Update: Towns County sees 2nd COVID-19 death, 155 confirmed cases

Business, Community, News

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported the second death in Towns County and  155 confirmed cases of COVID-19

19 total cases have required hospitalization. This information comes from the DPH Wednesday, July 22, 3:00 p.m. update.

The two deaths were a 53-year-old, white female with underlying conditions and an 84-year-old, white male with underlying conditions.

The total cases in Georgia as of the August 13, 3:00 p.m. update is now: total number of confirmed cases 1228,668 with 21,581 total hospitalized (3,963 requiring ICU admission), and 4,538 deaths. 1,942,610 tests have been administered in Georgia. 

No recovery information is available in the daily reports.

Union County is currently reporting 313 positive cases. At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about these cases. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

July 22 Update:

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 85 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Towns County with 14 total cases requiring hospitalization. This information comes from the DPH Wednesday, July 22, 3:00 p.m. update.

One death is also confirmed in the county.

The total cases in Georgia as of the July 22, 3:00 p.m. update is now: total number of confirmed cases 152,302 with  15,922 total hospitalized (2,967 requiring ICU admission), and 3,335 deaths. 1,316,844 tests have been administered in Georgia. 

No recovery information is available in the daily reports.

Union County is currently reporting 147 positive cases. At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about these cases. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

June 15 Update:

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 35 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Towns County with 10 cases requiring hospitalization. This information comes from the DPH Wednesday, June 15, 3:00 p.m. update.

One death is also confirmed in the county.

There has been confusion in counties as to how many residents or visitors have tested positive for the virus. The state reporting is not attributing all cases to place of residence as previously reported, and some cases are ending up being reported to the county where the person had testing done.

Union General Hospital (UGH) released a statement on April 1, that the hospital was treating a Covid-19 positive case with inpatient care. The hospital also confirmed that the patient had come from Towns County.

A day after UGH’s announcement, DPH released that Union County had one positive case. This led many to believe that the case was that of the Towns County resident who had been transported to UGH.

Currently, there is no way of confirming the origins of the positive cases due to HIPAA rules protecting an individual’s medical history. 

Union County is currently reporting 36 positive cases. At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about these cases. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

The total cases in Georgia as of the May 13, 7:00 p.m. update is now: total number of confirmed cases 35,427 with 6,308 hospitalized (1,511 requiring ICU admission), and 1,517 deaths. 273,904 tests have been administered in Georgia.

Timeline of Confirmed Cases in Towns County:

  • First Case – April 3, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Second Case – April 7, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Third Case – April 10, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fourth, Fifth and Sixth cases – April 14, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Seventh and Eighth cases – April 14, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Ninth and Tenth cases – April 16, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Eleventh and Twelfth cases – April 18, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirteenth case – April 19, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fourteenth and Fifteenth cases – April 20, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth cases – April 22, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twentieth case – April 24, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • First death – April 28, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-first case – April 28, 6:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-second case – May 1, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • One case rescinded  bringing total cases back down to 21 – May 2, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • One case rescinded bringing total cases down to 20 – May 3, 10:25 a.m. DPH update
  • One case rescinded bringing total cases down to 19 – May 4, 3:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Twentieth case – May 5, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-first case – May 13, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-second case – May 26, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-third case – May 27, 7:00 p.m. DPH update

*Fetch Your News has chosen to report on cases confirmed by the Georgia Department of Health (DPH) only. These reports may not reflect real-time spread as the laboratories processing COVID-19 tests are reportedly backlogged by several days. Fetch Your News is also reaching out to local sources to confirm positive cases before writing articles on the subject. 

Original story below:

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed the first case of Covid-19 in Towns County in their Friday, April 3, 12:00 p.m. update.

This news was expected as Union General Hospital released a statement on April 1, that the hospital was treating a Covid-19 positive case with inpatient care. The hospital also confirmed that the patient had come from Towns County.

While there had been several suspected cases in Towns County, all testing until today had come back with negative results. As of yesterday, Towns County was one of only 16 counties reporting zero cases of Covid-19.

Now there remains only 12 of Georgia’s 159 counties that are reporting zero cases.

Georgia’s total number of cases confirmed by DPH as of 12:00 p.m. on April 3 has risen to 5,831. Of these cases, 1158 remain hospitalized. DPH is reporting 184 deaths have occurred due to Covid-19 in the State of Georgia.

At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about this case. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

DPH updates the Covid-19 Georgia State Statistics at 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. daily.

Georgia Coronavirus Origin : The State of Georgia had its first confirmed cases of Coronavirus announced by state officials on March 2. These cases were of a Fulton man in his 50’s that had recently returned from a work trip in Milan, and his 15-year-old son. Fulton County remains the county with the highest number of confirmed cases, 882.

