVID-19, the new coronavirus first seen in Wuhan China, are spreading rapidly. The virus is going all over the world. As of the morning of March 10, at least 103 countries have been affected, and over 115,700 people have been infected. It’s hard to know the full impact of the coronavirus, but it looks more serious by the day.

If we want to fight the virus, we need more information. That means plenty of testing and help for the communities most affected. We also need to avoid partisan politicking and just stick to the facts. Only then can we effectively focus our efforts.

The virus is becoming a growing issue. As of the morning of March 10, there have been 730 cases and at least 26 deaths in the U.S. It's also not limited to just one area. There’s been at least one patient had tested positive for the virus in 36 states and Washington D.C., including Georgia.

The virus is already having several tangible impacts on the state. Rep. Doug Collins has self-quarantined after coming into contact with someone infected with the virus at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Fulton County has  closed its schools after a teacher was found to be infected.

There are positive cases in Cobb County, Floyd County, Fulton County and Polk County and additional presumptive positive cases in Fulton County, Cobb County, Fayette County, Dekalb County, Gwinnett County and Cherokee County. A presumptive positive case means that the patient was tested by state officials using a test made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the test was positive. However, the test must go to the CDC for final confirmation.

We know the coronavirus is a problem, but we don't know how big of a problem it is yet.

Partisanship will only make the problem worse. It's already causing problems in how we're responding. There are sharp divisions in how Democrats and Republicans are viewing the outbreak. For example, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that Democrats are around twice as likely as Republicans to think the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the U.S. There's also been plenty of partisan jabbing. Partisanship could color how we view the virus and stop us from effectively responding.

That's why we should be listening to our public health experts. They aren't running for reelection and don't have bases to appeal to, so we can trust them. Giving them the information they need will help us fight the virus. A lack of testing has hampered us from knowing the full extent of the virus. This means that people infected with the virus might have gone undetected and infected the people around them. It’s also prevented epidemiologists from being able to track the virus and divert resources to the areas that need them.

It’s not that the U.S. can't do this testing. According to Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, the U.S. was quick to respond to other epidemics like the H1N1 and Zika viruses. Unfortunately, the U.S. has lagged behind other advanced countries in testing for the coronavirus.

This is an issue that needs to be solved as soon as possible. By not having enough testing, the U.S. has allowed the virus to become a greater problem. If we want to get the situation under control, we’ll need to quickly gather data and provide experts with the tools and knowledge they need.

This public health problem should force us to come together, not divide us further. Public and local officials need a clear understanding of the facts so they can make informed decisions. To do that, we’ll need to set aside partisanship and give them the data they need.

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