COVID-19

Pierce per capita rate highest in the area

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Pierce County continue to rise, nearly doubling in the last week from 23 reported cases last Monday to 45 cases this Monday.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed the first coronavirus death in Pierce last Tuesday afternoon as a 67-year-old female. It is unknown whether or not she had underlying health conditions. DPH would not confirm the time of her death or whether or not she was diagnosed prior to death or the virus was discovered post-mortem. One other COVID-19 death with a connection to Pierce County has been reported as well. (See related story).

Pierce currently has the highest per capita rate of 19 Southeast Georgia counties at .23 percent, meaning .23 percent of the County’s population has contracted COVID-19.   The per capita average of all 19 counties studied is .07 percent.

The following Southeast Georgia and neighboring counties report much lower per capita rates than Pierce:

Jeff Davis County – .01 percent

Wayne County – .02 percent

Atkinson County – .02 percent

Charlton County – .03 percent

Berrien County – .03 percent

Camden County – .04 percent

Cook County – .04 percent

Glynn County – .04 percent

Echols County – .05 percent

Lanier County – .05 percent

Brantley County – .06 percent

Lowndes County – .06 percent

Appling County – .07 percent

Clinch County – .09 percent

Brooks County – .12 percent

Bacon County – .13 percent

Coffee County – .14 percent

Ware County – .16 percent

Fulton County’s per capita rate is .15 percent while Dougherty County (Albany) has a 1.42 per capita rate. Those two counties continue to report the most COVID-19 cases and the most related deaths in the state.

Memorial Satilla Health is currently treating 15 patients for COVID-19. The hospital has 128 individuals under investigation for the virus – 75 of those tested came back negative. Forty-seven tests came back positive and six are currently pending results.

Local health officials continue to urge social distancing measures and recommend Pierce Countians wear masks when they do have to leave their homes for essential reasons such as a trip to the grocery store, doctor’s office or because they are employed in an essential industry.

Test results for COVID-19 are coming back faster than in previous weeks, — typically within 72 hours for outpatient testing, says Dr. Brent Waters of Georgia Physicians South.

Tests conducted at the hospital are typically returned within 24 hours.

The majority of tests are still coming back negative for COVID-19.

New research is released nearly every day as experts continue to study the new virus. Some speculate the virus may have been here undetected weeks before the first cases were reported in Georgia, even prior to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for social distancing were released, but those reports are not conclusive.

“There is some speculation the virus was here earlier than we thought with a flu type illness in the Fall, (when patients presented with a) negative flu test and prolonged cough,” Waters says.  “The only thing I can think of going against this theory is that there was not a surge in hospitalized patients with respiratory illnesses during that time and no noticeably increased mortality.”

“We hope to have antibody testing soon and then we’ll know the answer to whether (or not) the virus was here sooner than we thought,” Waters adds.

Will warm weather stamp out the virus as it appears to do for flu season?

“We will know when the time comes,” Waters says.

Editor’s Note: Numbers referenced in this report are taken from DPH’s 7 p.m. report Monday, April 13. That report is the last one made public before The Times press deadline Tuesday morning. DPH releases two COVID-19 reports daily at noon and 7 p.m. Those reports can be viewed at dph.georgia.gov.