HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County officials and health providers gathered in recent days, focused on disseminating information related to COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Rhonda Calwell, a registered nurse trained in Infection Control and Prevention with Union General Hospital, held a seminar for the public on March 10, at the Towns County Recreation and Conference Center in Young Harris. The following day, a PowerPoint presentation was led by Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) with local emergency responders in attendance.
FYN spoke with Towns County EMA Director Brandon Walls on Wednesday, March 11. Walls stated that EMA is “closely monitoring” the spread of the virus outbreak. Walls added that the department is involved in “active and heavy situational awareness” with “advice and guidance exchanged between local, state, and federal agencies.” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw indicated that policies related to the virus outbreak may transpire in coming weeks.
There are no known cases of COVID-19 in Towns or surrounding counties at the time of publication.
On March 10, Towns County Schools announced guidelines stating that students, staff, and any individual who attends or visits the campus must impose a 14-day self-quarantine should they meet certain criteria. If the individual or a house member has traveled outside of the U.S. in the past two weeks, or if they have been in close contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19, self-monitoring for the onset of virus symptoms is warranted. Students and staff must remain fever-free for a 14-day period prior to their return to campus.
Quarantined students and staff are required to report symptoms associated with COVID-19 to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by dialing 1-866-PUB-HLTH, additionally seeking medical assistance. According to the school’s administration, students will be provided class assignments during the quarantine period, and absences will be excused.
“We’re talking with the school daily,” Walls told FYN. “We’re looking at the response plan to see if changes need to be made.”
Walls stressed that the public should not panic nor “add to the hype” but rather follow CDC and DPH health guidelines and pursue accurate information on the virus.
As of March 10, there were 22 confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia. While the risk of infection remains relatively low, citizens are urged to take general precautions recommended to reduce the spread of any respiratory illness.
“More cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the United States in the coming days, including more instances of community spread. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur,” Georgia’s DPH website states in part. “Widespread transmission of COVID-19 would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, and workplaces, may experience more absenteeism. Mass gatherings may be sparsely attended or postponed. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and sectors of the transportation industry may also be affected. Healthcare providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.”
Georgia physicians are now capable of ordering tests for COVID-19, and private labs can process the samples.
FYN will continue to update information related to the virus outbreak as developments occur.
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