Lumpkin County prepares for coronavirus pandemic

  • County officials are currently preparing for the potential that the coronavirus could severely impact life in Dahlonega and across the nation.
    County officials are currently preparing for the potential that the coronavirus could severely impact life in Dahlonega and across the nation.
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The COVID-19 virus is on the move.
And Lumpkin County officials are keeping a close watch on the numbers and locations of the virus while taking CDC-recommended proactive measures to ensure the community’s safety.
“We have temporarily suspended activities at the Senior Center until April 1 as a precautionary effort for our most vulnerable population safe,” said County Manager Stan Kelley.
He added that the county will continue to deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors and keep in contact with those who attend the Senior Center on a daily basis.
Additionally, in conjunction with the closing of Lumpkin County Schools (see accompanying story on 1A) activities at Parks and Rec are been suspended as well.
“The county staff and Board of Commissioners are evaluating other county programs and activities and we are prepared to suspend activities that may involve concentrated gatherings if needed,” he said.

RESPIRATOR READINESS

As for Lumpkin’s Emergency Services, it is well stocked with respirators and other needed equipment, according to Kelley.
“We remain prepared to respond to emergency calls of all types,” he said. “Should a medical emergency occur that requires transportation of a potential carrier of the virus, we have the appropriate protective equipment for our emergency responders and the receiving medical facility will be notified in advance that the patient has contagious symptoms.”

TRACKING TESTS

However, when it comes to availability of test kits, and who can be tested at this time, that’s not determined by the county.
“This is being handled by the CDC,” said Dave Palmer with District II Public Health. “…When a person goes to the doctor, and it is determined that they need to be tested, the testing is arranged by the health care provider.”
Northeast Georgia Medical Center spokesman Sean Couch said its supply of test kits “is limited due to the national shortage. With that in mind NGHS is prioritizing testing for specific groups.”
Its highest priority is patients over the age of 60, those with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. Also included are, in order, those admitted to the hospital; healthcare workers with mild symptoms; first responders including law enforcement, firefighters and EMS; and patients who spend time in a communal place such as an office, school, shelter, etc. who have an unusually high rate of illness.
“NGMC Gainesville has 557 inpatient beds, and we have more than 700 beds spread across our four hospitals,” said Couch. “We’re working collaboratively with our community healthcare partners to ensure patients receive the right care, at the right place, at the right time.”

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Couch urged members of the community to monitor their symptoms. If a fever and cough or difficulty breathing develops the following steps will help you find the care you need and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our region, he said.
•    Call your doctor's office or an urgent care clinic for advice about where you should go for treatment.
    •    Call 9-1-1 for emergencies
    •    Consider staying home and completing an E-For NGPG patients that can be found at ngpg.org/evisit-info.
As for supplies and equipment, Couch said, “We are facing the same supply issues as all other healthcare providers due to the national shortage of personal protective equipment.”
According to the CDC website, those with symptoms such as fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing; those who have been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19; or recently traveled in an area where there is an ongoing spread of the virus should stay at home and call their doctor. If you are elderly or have an underlying health issue such as diabetes or respiratory issues, call the doctor even if your symptoms are mild. Your doctor will determine the need for you to be tested. (Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus for more information.)
Kelley said he has posted guidelines for employees to follow based on CDC and DPH recommendations. These include the obvious, such as covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, frequent hand washing, using sanitizers on common work areas and not reporting to work if sick.
“We are continuously monitoring the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Public Health (DPH) guidance and have been proactive in taking precautionary steps to keep Lumpkin Countians educated and informed regarding the situation,” Kelley said.

SHERIFF’S OFFICE SAFETY

Meanwhile, Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said he is working to make sure his employees and the inmates of the Lumpkin County Detention Center are closely monitored for symptoms.
“We do an intake exam on people when they come to the detention center,” he said. “Sometimes it’s when the nurse can get to them. But now we’re checking them even before they come into the facility.”
Jarrard said he’s also keeping in close contact with representatives at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
“Things are changing moment by moment,” he said.
Once an announcement is relayed from the state he has been quick to spread the word through Facebook. Still, he said he has seen a lot of worries from locals about the unknowns of the ever-growing pandemic.
“The phones will not stop ringing here,” he said. “There is a lot of concern. And there is a lot of reasons to be concerned.”