Operation changes to COVID-19 specimen collection sites

Health, Lifestyle
specimen collection sites

GAINESVILLE, GA – Nine specimen collection sites operated jointly by the Georgia National Guard and Augusta University ended operations effective May 30. As of June 1, several sites changed their operating hours. Those interested in receiving a COVID-19 test are strongly encouraged to call and make an appointment.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) will continue to operate 136 specimen collection sites throughout the state, and encourages Georgians wanting to be tested for COVID-19 to contact their local health department to schedule an appointment.

During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgia National Guard and Augusta University joined DPH in its testing efforts by providing a web-based screening and scheduling platform and additional specimen collection sites. To date, more than 44,000 people have been tested at AU Health and partnered sites.

“This partnership with the Guard and Augusta University was invaluable to the COVID-19 response in Georgia,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner. “We are grateful for their service to all Georgians, and for the support and capacity they provided DPH to increase testing for COVID-19.”

The Guard will continue to provide staffing and logistical help at DPH specimen collection sites, as well as its mission of assisting DPH with testing residents and staff in long-term care facilities. Augusta University will provide ongoing specimen collections at its two sites in the Augusta area; Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta and Patriot’s Park in Columbia County.

COVID-19 testing is available to all Georgians, whether they have symptoms or not. Individuals wanting to be tested should contact their local health department to schedule an appointment at a location convenient to them. Contact information for local health departments and specimen collection sites can be found on the DPH website at dph.ga.gov. People can also use the AU Health ExpressCare app or call the hotline at 706-721-1852 to be scheduled at a DPH or AU Health-operated location.

For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Kemp opens bars and renews state of emergency

State & National
bars

ATLANTA, Ga – Gov. Brian Kemp decided to continue the state of emergency and stay at home order for the elderly and at-risk individuals through July 12. However, the governor also announced the reopening of bars, amusement parks, night clubs, professional sports, and overnight summer camps.

Music venues must remain closed.

Kemp issued timelines for the lifting of each restriction.

May 31 Openings

  • Overnight Summer Camps

June 1 Openings

  • Gatherings of 25 people will be allowed – if the area meets space requirements
  • Bars
  • Night Clubs
  • Professional Sports
  • Amateur Sports

June 12 Openings

  • Amusement Parks
  • Water Parks

Georgia will not mandate citizens to wear masks, but Kemp highly encourages everyone to wear masks in crowded areas and public places.

66 percent of nursing home residents have been tested for COVID-19. On June 1, the Department of Public Health will move to once-daily updates of coronavirus numbers.

Georgia DPH distributes Remdesivir to hospitals for treatment of COVID-19

Health, Press Release
remdesivir

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is distributing an initial allotment of the drug Remdesivir received from the federal government. Georgia received 30 cases, with 40 vials of the drug per case, enough to treat about 110 patients, depending on the duration of an individual’s treatment. Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine being used to treat hospitalized patients with serious symptoms caused by COVID-19 like low oxygen levels or pneumonia. It has been found to shorten the duration of disease in patients being treated in inpatient hospital settings.

Remdesivir is given intravenously (IV) and decreases the amount of coronavirus in the body, helping patients recover faster.

The distribution plan for Remdesivir in Georgia was developed by DPH leadership, including district health directors and emergency preparedness staff, in accordance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for its use. It is based on the number of patients on ventilators, the most severely ill, and clinical best practices.

Georgia hospitals receiving Remdesivir reported 10 or more COVID-19 positive patients on ventilators, in addition to patients currently being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that takes over the work of the heart and lungs. These criteria are subject to change based on the availability of Remdesivir and
the development of patient care at hospital facilities across the state.

The following hospitals are receiving Remdesivir; Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, and Augusta University Medical Center.

“DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.”

Georgia has received a second, much larger allotment of Remdesivir. DPH is surveying hospitals statewide over the weekend to determine need. This second allotment will be distributed next week.

Gilead Sciences, Inc. committed to supplying approximately 607,000 vials of the experimental drug over the next six weeks to treat an estimated 78,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients under an emergency use agreement (EUA). The donation to the United States is part of 1.5 million vials of Remdesivir the company is donating worldwide.

Remdesivir has not been approved by the FDA for widespread use because it is considered investigational, and it is still being studied. Remdesivir was originally developed for use against Ebola. Clinical trials for Remdesivir were done in Georgia at Emory University Hospital.

For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook

District 2 announces changes in specimen collection sites

Community, Health
testing guidelines specimen collection

GAINESVILLE, GA – District 2 Public Health announces updates to schedules, testing criteria and specimen collection sites. Previous testing criteria was to test individuals with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Due to new testing criteria from Georgia Department of Public Health District 2 anyone with or without symptoms can now be tested for Covid-19.

