Doctor urges caution amid second virus wave

  • Hart County hit a record number of single-day cases reported on Dec. 4 when 24 new cases were reported, according to the Department of Public Health.
    Hart County hit a record number of single-day cases reported on Dec. 4 when 24 new cases were reported, according to the Department of Public Health.

A record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases locally is prompting a local doctor to speak out as hospitals are hitting capacity.
Hart County hit a record number of single-day cases reported on Dec. 4 when 24 new cases were reported, according to the Department of Public Health. The previous record for number of cases reported in a single day in Hart County was 15 on July 31.
The number of active cases in Hart County spiked to 80, the highest recorded since the pandemic began, as of Wednesday morning, according to county administrator Terrell Partain.
Local doctor Daniel Gordon, who often works at St. Mary’s Sacred Heart in Lavonia, told The Sun doctors are seeing the highest patient load they’ve seen and about half of the patients in ICU at the Lavonia hospital are battling COVID-19. He is urging all residents to be more vigilant about limiting gatherings, wearing masks in public — and staying home if you’re sick.
“It doesn’t differentiate whether you’re at school, church or inside eating somewhere, or whether you’re at Christmas with your family,” Gordon said. “If somebody’s got it, it’s probably going to spread.”
There have been patients hospitalized as young as in their 40’s, Gordon said, but most are senior citizens or have medical issues already.
“And that’s the issue that I have is people will say, ‘well I’m young, I’m healthy, if I get it I’ll do fine’ but they just go about their business as usual,” Gordon said. “And that may be true for an individual, but this is not an individual disease — this is a community burden.”
In some of the most disappointing instances for Gordon, he said, is that he’s seen some patients directly defy quarantine orders. In one case, he said a Hart County High School football player had symptoms and was tested for the virus the Tuesday before a Friday night football game and the student was told to quarantine, but he instead defied doctor’s orders and traveled with the team to Atlanta for a playoff game without notifying school officials.
It’s not just one incident contributing to the spread though, Gordon said, rather it’s the accumulation of different gatherings and interactions throughout the community.
There are 337 students who have been quarantined for possible exposure and 19 students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Hart County Charter System as of the Monday, Dec. 7 report. Additionally, 18 employees in the system have tested positive and four have been quarantined for possible exposure.
While Gordon said St. Mary’s Sacred Heart is doing a great job caring for COVID-19 patients and having a lot of successful outcomes, he said it is difficult when so many patients have the disease.
St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital President Jeff English told The Sun recently there has been a rise in cases locally and St. Mary’s in Athens recently had to divert patients to other facilities, but healthcare providers are doing what they can to make sure everyone who needs treatment receives it.
“Our hospital is very busy from all causes, not just COVID, but we are managing the volume pretty well at this point. Currently we are not on diversion here at Sacred Heart Hospital, though in Athens, St. Mary’s has had to go on diversion briefly on several occasions recently,” English said. “We want everyone to know that even if on diversion, our hospitals continue to provide emergency care, and if other hospitals in the region are also on diversion, EMS will rotate among them to ensure everyone who has a medical emergency receives the care they need.”
There are 118 new COVID-19 cases that have been reported in Hart County in the past two weeks, as of the Wednesday afternoon report from the state Department of Public Health. More than 820 cases have been reported in Hart County since the DPH began tracking the data in March.
There have been 20 deaths in Hart County attributed directly or related to COVID-19 and nine probable coronavirus deaths, according to the DPH. At least nine of the deaths in Hart County were residents under the age of 70. Hart County is considered a county of high transmission with roughly 19 percent of the people tested coming back positive, the DPH reports.
“Our communities have done an amazing job of flattening the curve before. We need them to stay in this fight with us by everyone doing their part,” English said.
Statewide, more than 9,000 people have died and 448,683 have been confirmed to have the virus as of Tuesday.