Emory physician on rising cases of COVID-19: 'This is not going away'

Cases of COVID-19 are going up in Georgia, but the number of deaths is going down according to Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University School of Medicine. That combination of bad and good news is happening for two reasons del Rio said Monday.

"One, the impacted population has a much lower mortality and number two is because we've gotten good at protecting our most vulnerable population. Our elderly, our people in nursing homes, etcetera," Del Rio said during a conference call with reporters.

Younger men and women are starting to contract the deadly virus at a higher rate and he said the ethnic disparities are still painfully clear.

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"While we're seeing an impact on African Americans, we're seeing an impact on Hispanics and that's why you're seeing growth in Gwinnett County," said del Rio, who is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Emory School of Medicine.

A steady increase in testing, he said, must also play a role in tracking the spread of the virus and he tried to clarify what he describes as a misunderstanding about testing.

"Doing testing and saying we have more cases because we're doing more testing, no, we have more cases because we're finding out. But if we weren't testing, we would still have more cases. The reality is, this is not going away," said del Rio, who specializes in the treatment of deadly viruses--including HIV/AIDS.

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He said the best line of defense is still a consistent and intentional use of handwashing, social distancing and masks.

"If I was in a very crowded environment, I would probably also wear a face shield. I think we have learned a lot of the infections can come in through your eyes. While face masks have become somewhat political, in my mind, they're just about protecting ourselves and protecting others and we all have to do what we can protect our neighbors and our families from becoming infected," said del Rio.

RELATED: CoronavirusNOW.com, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.

Know how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Georgia

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