The Specimen Point of Collection (SPOC) in Hall County will now operate as follows:

Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. The Hall County SPOC is closed on Saturday and Sunday.

A Specimen Point of Collection (SPOC) will be opened at Habersham County Health Department. This site will be open Saturday from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, and Sunday from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm. The Habersham site will begin operations on Saturday, May 16.

For convenience, we urge residents to call their local health department or the call center to schedule a time to get tested. With an appointment, the average time to get through the SPOC is three to five minutes. All county health departments will continue to schedule appointments during normal business hours, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The call center hours are: 8:30 am to 7:00 pm, every day including Saturday and Sunday.

Specimen Collection sites in Franklin and Towns Counties will continue to operate on Tuesday and Friday of each week. Residents can contact the call center above, or call Franklin County Health Department at 706-384-5575, or call Hart County Health Department at 706-376-5117 to schedule testing at the Franklin County Health Department. To schedule testing at the Towns County Health Department, residents can call Towns County Health Department at 706-896-2265, Union County Health Department at 706-745-6292 or Rabun County Health Department at 706-212-0289.

Remember, for your convenience an appointment is needed at each of the Specimen Point of Collection. Please call the call center 770-531-5600 or your local health department to schedule an appointment for testing.

Kemp changes restaurant and childcare restrictions

Announcements, State & National
childcare

ATLANTA, Ga – On May 12, Gov. Brian Kemp continued to ease restrictions on certain industries – restaurants and childcare – to assist Ga businesses as the state returns to normal.

Childcare facilities now can operate with up to 20 children in a classroom instead of 10 as long as the instructor-to-child ratio is maintained. Departments of Early Care and Learning and Public Health reportedly okayed this expansion and ensured it could be accomplished safely.

Many parents in Ga are returning to work and have encountered difficulty finding childcare services.

“Childcare facilities must continue to adhere to thirteen minimum, mandatory criteria to be able to operate, including strict screening procedures and sanitation mandates for frequently touched items and surfaces. In that same vein, countless families have reached out to my office to discuss how summer camps can safely operate as we battle the spread of COVID-19,” Kemp explained.

Summer day camps have also received the okay to open on May 14 if facilities can meet the 32 requirements developed by the Department of Public Health, constituents, and summer camp operators. The CDC has yet to weigh in on the criteria, but Kemp appeared confident that their plan would move forward.

However, overnight camps are still closed, but eventually, these facilities might be able to open under a case by case basis.

As for restaurants, those who have already opened or considering opening can now allow up to 10 patrons per 300 sq. feet and seat groups of 10. Previously the maximum number at a table was six.

Kemp praised the food industry, “Throughout this pandemic, our restaurant owners and their employees have done a remarkable job in keeping local families fed. These hardworking Georgians have followed the rules, doing the right thing, even when it wasn’t easy.”

Live performance venues, bars, and nightclubs must remain closed through May 31, 2020.

The social distancing and gathering ban on more than 10 people are still in effect unless six feet of separation is possible. The ban applied to all non-critical infrastructure businesses, local governments, and organizations of all types, including social groups, informal get-togethers, and recreational sports, just to name a few. Georgians can expect these protocols to last through at least the end of the month.

“We continue to strongly encourage people to wear face coverings when out in public, and we thank everyone for their willingness to do the right thing,” Kemp added. “The shelter in place provision for medically fragile and Georgians aged 65 and older remains in effect through June 12, 2020.”

Starting on May 18, state agencies will begin transitioning back into in-office services.

As of noon today, Georgia has received its first shipment of Remdesivir from the federal government – thirty cases with forty vials of the drug per case. The Department of Public Health will determine how it will be distributed.

Nursing Home Testing

Georgia’s National Guard has tested 46% of all nursing home residents and 24% of staff at those facilities. However, an estimated 46,000 people who still need to be tested. In total, the Guard has tested 142 nursing homes. The National Guard will continue to test everyone at these facilities until they reach 100 percent.

The press conference did address the re-testing of facilities is new cases are found after the initial testing. Department of Community Health releases daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in nursing homes across Ga.

“As we aggressively test more nursing homes and long-term care facilities, we may see a sharper increase in positive test results. By doing this, it will allow medical providers to intervene earlier and try to mitigate adverse outcomes among vulnerable Georgians. Right now, nursing home, assisted living, and personal care home residents and staff make up 18.5% of our total positive cases, and 49% of total deaths involve nursing home, assisted living, and personal care home residents. We ask everyone to continue to protect the elderly and medically fragile, and we will continue to work around the clock to ensure quick, convenient testing is available for all Georgians,” Kemp explained.

