BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - The banner outside Cartersville Medical Center has the hashtag "We're all in this together" in large words. It's designed to send a clear message in a community taking hard hits from COVID-19. Hospital CEO Chris Mosley told reporters 10 patients who remain in the hospital have varying stages of the illness.
"We have had some who are very ill and some who are so ill they needed to be transferred for specialized care. Seventy-five other patients are being monitored for coronavirus-like symptoms. But many patients are recovering as well and are able to go home and self-quarantine," said Chris Mosley.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 40 positive cases of the virus in the county. Health officials say a large number of cases are linked to one church event on March 1. Health officials continue to drive home the critical need for social distancing. But they also point out most patients contracted the virus at the retirement party at the Cartersville church before the need for 'social distancing" was emphasized.
"The handwashing component of this is most important and we just really need people to stay home to minimize the spread of the virus. We all have to come together and do our part,” said Cindy Carter, a nurse with the Bartow County Health Department.
DPH says it is working closely with the CDC, and state partners to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S., including Georgia. The goal is to quickly identify cases of COVID-19 and take the appropriate public health action to reduce its spread and protect the general public.
Public health officials have urged social distancing to slow down or stop the spread of coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults who are 60+ and people with serious medical conditioners, such as heart disease and diabetes, are at higher risk of getting very sick from coronavirus.
Georgia Coronavirus Hotline: 844-442-2681
Since the first cases of COVID-19 was confirmed in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a public health state of emergency, allowing resources to be marshaled for the treatment and mitigation of the virus. All public schools in the state were ordered closed until March 31. Public gatherings have also been limited to no more than 10 people in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
Mobile testing sites have been deployed in certain regions of the state, with more on the way. Kemp has said he does not plan to impose any statewide curfews, business closures or forced quarantines. For now, the governor said he will leave it up to local officials whether to shutdown businesses or require people to stay home.
Officials in Dougherty County and Athens-Clarke County are ordering residents to stay home unless they’re going to work, buying food, seeking medical care or exercising.
“Drastic measures must be taken to decelerate the spread of COVID-19,” Albany Mayor Bo Dorough said at a news conference Friday. “We anticipate the results of the more than 1,000 tests we have conducted will confirm we have hundreds of people in Dougherty County with the virus.”
At least two Georgia cities imposed nighttime curfews for all residents. Atlanta and multiple suburbs have banned in-restaurant dining, limiting eateries to takeout and delivery service, as well as closing bars, theaters, bowling alleys and other gathering places. Tybee Island banned visitors to beaches, as well as the open consumption of alcohol.
Georgia has opened at least 13 drive-thru locations for virus testing and plans more. Kemp says priority for tests is being given to those at highest risk — the elderly, people who already have chronic illnesses, those in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities and first responders such as paramedics.
Best prevention measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
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Editor's note: This story initially reported that 40 confirmed cases were linked to a single church event.