COVID-19 update

Coronavirus reports in Pierce increased by six last week

Is the COVID-19 outbreak in Pierce on a downward trend?

It may still be too early to tell conclusively, but the number of new cases reportedly decreased last week.

“We’ve only had one positive case in the last week from Patterson,” says Dr. Brent Waters of Georgia Physicians South.

Department of Public Health daily reports showed a slight increase in Pierce County’s COVID-19 cases, but not nearly as significant as the week before when numbers nearly doubled. Last Tuesday, April 14, Pierce County had 47 reported cases of the virus and climbed to 51 cases by Monday, April 20. Pierce has reported two COVID-19 related deaths.

Pierce  maintained the highest per capita rate of 19 Southeast Georgia counties this week at .26 percent, meaning .26 percent of the County’s population has contracted COVID-19.   The per capita average of all 19 counties studied is .10 percent.  Georgia’s per capita rate is .18 percent.

Ware County follows close behind Pierce with a .25 percent per capita rate after experiencing a larger jump than Pierce in the number of virus cases last week.

Other surrounding counties’ per capita rates are as follows:

Wayne County – .03 percent

Charlton County – .04 percent

Berrien County – .05 percent

Camden County – .05 percent

Jeff Davis County – .05 percent

Atkinson County – .06 percent

Glynn County – .06 percent

Lanier County – .07 percent

Cook County – .08 percent

Lowndes County –  .09 percent

Brantley County – .10 percent

Echols County – .10 percent

Appling County – .11 percent

Clinch County – .11 percent

Brooks County – .15 percent

Bacon County –  .17 percent

Coffee County – .19 percent

Fulton County’s per capita rate is .21 percent while Dougherty County (Albany) has a 1.63 percent per capita rate. Those two counties reported the most COVID-19 cases and the most related deaths in the state for weeks, but Dougherty dropped to third place this week behind Dekalb County with 1,520 cases and 26 deaths as of Monday.

Memorial Satilla Health reported 166 patients under investigation for COVID-19 Monday. Of those, 112 received negative test results and 51 were positive. Three patients are waiting test results. The hospital is currently treating 10 patients at the facility for COVID-19.

Last week, local health care providers reported test results were coming back more quickly than in the first weeks of the pandemic. Now, more Georgians may soon have access to COVID-19 testing.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) increased the number of specimen collection sites statewide for COVID-19 testing last week, and is revising the current testing criteria to accommodate more testing of Georgia residents.

 All symptomatic individuals are now eligible for COVID-19 testing. Health care workers, first responders, law enforcement and long-term care facility residents and staff will still be prioritized for testing regardless of whether they are or are not symptomatic.

Referrals are still required for testing, but there are now two ways to be referred to a DPH specimen collection site:

 Local Health Department  — Individuals who meet COVID-19 testing criteria may now be referred to DPH specimen collection sites by contacting their local health department. They will be screened by appropriate health department staff and referred to the closest, most convenient specimen collection site. Contact information for local health departments can be found on the DPH homepage at https://dph.georgia.gov/, under COVID-19 in Georgia.

Health Care Provider Referral  — Health care providers and/or physicians can and should continue to refer patients for COVID-19 testing.

People should not arrive unannounced or without a scheduled appointment at a specimen collection site, hospital, emergency room or other health care facility. Only individuals who have been evaluated by public health or a health care provider and assigned a number will be referred to these drive-thru sites.

DPH tips for stopping the spread of COVID-19 remain the same:

 •Stay home

• Practice social distancing – keep at least six feet between yourself and other people.

• Wash your hands – use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60 percent alcohol) if soap and water aren’t readily available.

• Wear a mask – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially where socials distancing is difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.), and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Editor’s Note: County Manager Jason Rubenbauer contributed to the per capita calculations referenced in this article and in last week’s edition of The Times.