Gov. Kemp Provides Overview of Federal Guidance to Mitigate COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

Press Release, State & National
nursing homes

Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp provided an overview of the recommendations President Trump and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities, or long-term care facilities, have become an accelerator for COVID-19. This is because residents, who are generally comprised of a vulnerable population, are even more vulnerable to the complications of the virus in enclosed environments like nursing homes.

The recommendations are as follows:

  • Nursing homes should immediately ensure that they are complying with all CMS and CDC guidance related to infection control.
  • As nursing homes are a critical part of the healthcare system, and because of the ease of spread in long-term care facilities and the severity of illness that occurs in residents with COVID-19, CMS/CDC urge state and local leaders to consider the needs of long-term care facilities with respect to supplies of PPE and COVID-19 tests.
  • The facilities should immediately implement symptom screening for all staff, residents, and visitors, including temperature checks.
  • All staff must use appropriate PPE when they are interacting with patients and residents, to the extent PPE is available and per CDC guidance on conservation of PPE.

To avoid transmission, facilities should use separate staffing teams for residents to the best of their ability, and as President Trump announced at the White House on April 2, 2020, the administration urges nursing homes to work with state and local leaders to designate separate facilities or units within a facility to separate COVID-19 negative residents from COVID-19 positive residents and individuals with unknown COVID-19 status.

These recommendations will help long-term care facilities as they consider how to best prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. For more information on CMS actions, please visit cms.gov.

CDC Statement on COVID-19 Apple App

Featured, Featured Stories

Today, Apple Inc. – in partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – released an app and website
that guides Americans through a series of questions about their health and exposure to determine if they should seek
care for COVID-19 symptoms. The tool provides CDC recommendations on next steps including guidance on social
distancing and self-isolating, how to closely monitor symptoms, recommendations on testing, and when to contact a
medical provider.

This launch is a direct response to President Trump’s call for an all-of-America approach and will help Americans heed
CDC guidelines and self-isolate to limit COVID-19 transmission.

Users can download the free app from Apple’s App Store or access the tool online at www.apple.com/covid19 .
Everyone has a role to play as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19. The latest recommendations can be
found at www.coronavirus.gov .

CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether disease start at home or abroad, are curable
or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most
pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world.

Appalachian Trail closes due to COVID-19 pandemic

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Appalachian Trail closed - COVID-19

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – To protect public health and safety, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests is temporarily shutting down trailhead facilities and other access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and nearby trails to prevent groups from congregating.

Click to read: Towns County recommends temporary closure of Appalachian Trail

The decision aligns with state and local measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, recreation opportunities on the forest that support social distancing are still open for public use in other areas, including dispersed camping and other activities.

“We realize our communities and our visitors value the recreation opportunities the forest has to offer,” said Edward Hunter, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests Supervisor. “A lot of discussion and consideration went into this decision. The health and safety of our employees and the public remain our top priority.”

The following sites are affected by these changes:• Trailheads including Dick’s Creek Gap, Hogpen Gap, Neels Gap, Springer Mountain, Tesnatee Gap, Unicoi Gap, and Woody Gap
• Trails including Andrews Cove Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail (Springer Mountain to Falls Branch Falls section), Byron Herbert Reece Memorial Trail, Dukes Creek Falls Trails, Duncan Ridge Trail, Dockery Lake Trail, Freeman Trail, Jacks Knob Trail, Jarrard Gap Trail, Logan Turnpike Trail, Long Creek Falls Trail, Panther Creek Falls Trail, Slaughter Creek Trail, Springer Mountain Trail, Raven Cliffs Falls Trail, and Yonah Mountain Trail.

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests reminds visitors to recreate responsibly by avoiding gathering in groups of more than ten people and not engaging in high-risk activities, like rock climbing, that increase the chance of injury or distress. Also, note that law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19.

Guidelines for health and safety, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronav…/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html.

