Virus numbers growing in Hart County

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Seven staff members at local nursing home diagnosed

  • Sunshot by Grayson Williams — A message reading “Heroes work here” is displayed in the front lawn of Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation on Wednesday morning on Cade Street in Hartwell.
    Sunshot by Grayson Williams — A message reading “Heroes work here” is displayed in the front lawn of Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation on Wednesday morning on Cade Street in Hartwell.
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The number of COVID-19 infections in a local nursing home continued to rise over the past week as the cumulative total of confirmed cases in Hart County grew to 18 and state
officials continued to lay out plans for re-opening businesses shuttered due to the pandemic.

Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation administrator Danny Lord told The Hartwell Sun on Tuesday that seven staff members in total have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, up from three reported infected staff members on May 4. 

None of the 74 residents at the facility have tested positive for the virus, according to a report from the Georgia Department of Community Health. Lord said no residents have shown symptoms. 

As of Wednesday morning, county administrator and emergency management director Terrell Partain said there were six active COVID-19 cases in Hart County.

Lord said none of the staff members who tested positive have come into contact with any of the residents and that none of those staff members work directly with patients.

“The systems that we have in place and the infection control protocols, at least we know that’s working,” Lord said. 

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.

No tests have been administered to any of the residents, and none of them have reported experiencing symptoms, Lord said. Hartwell Health isn’t declining mass testing, Lord said, but they are “evaluating the situation.”

“It’s not an isolated decision,” Lord said about working with corporate, the public health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other groups.

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 once again, but Lord said he hasn’t heard when that will happen yet.

The National Guard was scheduled to sanitize the jail, and test inmates and employees of the jail and sheriff’s office on Wednesday and Thursday, sheriff Mike Cleveland told The Sun. That visit was rescheduled.

Governor’s 

new order

Gov. Brian Kemp issued a new executive order on Tuesday extending some provisions, including keeping nightclubs, bars and performance venues closed through May 31, while also continuing to limit gatherings to 10 people, unless six-feet of social distancing can be maintained.

“This order is issued as COVID-19 positive hospitalizations, ventilator use, and the percentage of positive cases continue to drop. It is based on data, science, and the advice of our public health officials. Many have warned of a ‘second wave’ and asked if we are willing to change course if conditions decline. Let me be clear: we will continue to track the numbers and continue to heed Dr. (Kathleen) Toomey’s advice. We will take whatever action is necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods of Georgians,” Kemp said.

COVID-19 has now hospitalized more than 6,200 Georgians and killed more than 1,400 across the state. There have been a cumulative total of more than 34,000 confirmed cases statewide. More than 260,000 tests have been administered statewide, according to the department of public health.