Anyone in Ga can now be tested for COVID-19 either through their local health departments or by downloading the Augusta University ExpressCare app, visit augustahealth.org, or call (706) 721-1852.

“With nearly 250 staff in the field today, the Department of Public Health is making progress. Under the leadership of Dr. Toomey, DPH plans to have 1,000 staff deployed in the coming weeks. To streamline contact tracing across the state, we are rolling out a new online monitoring tool – the Healthy Georgia Collaborative – which allows Georgians to identify contacts and monitor symptoms. Health data remains completely confidential. This monitoring tool does not collect any data other than what is entered by the contact. This is how the process works: residents who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by trained public health staff, who will work with that individual to recall anyone that they might’ve had close contact with while infectious. Those contacts will then be interviewed by DPH to help us map and isolate the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the state. If you are contacted by DPH staff, we strongly encourage you to participate in the contact tracing program,” Kemp said about contact tracing.

The governor also urged anyone who needs to visit their doctor for regular appointments or concerns outside of COVID-19 to please do so. Doctors’ offices and emergency rooms have protocols in place to prevent individuals from contracting the virus. Now is not a time to gamble with anyone’s health to avoid COVID-19.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

COVID-19 testing available to all Georgians

Press Release
testing

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has reached its goal of testing 100,000 individuals in 10 days. More than 108,000 tests were processed since Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H, set the DPH goal last week.

“This is an important benchmark for Georgia as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state,” said Toomey. “Increased testing is critical to understanding where there are hotspots of infection and how best to mitigate them.”

Effective immediately, testing is available to all Georgians who request it, whether they have symptoms or not. There are more than 65 specimen point of collection sites (SPOC) throughout the state, with an additional 30 mobile SPOCs –  locations and hours vary daily.

Individuals wanting to be tested can contact any Georgia public health department to schedule an appointment at a SPOC location convenient to them. Contact information for local health departments can be found on the DPH homepage at

https://dph.georgia.gov/.

For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook.

Shelter in Place order extended for medically fragile until June 12

Press Release, State & National
shelter in place

ATLANTA, Ga – Governor Brian P. Kemp signed Executive Order 4.30.20.01 which extends the medically fragile shelter in place and the Public Health State of Emergency until June 12.

The entire statement from the governor is below:

“Tonight at 11:59 PM, the statewide shelter in place order for most Georgians will expire. However, moving forward, I am urging Georgians to continue to stay home whenever possible. I want to thank the people of our great state who heeded public health advice, afforded us time to bolster our healthcare infrastructure, and flattened the curve. We were successful in these efforts, but the fight is far from over.

“In accordance with our executive orders, businesses across the Peach State must continue to operate with strict social distancing and sanitation rules to keep customers and employees safe through May 13, 2020. Those rules vary by business type for a measured, health-driven approach.

“The health and well-being of Georgians are my top priorities, and my decisions are based on data and advice from health officials. I will do what is necessary to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of our people. I will formally extend our public health state of emergency through June 12, 2020, to continue enhanced testing across Georgia, ramp up contact tracing, and maintain effective emergency response operations in every region.

“To protect vulnerable populations, I will sign an order today requiring medically fragile and elderly Georgians to continue to shelter in place through June 12, 2020. In addition, I will order long-term care facilities – including nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, and similar community living homes – to utilize enhanced infection control protocols, ensure safer living conditions, and protect residents and staff from coronavirus exposure.

“Together, we will defeat this virus and emerge stronger. Thank you, and God Bless.”

Click here to view a video message from the Governor.

Towns Detention Center inmate tests positive, officers under quarantine

Health, News, Police & Government
Towns County Detention Center Inmate

TOWNS COUNTY, Ga – COVID-19 has flared up in Towns County Detention Center with one inmate testing positive on April 21 and four officers quarantining themselves.

Towns County Sheriff’s Office listed a timeline of events on their Facebook page on April 24 detailing procedures since the initial government shutdown.

On April 19, an inmate was transported to Union General Hospital for treatment, and on April 21, the sheriff’s office received confirmation that the inmate had tested positive for COVID-19.

“All Sheriff’s Office personnel who were tasked with providing security on him at the hospital were provided with PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to use during their assigned shifts and reminded to practice the recommended 6-foot buffer zone,” stated Towns Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Clinton

Towns County Sheriff’s Office released details concerning positive COVID-19 inmate.

Law enforcement also consulted with the health department to follow COVID-19 protocols, which as of April 11 state that any essential worker potentially exposed to the virus can continue to work if not exhibiting symptoms, wear a facemask, and maintain six feet of distance from all coworkers.

