The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Lumpkin County rose to 242; an increase of 38 since Sunday, July 19; according to data reported by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) on Monday, July 27.
As of Monday, the state saw 170,843 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 3,509 deaths, 17,138 hospitalizations and 3,172 ICU admissions with about 10.8 percent of Georgians having been tested for the virus.
One of the most startling consequences of the uptick in positive cases and people being admitted into hospitals and ICUs has been the overwhelming increase in COVID-19 deaths across the state.
Georgia reported 327 deaths in the seven-day period ending on Saturday, July 25. That number is an increase of 90 percent from the week of July 12.
“As we have seen over the past few months, the number of COVID-19 deaths has fluctuated from week to week,” said David Palmer of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). “Generally, the most severe cases result in hospitalization, and often those individuals succumb to the illness.”
Lumpkin County’s death toll from the coronavirus rose to five people last week when a 76-year-old male with underlying medical conditions passed away from COVID-19.
The majority of the deaths in Georgia since the week of July 12 have been people aged 50 and older. As of Saturday, the 50 and older demographic accounted for 230, or roughly seven percent, of COVID-19 deaths in Georgia.
“The spread of this virus, especially to vulnerable individuals, those with underlying health conditions, could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths,” Palmer said. “We all need to follow the recommended prevention steps to help protect others.”
The increase in positive cases throughout northeast Georgia has put a strain on Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) facilities, according to NGHS Marketing and Public Relations Manager Beth Downs.
“Our number of hospitalized patients has gone up dramatically since the beginning of July,” said Downs. “We have seen increases in the percentage of tested patients with positive results, the number who require hospitalization, the number who need care in an ICU and ultimately the number of patients who die from the disease. We are working very hard to keep beds open in the ICU and on the regular hospital floors, but we have been near our capacity for the last week.”
Downs said that NGHS’s ICUs are currently ranging between 85 and 100 percent capacity, as are the overall capacities for their facilities.
“For the last week, approximately 150 to 170 patients confirmed to have COVID-19 have been receiving care as inpatients in our facilities,” Downs said. “We saw our spring peak on April 29 when 159 patients with COVID-19 were in our facilities, and numbers declined after that. Between late May and mid-June, we were routinely caring for 50 to 60 patients with COVID-19, but numbers began to increase – and in the last week, we’ve exceeded that number on two days.”
NGHS has already made preparations to help alleviate the strain that the rise of COVID-19 cases has had on their facilities in terms of beds and PPE, but she fears that those preparations may not be enough if the numbers of positive cases in the area continue to increase.
“We opened the Mobile Medical Unit last Tuesday, providing 20 more beds for care, and that unit has been full since opening,” Downs said. “We are also exploring all possibilities for other ways to expand staff, equipment and space for patient care. At the moment, our PPE and supplies are sufficient, but if this increase is sustained, our supplies may become limited like they were in March and April.”
Testing in District 2, which includes Lumpkin County, has increased in recent weeks. Between Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin and Towns county there were 7,394 tests conducted by the DPH. Those numbers don’t include tests conducted by other providers.
Although testing has increased, the percentage of positive tests has outpaced growth in testing, a signal of substantial community spread.
According to covidexitstrategy.org, a non-partisan group of public health and crisis experts tracking the spread of the coronavirus nationwide, Georgia is one of two dozen states that has been listed as having “uncontrollable spread.”
“We should all be concerned about limiting the spread of the illness,” Palmer said. “We can do this by observing the recommended precautions emphasized by Governor Kemp and Public Health.
When in public people should observe social distancing, wear a face covering, wash hands often with soap and water, frequently clean common surfaces at work and home and stay home if you become sick.”
At the beginning of last week, Kemp released a statement on his website urging Georgia residents to do “four things for four weeks.”
“I am encouraging all Georgians – from every corner of our great state - to do four things for four weeks to stop the spread of COVID-19," stated Kemp. "If Georgians commit to wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing their hands regularly, and following the guidance in our Executive Order and from public health officials, we can make incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19. Together, we can protect our loved ones, revive our economy, and continue to take measured steps forward."
Whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, the Lumpkin County Health Department is offering free testing on Wednesdays between 8:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. You can also receive free testing tomorrow in Hall County at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex and on Friday at the Towns County Health Department between 8:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Testing is available on Saturday, August 1, at the Habersham Health Department and at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex in Hall County between 8:30 a.m. to noon. Those wanting to be tested can call to make an appointment with their local health department.