See the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests’ website for the latest recreation information at www.fs.usda.gov/CONF, also on Facebook and Twitter at @ChattOconeeNF

Georgia Appalachian Trail Club Appalachian Trail Conservancy

COVID-19 exposure may not lead to testing

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Towns County COVID 19

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As a Towns County family’s COVID-19 quarantine ends, the wife of a South Fulton County firefighter exposed to the virus in metro-Atlanta was surprised to learn that her family does not meet the criteria for virus testing. Shannon Baldwin-Nguyen told FYN on Friday that she and her family fully expected to receive the newly-introduced swap test following their two weeks in isolation. Because she nor her husband, Thanh – along with their four children who chose to quarantine with their parents – are not showing symptoms, the family is not eligible for COVID-19 screening.

Click to read: Towns County Family Quarantined for Coronavirus Speak Out

Hiawasseee quarantine

The Nguyen family first shared their story with FYN last week in an effort to inform the public.

FYN spoke with Dave Palmer, Public Information Officer of District 2 Public Health, on Friday afternoon. Palmer explained that COVID-19 testing is ordered at the discretion of physicians, and testing is typically not offered to those who are not displaying severe symptoms associated with the virus, even after evident exposure. Palmer said that although area healthcare providers are capable of collecting samples from patients, those who remain non-symptomatic following a 14-day quarantine do not meet CDC criteria for testing as the incubation period has expired. Palmer echoed President Donald Trump’s message to the nation, that not every citizen requires testing.

According to the CDC, symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after exposure (based on the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses), with the primary symptoms being:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Towns County EMA explained that residents experiencing symptoms requiring medical attention should call their primary care physician, or the local emergency room, prior to arrival.

As the COVID-19 pandemic makes it way through the state and nation, local officials continue to recommend heightened hygiene practices, social distancing, and that citizens remain at home whenever possible to slow the spread of the virus.

Towns County EMA additionally discouraged the public from speculating on social media, even in the form of questions, as it may lead to misinformation and rumors taking hold.

FYN continues to communicate closely with local leaders, emergency officials, and Towns County residents to provide now-information for the citizens that we serve.

Below is a statement received from Shannon Baldwin-Nguyen in its entirety:

“After 10 days of being in self-quarantine at our home in Towns County, Thanh was released by The City of South Fulton’s physician to go back to work,” Baldwin-Nguyen said. “The exposure was on Friday, March 6, and was confirmed on Monday, March 9, that he and two other firefighters were exposed. The quarantine actually started late Monday. It was requested that the three firefighters be tested before going back to work, that however was denied. There were no testing facilities to our knowledge in Fulton County. We contacted our local PA who referred Thanh and me for testing here. We were first told that we could be tested in Clay County, but later told they wanted to only test residents. We were then told that we would be tested on Friday at the Towns County Health Department. Before going there on Friday morning, I called to make sure the referral papers had been received. I was told they were not doing testing there either. We tried to have at least Thanh tested, but were denied. I was told by the Health Department that only the people that are ‘really, really sick’ are being tested. I expressed my concern with our local health department as well as the State of Georgia Health Department, and the Governors Office that reports have shown that some positive cases show no symptoms. The CDC guidelines are not requiring testing after definite exposure, which is scary. Our concern is that if more people are aware they are positive, there would be less ‘really, really sick’ patients. Now is not the time to adjust guidelines…we need certainty. It’s not a good feeling to be unknowingly exposed to something and then denied testing.”

The Nguyen family emphasized that although their physician requested testing, they are not showing symptoms of contracting the virus.

As of March 21, the date of this publication, there are no confirmed nor presumed COVID-19 cases in Towns County.

Towns County officials ‘closely monitoring’ coronavirus developments

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Towns County - Corona Virus

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.

Archive: Towns County EMA issues statement on coronavirus

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.

Towns county Schools - coronavirus

Statement issued by Towns County Schools regarding COVID-19

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.