Officers exposed to the confirmed inmate case are considered low risk by the health department if they followed CDC and Georgia Public Health Department guidelines. However, officers displaying COVID-19 symptoms move into the high-risk category.

On April 23, the detention center was sanitized by a company approved by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, while sheriff’s administrative office received cleaning on April 24 from County Emergency Management.

According to the sheriff’s office, the jail inmate area is cleaned three times daily since March 16. Also, all incoming inmates and detention center staff are screened for COVID-19.

Also, two detention center officers received COVID-19 testing on April 23 after experiencing mild symptoms. They are awaiting results while quarantining at home.

On April 24, two more officers were presenting symptoms and are in quarantine. One individual has taken the test, and the other is awaiting approval to take it.

According to the sheriff’s office, health department personnel explained that only law enforcement individuals with COVID-19 symptoms will receive a test.

The statement ended with, “The Sheriff’s Office has and will continue to take all recommended precautions and guidelines from the health department, GEMA, and CDC to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to the community, inmates, and staff.”

Fetch Your News will update this story as more information becomes available.

Update: Chatuge Regional Nursing Home employee tests positive for COVID-19

Health, News
chatuge regional nursing home

UPDATE: April 27

HIAWASSEE, Ga – On April 27, Georgia Department of Community Health Long-Term Care Facility reported revealed a Chatuge Regional Nursing Home employee tested reported tested positive for COVID-19.

Previously, Community Health listed a resident of the nursing home as positive for COVID-19, bringing the facility total up to two.

Union County Nursing Home also has two confirmed cases – one patient and one employee.

Original Story Below

HIAWASSEE, Ga -The Georgia Department of Community Health reported that one Chatuge Regional Nursing Home resident has tested positive for COVID-19 on April 24.

As of April 24, no nursing home employees are listed as positive for COVID-19. However, an employee at Union County Nursing Home Regional was confirmed as positive on April 23.

Chatuge Regional is home to 108 residents. Union County Nursing Home accommodates 138 residents according to community health.

Union General Health System (UGHS) now has two confirmed employee cases since April 10 – one in Towns and one in Union. The health system’s policy doesn’t allow them to discuss employee or patient matters.

Both facilities previously closed the buildings to visitors and limited meals to in-room dining. UGHS has assured Fetch Your News multiple times that the system follows all CDC protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents in both nursing homes are considered high-risk by the CDC and W.H.O. Several long-term care facilities across the country have been ravaged by COVID-19 including ones in Athens and Macon, Ga.

The CDC website stated that older patients may not exhibit typical COVID-19 symptoms, “such as fever or respiratory symptoms. Atypical symptoms may include new or worsening malaise, new dizziness, or diarrhea. Identification of these symptoms should prompt isolation and further evaluation for COVID-19.”

The National Guard first visited Union County Nursing Home on April 22 to begin cleaning out the facility and will continue to clean out health system buildings this weekend.

Once COVID-19 enters a facility, the CDC guidelines recommend “restricting all residents to their rooms and having HCP wear all recommended PPE for care of all residents (regardless of symptoms) on the affected unit (or facility-wide depending on the situation). This includes: an N95 or higher-level respirator (or facemask if a respirator is not available), eye protection, gloves, and gown. HCP should be trained on PPE use including putting it on and taking it off.”

With the high risk of unrecognized infection among residents, everyone in the facility must follow the outlined measures. Experience with the virus suggests that a “substantial proportion of residents could have COVID-19 without reporting symptoms or before symptoms develop.”

Facilities also are recommended to have a separate area to care for patients confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19. Ill residents must be checked at least three times daily to quickly determine if the level of care must be escalated.

Public health can assist in making decisions about testing asymptomatic residents.

Neighboring facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases

The Blue Ridge Assisted Living and Memory Care facility has two employees who tested positive for COVID-19.

Pruitt Health Blue Ridge has one positive patient.

Dahlonega Assisted Living and Memory Care has one positive employee.

Please keep all these individuals and residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in your thoughts and prayers are this time.

Free testing available from Public Health in Gainesville on May 1

Press Release
public health

GAINESVILLE, GA – On Friday, May 1, District 2 Public Health will join the Georgia Mountain Food Bank to offer free food distribution to residents. The event will be held at the lower field at Allen Creek Soccer Complex in Hall County. One package of food per car can be picked up between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. or until supplies run out. In addition, public health will be on hand to assist anyone who is sick to register for an appointment for free testing for Covid-19.

Allen Creek Soccer Complex is located at 2500 Allen Creek Rd, Gainesville, GA 30507.

