South Ga. health official: Positive coronavirus cases in AG industry but overall numbers still trending downward

Positive coronavirus cases on the rise in AG industry but overall numbers still trending downward

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The agriculture industry has seen a few cases of COVID-19 recently here in Southwest Georgia, according to Georgia Department of Health Southwest Health District (DPH) doctors.

This comes as case numbers in the district are declining.

Some Southwest Georgia counties have had positive tests in the agriculture industry.

The Southwest Georgia Health District is using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to test for the virus. DPH Southwest Health District officials said this test detects the genetic material in the virus. That trend started about three weeks ago.

A small amount of those people have been hospitalized but most show mild to no symptoms, according to doctors.

Officials believe this happened because agriculture is an “essential” industry and practicing social distancing and good habits like wearing masks, might be more challenging for those workers.

“I’m convinced that most farm owners and operators and processing plants, packaging locations and so forth have tried to keep their employees safe and in most cases, it’s probably worked. But in some cases, the virus was able to spread around some,” said Dr. Charles Ruis with the Southwest Health District.

Dr. Charles Ruis
Dr. Charles Ruis (Source: WALB)

Ruis said testing doesn’t allow them to know how long those people had the virus. He believes it’s only a matter of time before these cases slow down like the rest of COVID-19 cases in Southwest Georgia.

As numbers continue to spiral downward, it’s now been two weeks since Memorial Day.

Dr. Ruis said they haven’t seen an increase in people getting tested as they looked at the 14 county district as a whole.

"We don’t see anything that has gone up in that time frame that would make us think that Memorial Day was the culprit,” said Ruis.

Health officials said they do have theories for this. One of those theories is that heat and humidity could be keeping the virus at bay. They also said that the virus may have changed and weakened.

Dr. Ruis said it might even be possible that our bodies are now immune to the virus. He said we could be close to a “herd community” meaning so many people had it and now our community is immune and the virus has nowhere else to go.

Even as numbers go down, Dr. Ruis recommends we all still practice social distancing and wearing a mask when in public.

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