Click here for preventive information from the CDC

COVID 19 Towns County

Source: CDC

 

“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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Kemp issues call to action to all Georgians, schools, and local governments

Community, Featured, Health
Kemp Georgians

ATLANTA, Ga – Governor Brian Kemp announced schools, childcare providers, local governments in Georgia now have the option to close, at least, for the next two weeks, starting this afternoon, during his latest COVID-19 press conference.

Mere hours after he confirmed, the first death in Georgia from COVID-19, Kemp gathered Speaker of the House David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Georgia Department of  Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to reveal extra measures for Georgians regarding the virus.

Kemp’s administration changed messaging to protect the elderly and chronically ill Georgians from COVID-19.

“Our message is changing. Elderly Georgians and those with chronic underlying health conditions face a much higher risk of adverse consequences from exposure to coronavirus,” stated Kemp. “We need to help them to dramatically limit their exposure to the public for the foreseeable future.”

These individuals need to avoid mass gatherings, even faith-based events to protect themselves against the virus. Two COVID-19 patients in Bartow did share contact by attending the same church.

Kemp urged citizens to talk with their families and make plans to protect those at risk by picking up their groceries, prescriptions, and helping them in any way possible.

The call to close schools or government offices isn’t a mandate, but, rather, the option now available, when “prudent”, to help keep Georgians safe. However, if counties, schools, or childcare providers don’t see a need to shut down, then they do not have to close.

Additionally, all elder care facilities are now closed to visitation until April 10, 2020, except for family members and end of life services.

Non-essential travel and telework are now in effect for state government, but the government offices and Capitol will remain open. Kemp’s office will send out guidance to all agency leaders for implantation.

The governor also implemented four new committees as part of the coronavirus task force: Emergency Preparedness Committee, led by Insurance Safety and Fire Commissioner John King, Economic Impact Committee, led by State Economist Jeff Dorfman, Primary Care Physicians Committee, led by Dr. Ben Watson, and Homeless Community Committee, led by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Update on Testing Capabilities

Toomey stated that currently the state can perform 50 tests a day and the department of health has more equipment on the way as well as additional training. She hopes the number will be up to 100 tests a day by the end of next week. Right now, Georgia has enough materials to conduct 500 tests in part thanks to the support from the CDC.

“We are testing high-risk patients,” said Toomey.

GA DPH commissioner Dr. Toomey is hopeful that Georgia’s ability to test for COVID-19 will continue to grow.

20 percent of patients have more severe diseases and five percent need help breathing, so those who fall into the high-risk category are being tested first.

Lab Corp can now process tests, which should speed up the process. The CDC has eased restrictions on COVID-19 testing, so the M-95 masks are no longer necessary as part of protective equipment.

She stressed the importance of those who might have COVID-19 to call ahead because no one wants to infect those in the emergency room or waiting room.

Citizens, activists react to inability to vote on fluoride

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Hiawassee Fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Negative public feedback emerged following FYN’s report stating that Towns County citizens will not have a say on the potential addition of fluoride to their water. The controversial issue was expected to go before both county and city voters on the May 19 ballot due to many county residents consuming water from the City of Hiawassee’s supply. The news was initially announced via Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia on March 3, with Olivia describing the change as government “miscommunication.”

Click to read: County citizens not permitted to vote on water fluoridation

FYN spoke with Towns County attorney Robb Kiker, March 5. Kiker explained that because only city residents signed a 2019 circulated petition to place the fluoride referendum on the ballot, county electors are not permitted to participate in the decision. Additionally, Kiker stated that a city cannot call for a countywide referendum.  FYN contacted Corbin McLain, the county resident who was tasked with collecting the signatures for the City of Hiawassee last summer. McLain stated that she was instructed by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales. per the Environmental Protection Divison (EPD), to solely garner city support for the ballot referendum. A total of 35 signatures were submitted to the Towns County Board of Elections, 10-percent of the Hiawassee citizens who voted in the last election, an amount mandated by the EPD. In a letter obtained by FYN, Georgia EPD relayed to Mayor Ordiales last year that both city and county citizens should vote on the measure, considering that Towns County residents receive City of Hiawassee water, per instruction from the State Attorney’s Office.