Towns and Union County residents, who don’t want to drive across the mountain, can take advantage of the drive-up testing location at the Towns County Health Department. Please call ahead to make an appointment, the Towns’ number is (706) 896-2265. Union’s number is (706) 745-6292. This isn’t part of the May 1 event, just a full-time testing site to serve the community. 

If you are sick now, call 770-531-5600 to schedule an appointment for free testing. The call center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You must have an appointment to be tested. Also, a package of food will be given to each vehicle at the testing site while supplies last.

COVID-19 testing site coming to Towns County Health Department

Announcements, News

TOWNS COUNTY, Ga – In his public address on Friday, April 17, Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw revealed that Towns County would soon receive a COVID-19 testing location at the local health department.

“We’re going to have a drive-thru testing site at Towns County Health Department, and it will be up and going in a few days. It will help us identify who has the virus, who doesn’t have the virus. You need to go isolate yourself or your fine, you can go back to work,” explained the commissioner.

According to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales the testing site is open and taking appointments. Please call ahead before showing up at the health department. The number is (706) 896-2265.

Fetch Your News contacted District Two MPH Dave Palmer for further details about the testing location.  However, once all the specimen collection details are worked out, testing should begin soon.

Towns and Union County Health Department staff are being trained in COVID-19 testing protocols, and the Towns location will serve citizens from both counties.

“Specimen collection will take place at the health department and specimens will be sent to a lab for testing. Test results average 24 to 48 hours, explained Palmer. “The process will require an appointment. Individuals who have symptoms are asked to call the health department. A nurse will screen callers and then submit the information to a scheduler who will call the individual with a time to come to the specimen collection site.”

Those who take a COVID-19 test will receive a phone call with the lab results. All positive patients will work with a nurse regarding contact tracing.

How Towns received a testing location

Bradshaw contacted State Senator John Wilkinson and District 2 Public Health Director Pam Logan on Thursday, April 16 about getting a testing site. Up until now, Gainesville, Ga has been the closest drive-thru testing site for Towns County residents.

“I said can we not please get a testing site on this side of the mountain? We’ve got elderly folks here who are sick, and [they don’t feel like driving across the mountain.] To be honest with you after watching the local news and all this stuff about testing sites, I thought it would probably be impossible,” admitted Bradshaw.

At 5 p.m., Logan called back and confirmed Towns County could receive its own drive-thru site.

For those with questions about the testing site, call the health department at 706.896.2265.

“I’m very, very proud that we’re able to get this done,” said Bradshaw.

testing site

Commissioner Bradshaw gave a COVID-19 update to Towns County citizens.

He thanked everyone who made it possible including Wilkinson, Logan, Laura Ide, the office manager health department, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby, and all the people involved in making it happen.

“This is a serious time. There’s no doubt about it and this is when Americans rise to the top. This is when we do our best. I’m thankful to all you guys, and I’m thankful to our citizens,” stated the commissioner.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw gives update on COVID-19.

Posted by Fetch Your News on Friday, April 17, 2020

Georgia Dept. of Labor addresses unemployment options

Press Release, State & National
unemployment

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Labor are partnering to ensure Georgians understand their unemployment options as the state begins the safe reopening of businesses. Governor Kemp announced plans Monday to safely and incrementally reopen sectors of the economy, and today, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler encouraged employers to work with employees to determine a successful return to work plan.

“Thanks to Governor Kemp and his support, we were able to issue an emergency rule that increased the earnings exemption amount from $55 to $300 allowing individuals to make $300 a week without reducing their weekly benefit amount,” said Commissioner Butler. “If a business opens back up slowly and their employees are returning to work with reduced hours, employers can continue to file employer-filed partial claims on behalf of their employees.”

Pursuant to the emergency rule issued on March 26, 2020, an individual can make up to $300 per week without reducing their maximum weekly benefit amount, allowing employees to work reduced hours and still qualify for state weekly benefits and the federal $600 weekly supplement.

“As we take measured steps to reopen sectors of our state’s economy, it is vital that we continue to support Georgians trying to re-enter the workforce,” said Governor Kemp. “Commissioner Butler and the Department of Labor are working around the clock to do just that. Their action under historic circumstances will continue to give our state’s workforce viable options to put food on the table for their families as we fight COVID-19 together.”

Employer-filed partial claims account for 75 percent of the state’s 1.1 million claims since March 14. Employers are required to report an individual’s weekly gross wages when certifying on behalf of the employee with the GDOL. These employer-filed partial claims can include full-time and part-time employees, as long as employers are accurately reporting an individual’s weekly wages. An employer’s account will not be charged for claims filed against it for employer-filed partial claims during this time.

“Despite claims to the contrary, returning to work does not automatically eliminate an individual’s state unemployment eligibility,” said Butler. “In fact, we designed this provision to encourage employers to continue to file while returning employees to work to take advantage of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) benefits.”

