Three staff members at a long-term care facility in Hartwell are among Hart County’s four active cases of COVID-19 after they recently tested positive for the disease.
Three Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation staff members are confirmed to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as the number of reported cumulative cases in Hart County grew to 13 this week, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. There were four active cases in Hart County as of Tuesday afternoon, county administrator and emergency management director Terrell Partain said, with two of those active cases emerging within a three-day period. The 13th confirmed case was added Tuesday evening. Partain said Wednesday morning he had not yet received more details on the case from the Department of Public Health.
Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation administrator Danny Lord told The Hartwell Sun that one of its staff members tested positive for COVID-19, but that employee was exposed outside of the workplace and had not been back to the facility since testing positive. That employee’s last day at work was on April 24, Lord said, and they are on quarantine for 14 days.
Two other staff members have since tested positive for COVID-19, according to a May 4 long-term care facilities report issued by the public health department. No residents have tested positive as of Monday’s report.
The National Guard was requested through emergency management to come and thoroughly clean the long-term care facility that houses 75 residents in Hart County. Partain said Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation is now on the queue of facilities requesting the National Guard and that there’s no telling when they will respond.
Lord said Hartwell Health will continue following safety procedures it has been since the outbreak started, including restricting visitation, more cleaning and screening anyone who comes into the building. Masks have been distributed to everyone at the facility, including the patients, he said.
“We’ve intensified our cleaning,” Lord said Monday. “And of course everybody is doing hand hygiene, wearing their masks.”
While there have been 13 confirmed cases in Hart County since the department of public health began tracking and reporting positive results in March, Partain said there are currently four active cases in the county, meaning at least eight people have recovered locally.
The health department reports there are currently zero hospitalizations and zero deaths from COVID-19 in Hart County, but The Sun has confirmed at least one Hart County resident was in an intensive care unit at AnMed Health in Anderson, S.C. as of Friday. That patient has since been moved to a regular hospital bed, according to a family member.
Three Hart County inmates are housed currently at the Elbert County Jail, where an outbreak has sickened 16 inmates and 14 detention officers so far, Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland said. Partain said none of them tested positive.
Cleveland said the local jail and the Sheriff’s Office is on the list to have the National Guard come to test inmates, detention officers and deputies and thoroughly clean the premises.
Partain advised the public to continue to be vigilant by washing your hands and to limit contact with others.
“The main thing is each person has got to protect their self. They need to stay away from other people whenever they can,” Partain said. “If they go out, that’s fine I’m not saying don’t go out, but keep your distance from people if you’re in a store or somewhere like that.”
Partain said the state is doing a good job of keeping the county stocked up on personal protective equipment and that a shortage of the gear has not been an issue. He said he is now picking up shipments of the protective wear, including masks, gloves and other protective coverings twice per week.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to shelter-in-place expired last week for most Georgians, but he extended the order for residents ages 65 and older, seniors living in long-term care facilities and people with certain chronic health issues. Older residents and people with underlying health conditions, who officials say are most at risk from COVID-19, are ordered to shelter-in-place until June 12.
Residents with chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, severe heart disease, immunocompromised conditions, class III or severe obesity, as well as patients with diabetes, liver disease or chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis are among those included in the governor’s order to continue sheltering in place.
Testing for the virus has ramped up all across Georgia and now Franklin County is home to a drive-through testing site for Hart and Franklin County residents, according to District 2 Public Health officials. A specimen point of collection will operate on Tuesday and Friday of each week beginning on May 5 at the Franklin County Health Department in Carnesville. Hart County residents should call the Hart County Health Department at 706-376-5117 to schedule testing.
Partain said people can expect to see more positive cases because of the thousands of tests being administered every day. More than 200,000 people in Georgia have been tested for the virus and more than 29,000 of those tests have returned positive results as of Tuesday, according to public health’s daily status report. There are now more than 1,200 COVID-19 related deaths, 5,600 hospitalizations and 1,300 ICU admissions in the state.
Social distancing restrictions on businesses recently allowed to reopen are still in place, but those restrictions could be lifted at midnight on May 13 if the governor’s order isn’t extended.
Partain said the businesses in Hart County he has been in are all complying with the social distancing requirements. No county employees have tested positive as of Monday, he said.
Minimum criteria required for all retail businesses include limiting patrons to 50 percent of the fire capacity or eight patrons for every 1,000 square-feet, encourage customers to use hand sanitizer when entering the establishment, encourage non-cash payments and sanitize entrances and exits three times daily.
Bars, nightclubs, swimming pools and amusement parks are mandated to remain closed through May 13, unless Kemp moves to extend the order.