With news that the coronavirus called 2019-nCoV is capable of spreading from human to human, many are concerned about the possibility of a new pandemic, and that is not outside the realm of possibility, according to Jeff Hogan (picutred above), a professor and infectious disease expert in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, who studied the SARS coronavirus extensively. Below, he shares some of his thoughts on the current outbreak, how people can protect themselves and what the future may hold for 2019-nCoV. What is a coronavirus? “This is a virus that belongs to the family called Coronaviridae. For a very long time, the ‘human’ coronaviruses were thought to cause only mild to moderate respiratory tract infections unless a person has other medical conditions such as a suppressed immune system. This changed when severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus was isolated in 2002 and 2003. “Based on the limited data available currently, this new outbreak is caused by a virus called 2019-nCoV that is different in many ways from the virus that caused the 2002/2003 pandemic. However, both viruses are very likely to have originated from bats, recombined with coronaviruses from other animals, and this gave 2019-nCoV the ability to efficiently infect and transmit among humans. It is important to note that further research is needed to confirm the origin of 2019-nCoV.” How do coronaviruses spread? “As with influenza, RSV and other respiratory viruses there are several routes of infection. Small to large droplets aerosolized when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and these can be inhaled into the nose and lungs. The aerosolization is thought to be the primary route of virus entry. However, droplets containing viruses can also be deposited on hard surfaces and persist for several days. A person can then touch a contaminated surface and self-inoculate by inserting their fingers in their nose, mouth or possibly eyes. I call it ‘the magic finger’ route.” Are certain populations more susceptible/at risk for complications? “Populations most at risk typically have one or more underlying medical conditions such as a suppressed immune system. Persons over the age of 50 with diabetes, HIV infection, and kidney or liver problems generally presented with the most severe disease after SARS-CoV infection in 2003. This may also be the case for 2019-nCoV, but additional data are needed to confirm this.” What precautions should people take to limit exposure? “First and foremost, avoid direct contact with persons known to be infected with 2019-nCoV. Also, travel to locations where human cases have been confirmed—Wuhan, China, for example—should also be avoided if at all possible. In addition, proper, thorough hand-washing is very effective at reducing the risk of self-inoculation by manually introducing the virus into the nose, eyes or mouth. “While it may seem like a good idea, surgical-type masks will provide little if any protection from aerosols containing virus. A more effective approach could be to avoid poorly ventilated areas with lots of people in a confined space.” How does this coronavirus compare to previous outbreaks (SARS, for example)? “It is still too early to tell how 2019-nCoV compares to SARS-CoV in terms of ability to transmit person to person, morbidity, and mortality. However, good old-fashioned public health measures such as quarantine, hand-washing, surveillance of travelers and the use of advanced respiratory protection for health care workers was sufficient to end the pandemic in 2003 and are almost certain to do the same with the current outbreak.” Are you concerned that this could turn into a new pandemic? “With global travel, the identification of any new virus causing human disease is very concerning. This is compounded by the fact that human to human transmission has been well-documented for 2019-nCoV. Most concerning is the spread of the new virus in health care facilities as was the case with SARS-CoV in 2003. “While WHO and other authorities have not declared this a pandemic, I do expect this type of announcement unless the rate of new cases begins to decline rapidly in the next seven to 10 days.”
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (pictured above) is the featured speaker at tonight’s meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party: it is a 6:30 session at Oconee County Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Watkinsville. He’s expected to discuss the new voting machines we will use in March. Georgia’s new voting machines are on display tonight in Winterville: they will be the focal point of a town hall meeting set for 7 o’clock at the Depot in Winterville. The new machines, with their touch screens and paper backups, will be used for the first time in March. Voters in Athens and across the state will cast ballots in presidential preference primaries on March 24. From the Athens-Clarke Co Government website… As of the March 2020 Presidential Preference Primary election, Athens-Clarke County voters will begin using new voting equipment for the first time in nearly 20 years. The new system is paper based, while still using secure technology for voter accuracy. The new system is managed by the Georgia Secretary of State's office for use throughout Georgia and completely replaces the previous voting system. When voting with the new system, a voter will check in using a photo ID and receive a voter access card, which does not contain any information about the voter. Using touchscreen ballot marking devices, a voter will make their selections, review their selections onscreen, print out a paper ballot, review their selections in-hand, and scan their paper ballot into an optical scanner themselves when ready. This provides an opportunity for voters to review their ballot both onscreen and in-hand. Voters will be alerted onscreen if they leave a section blank, don't cast a vote, or do not make all available selections, but will not be required to cast a vote in any race or to make all available selections. After scanning a ballot, the ballot is deposited into a secure container. Voters will not take the ballot with them. The new system not only creates digital images of all ballots, but also securely keeps the printed versions for the Board of Elections as a paper trail for recounts or audits, if needed. The Board of Elections has a test unit available for the public to try out until early February. The unit can be tested at the Board of Elections Office, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The unit has a series of questions about Georgia to allow voters to try out different kinds of votes, such as those that might require multiple selections in a single election. Staff will also have a test unit at several public events and locations scheduled during December and January. Additional locations and dates are listed at accgov.com/elections. The Georgia Secretary of State has also launched the Secure The Vote website at www.securevotega.com that contains information about how to vote using the new equipment, the legislative process of purchasing the equipment from Dominion, frequently asked questions, online voter registration, newspaper articles about counties that took part in the pilot project, and additional information about the new equipment. For more information about the local demonstration units, visit accgov.com/elections or contact the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections at 706-613-3150.
The Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works Department calls it a “walking audit.” It’s set for 4 o’clock this afternoon, with those taking part walking along Barber Street in Athens after meeting at Boulevard Woods Park. City Hall says they will be looking for ways to improve the Barber Street corridor, with an eye toward enhancing the road for alternative forms of transportation. From the Athens-Clarke Co Government website… Join Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works for a Walk Audit along Barber Street! Walk with us to evaluate Barber Street, provide community perspective, and help us identify ways to improve the roadway for all transportation modes.We will meet at Boulevard Woods Park. We encourage you to walk, bike, and take transit. Walking distances will be approximately one mile with reflective vest provided. This is an outdoor event so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.RSVP IS REQUIRED:Space is limited to 15 people, please contact Hillary Essig (Bike, Pedestrian, and Safety Coordinator) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-613-3460