Local nursing home sees first patient contract COVID-19

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Hart County's cumulative case number for COVID-19 patients sits at 19 since Thursday, nine of which are staff members at a local nursing home and one of which has been attributed to a resident there. 

The Thursday afternoon long-term care facility report from the state Department of Community Health lists the first resident at Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation as having contracted the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The number of staff members to come down with the disease has grown in the past two weeks after an official at the facility said an office worker there contracted it outside of the nursing home. That person has not been to work since being exposed, but more staff members tested positive. 

Danny Lord, administrator at the facility, said earlier this week that every possible precaution is being taken at the facility. 

Some of the infected staff members called the facility and said they were exposed to the virus outside of the facility, Lord said, while others were screened out through a series of questions and a temperature check that each person going inside Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation must go through before entering.

“If there’s anything that indicates any risk whatsoever, then we stop them at the front door,” Lord said.

The first case involving an infected staff member, Lord said, was an employee who said their spouse was diagnosed with the virus and they did not return to the facility.

A doctor’s group within Hartwell Health’s organization makes contact with the infected staff members, Lord said, and let’s them know when they can return to work. Each of the employees who tested positive are on a 14-day quarantine.

All of the staff at Hartwell Health have been wearing masks and practicing hand hygiene, Lord said.

“The safety of our patients and our staff is of the utmost importance,” Lord said. “We’re doing everything we can everyday to monitor the situation and follow the guidelines set forth.”

The National Guard has been requested to come sanitize the facility a second time.

Statewide, the DCH long-term care report includes 363 facilities where cases have been confirmed. 

There have been more than 36,500 confirmed cases in Georgia since the state Department of Public Health began tracking them in March. The disease has led to 1,548 deaths, 1,527 intensive care unit admissions and 6.381 hospitalizations. 

As the case number rises locally and throughout Georgia, a drug that has been shown to shorten the recovery time for some COVID-19 patients is now available at three hospitals operated by Piedmont Healthcare.

Piedmont is participating in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) expanded access program for the antiviral drug remdesivir, which was granted emergency use authorization May 1.

The drug is available to patients at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, Piedmont Fayette Hospital and at Piedmont Columbus Regional’s Midtown campus and may be expanded to other Piedmont hospitals.

FDA expanded access programs allow patients with immediately life-threatening conditions or a serious disease access to an investigational medical product outside of clinical trials when no comparable or alternative options are available.

“Piedmont’s providers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Charles Brown, CEO of Piedmont Healthcare’s Physician Enterprise. “Remdesivir gives them another tool to help care for our patients.”

For Piedmont, this will represent the second chance to work with remdesivir.

“We had a positive experience with remdesivir early in the pandemic and are excited to be able to provide to our patients again,” said Dr. Amy Hajari Case, Piedmont’s medical director of pulmonary and critical care research and principal site director for the program at Piedmont Atlanta.

Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report