The rule states that earnings of $300 or less will not affect entitlement to benefits. Any amount over $300 will be deducted from a claimant’s weekly benefit amount, a payment determination based on an employee’s past wages. As long as a claimant is awarded at least $1 in state benefits, he or she is eligible to receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the additional $600 weekly payment.

“This option was created with lower wage employees in mind,” said Butler. “Allowing Georgians to supplement their income by making an additional $300 or so a week while continuing to receive state benefits, and now the federal supplement, will allow them to continue to heal from the economic wounds brought about by COVID-19.”

If a decision is made by an employee to separate from his/her place of employment, the employee has the right to file an individual claim where an eligibility determination will be made based on the facts presented in the case.

“If an employee is concerned about returning to work due to exposure to COVID-19, we are encouraging employees to communicate with their employers on plans to safely return to work,” explained Butler. “We are all working together on getting Georgians back to work in a safe and stable environment.”

Information on filing an individual unemployment claim, details on how employers must file employer-filed partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at www.gdol.ga.gov.

Fire department offers essential aid to Towns residents

Community, News
aid

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Fire Chief Harold Copeland took a moment to inform the public that the fire department is available to any essential aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Not only is your fire department here for your med calls and fire emergencies, at a time like this during a pandemic, we’re here for your special needs as well,” said Copeland.

Stations are manned Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Copeland also gave out several numbers for citizens to call to reach the fire department if they need assistance. On the weekends and at night, people can call Station One at 706.896.2090 or call Copeland’s cell phone at 706.994.4934.

Copeland monitors the Station One voicemail and will get in touch with anyone who needs assistance. This applies to the gathering of any essentials for those in the community who can’t get out, such as groceries, prescriptions, or any type of aid. The department’s also delivering Meals on Wheels to the public.

Copeland became emotional when speaking about an individual who hadn’t eaten due to the inability to leave their home.

“If you’re home right now and you haven’t eaten today, call me. We’ll go through the drive-thru for you,” Copeland expressed. “We’re coming that’s what we do, that’s what everybody in this room does.”

The fire department will ask some COVID-19 screening questions in order to follow CDC guidelines. Those who respond to calls for meals, groceries, or medicine will place the goods on porches, carports, or vehicles.

“We’re here for you. The fire department’s here for you. The EMS is here for you. The same way y’all have been here for us over the years as a community whether it’s through your taxes or donations you’ve given,” stated Copeland.

“We want to take care of our citizens anyway we possibly can,” said Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw. “Thank you all for all that you’re doing we appreciate it very much and better days are just around the corner. We’re getting there.”

To find out more about COVID-19 testing at the Towns County Health Department, click here.

Georgia Board of Cosmetology and Barbers Issues Safety Guidelines for Reopening

Press Release, State & National
Cosmetology

Atlanta, GA – Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers issued guidance for the safe reopening of Georgia’s salons and spas.

“I deeply appreciate the work of Kay Kendrick and the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers to prepare guidelines for implementation by Georgia’s shops and salons,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “As we begin the process of safely reopening our economy, it is critical that business owners, operators, and contractors adhere strictly to increased safety and sanitation guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Working together, I am confident that we can get these sectors back online and work to ensure the health and safety of all Georgians.”

“I am very happy that Governor Kemp decided that we can reopen our salons and spas,” said Kay Kendrick, chair of the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers. “We have 95,000 licensees under our board, most of whom are independent contractors that have no other source of income.

“Under our sanitation laws and rules, we are charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers from the spread of contagious diseases everyday in our salons. By adding the safety guidelines that have been developed by the board and some of our industry leaders in the cosmetology and barber profession, we feel that our professionals will be able to do an even better job of protecting themselves and their clients. I trust that all our professionals will use these guidelines to be safe and protect their clients. “

Salon/shop owners and managers should use the OSHA “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” as a guide for reopening. Below are some of the top-level guidelines for salon and spa operators to follow. The complete list of guidelines will be available here.

Temperature Checks: Salons should consider use of a touchless infrared thermometer to check the temperature of employees each day and of each client who enters the salon/shop.

Screening Questions: Ask each client entering the shop the following questions – Have you had a cough? Have you had a fever? Have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days? Are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

Limit People In Shops/Salons: Salons/shops should consider seeing clients by appointment only. Salons/shops should consider telephonic or online scheduling. Limit the number of persons in the waiting area of the salon/shop. It is recommended that clients wait outside the salon/shop in their vehicle until the cosmetologist or barber is ready to serve them. It is recommended that persons not being serviced in the salon/shop wait outside the salon/shop.