“We were under the impression that all voters would have the opportunity to cast their opinion on this matter,” Mayor Ordiales told FYN on March 5. “At this time, our attorneys, both County and City, are in touch with the State to determine how to proceed.”

Ordiales added that an update will be provided once a resolution is received from the EPD. FYN contacted several Hiawassee City Council members who expressed that county voters should have a say in the matter and that they were under the full assumption that would be the case.

FYN discussed the matter with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw on numerous occasions throughout the past year, with Bradshaw consistently expecting a countywide vote to take place this spring.”I was surprised to hear the news,”Bradshaw said earlier this week. “I was led to believe that both city and county voters would decide on whether to add fluoride.”

Citizens opposing fluoridation of the local water supply have since launched a Facebook page to draw attention to the contested issue. While some proponents of fluoridation list the dental benefits attributed to the additive, critics claim that the dangers outweigh the good.

“The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) has documented hundreds of published, peer-reviewed studies finding evidence of fluoride’s harms,” FAN Chair Rick North told FYN on Thursday. “Many have been funded by the National Institutes of Health and have found that levels in fluoridated water are linked to significantly lower IQs and higher ADHD rates in children. Many organizations that once endorsed fluoridation have pulled back and no longer take a position, including the Alzheimer’s Association, National Down Syndrome Society, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Kidney Fund and Center for Science in the Public Interest. It’s actually one of the most widely rejected health interventions in the world, opposed by most nations, including nearly all in Europe, and 95% of the world’s population. Fluoride is available topically in toothpaste if people want it. But FAN believes that no one should be forced to ingest a drug they oppose through drinking water, taking away their freedom of choice.”

Dr. Johnny Johnson Jr., a pediatric dentist and President of the American Fluoridation Society, offered support for fluoridation in an email to FYN.

“Fluoridation has been identified as the most practical and cost-effective method of delivering fluoride to all members of a community, regardless of age, education, or income,” Johnson said in part. “These advantages, combined with fluoridation’s contribution to dramatic declines in both the prevalence and severity of tooth decay, led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to name water fluoridation one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. I work with the non-profit, all-volunteer, unpaid group of healthcare providers of the American Fluoridation Society.  Our work is to disseminate evidence-based credible science on water fluoridation.  We do not accept a single penny for our efforts.  The opponents to water fluoridation have scared pregnant moms and used fear-invoking pseudoscience to cause people to question water fluoridation. We work to defend and protect the health, safety, and well-being of our countries families.”

FYN will continue to follow developments on the fluoride referendum leading up to the May 19 General Primary.

Towns County EMA issues statement on coronavirus

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Towns County Coronavirus

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw addressed COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus, during a special-called meeting on Thursday, March 5, with Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Brandon Walls in attendance.

“Towns County EMA is constantly monitoring the situation and is, as always, connected in real-time with our local, state and federal partners,” Walls told FYN. “We are always ready to mount a response to any situation. We urge the public to educate themselves from reputable sources such as the CDC and the state department of health. Monitoring, education, and research is a key factor in managing, mitigating and responding to any situation like the CoVid-19 outbreak. Follow standard infection control hygiene practices such as hand washing and staying home when sick. We would also like to ask the public to avoid adding to ‘hype’ and spreading unverified information.”

Two known cases of the coronavirus have been documented in Georgia; a 56-year-old father and his 15-year-old son residing in Fulton County. The man was reported as a recent visitor to Milan, Italy.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

As of March 5, the CDC reported 99 cases of confirmed coronavirus in 13 U.S. states, along with 10 deaths resulting from the illness. Of the 99 cases, a total of 30 have been deemed travel-related, 20 cases were spread person-to-person, and 49 cases are currently under investigation. As of March 4, a total of 1,526 U.S. patients had been tested for the novel virus. The number, however, does not include testing performed at state and local public health laboratories as testing began this week.

The CDC advises the following preventative actions to avoid respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • 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 using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

 

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