Maintain Social Distancing: Spacing between persons in the salon should be at least six feet at all times. Salons/shops should consider additional spacing between booths, divider shields, and/or alternate work schedules.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment and Best Practices: Salon/shop employees will be required to wear masks at all times. Salons may want to consider providing masks to clients. Clients should wear face masks to the extent possible while receiving services. Salons/shops should also make use of face shields, gloves, disposable or re-washable capes, smocks, neck strips, etc. These items should be disinfected or disposed of between each client. Employees should should arrive at the salon/shop showered and wearing clean clothing and change clothes before leaving the salon/shop each day. Hand washing with soap and warm water, for a minimum of 20 seconds will be required by employees between every client service.

Disinfection: All salons/shops should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to reopening. Disinfect all surfaces, tools, and linens, even if they were cleaned before the salon/shop was closed. Salons/shops should maintain regular disinfection of all tools, shampoo bowls, pedicure bowls, workstations, treatment rooms, and restrooms. Additionally, salons/shops should remove all unnecessary items (magazines, newspapers, service menus, and any other unnecessary paper products/decor) from reception areas and ensure that these areas and regularly touched surfaces are consistently wiped down, disinfected, and that hand sanitizer is readily available to clients and staff. Avoiding the exchange of cash can help in preventing the spread of the virus, but if this is unavoidable, be sure to wash and sanitize hands well after each transaction. The use of credit/debit transactions is preferred, using touch/swipe/no signature technology.

Administration: Employees who are sick will be expected to stay home. Salon/shop owners/managers should provide training, educational materials, and reinforcement on proper sanitation, hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette, use of PPE, and other protective behaviors. Ensure break rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and not used for congregating by employees. Be flexible with work schedules/salon hours to reduce the number of people (employees and clients) in salons/shops at all times in order to maintain social distancing.

A full list of these guidelines will be made available on the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers’ website.

Commissioner Bradshaw asks public to continue their efforts against COVID-19

Health, News
bradshaw Towns County shelter in place

HIAWASSEE, Ga – On the courthouse steps, Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw spoke the residents of Towns County and encouraged them to continue following the CDC guidelines.

He’s also telling any people who want to visit the county to stay home. When everything is lifted, Towns County will welcome visitors with open arms, but not right now. People need to stay home so freedoms can be restored hopefully sooner rather than later.

“Now is not the time to come to Towns County. I ask them the simple question every time, ‘what does shelter in place mean?’ The phone gets silent on the other end,” said Bradshaw.

Georgia’s COVID-19 peak is expected around April 26, but that doesn’t mean the “danger of this pandemic virus will be eliminated at that time.” Some reports have pushed the peak out to May and others suggest Georgia’s already over the peak.

Citizens should continue to shelter in place, frequent handwashing, practice six feet apart social distancing, wear cloth face masks in public settings, and if sick isolate and contact physician.

“I would like to take the time to thank you for your cooperation, understanding, patience, and support during these difficult times,” said Bradshaw. “As we are seeing an increase in confirmed cases in Towns County and across the nation, I want to assure you that as your commissioner, I am doing everything within the law to combat the spread of the virus.”

The total of confirmed cases in Towns County has risen significantly over the past 48 hours, jumping from three to ten. Health officials continue to urge caution due to asymptomatic transmission and many cases could go unreported because the afflicted only experience mild symptoms.

Bradshaw is in constant contact with government officials on how to control the spread of COVID-19.

He also took a moment to thank local healthcare workers and essential employees who are tirelessly providing aid to patients during this crisis.

“I would also like to express my appreciation to healthcare workers, public safety personnel, and all other essential workers for the vital services you are providing to our community. We are very fortunate to live in such a loving and caring community, working together we can limit the threat this virus has brought to our community,” expressed Bradshaw.

The commissioner also addressed the financial state of the county, and currently, Towns is in good shape financially due to former Commissioner Kendall’s “rainy day fund” and the good economy leading up to the shutdown. Kendall’s fund has three months of operating expenses stored even if the county has no income.

“In year 2018, we increased our revenue by $600,000, that’s a lot of money for a small county, small budget, compared to most counties,” explained Bradshaw. “Tourism dollars, since I’ve been in office, has increased over $3M that’s dollars spent in Towns County on tourism. We pushed very, very hard for that. Our sales tax collection last year was up over $100,000. So that’s a good economy and that’s us pushing to take advantage of a good economy.”

Bradshaw did caution that eventually the county may have to dip into the “rainy day fund,” but right now all county departments are under direction to only complete necessary spending.

If anyone has questions or concerns, they can contact the commissioner at 706.896.2276.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw gives update on COVID-19.

Posted by Fetch Your News on Friday, April 17, 2020

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