Virus spreads to nursing home residents, jail, deputies tested

  • Sunshot by Michael Hall — The National Guard tests detention officers and deputies at the Hart County Jail on Sunday May 17.
    Sunshot by Michael Hall — The National Guard tests detention officers and deputies at the Hart County Jail on Sunday May 17.

Mass testing at a local nursing home revealed at least nine residents are COVID-19 positive, prompting the facility to setup a wing designated to positive patients.

Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation administrator Danny Lord told The Sun that the facility administered tests to all of its residents through a private company on Friday after several staff members previously tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Lord said 68 of the patients tested negative for the virus.

A designated wing of the facility is now for COVID-19 patients only, and Lord said certain staff are designated to only that one unit as well. The residents who tested positive are isolated in that wing, he said.

The decision to test all of the residents was prompted in part by several staff members testing positive for the virus and eventually a few of the residents, Lord said. 

“And also the community was concerned as well,” he said. 

Several residents who were showing symptoms of the virus were tested prior to the mass tests, Lord said, and some of those came back as COVID-19 positive, while others were negative.

Of the residents who tested positive so far, they have not had any “significant issues,” Lord said, and most of them are asymptomatic. A couple of the coronavirus-positive residents recorded a low-grade fever, Lord said, and had a mild cough, but nothing severe.

The residents at Hartwell Health and Rehabilitation have mostly stayed in their rooms throughout the pandemic, Lord said, something he says has been tough for many of them.

“But they’re a bunch of troopers,” Lord said of the residents. “If they come out of their room for any reason they wear their mask as well. They’ve really done well with it.”

Hartwell Health and Rehab has intensified its cleaning efforts in response, Lord said, and staff continue to wear respirator masks and practice good hand hygiene. Anyone entering the building is screened at the door through a series of questions and a temperature check.

“Just keep saying a prayer for us,” Lord said. “I hope other facilities don’t face it, but they very well may face it. You just don’t know.”

Many long-term care facilities in Georgia are combatting the virus. The Department of Community Health reports 373 facilities in Georgia have had at least one confirmed case of the virus, whether it’s a staff member or resident. More than 5,000 long-term care facility residents in the state have tested positive, while 841 residents have died due to COVID-19, as of Tuesday’s report.

The Department of Public Health reports there have been 24 cases of COVID-19 cumulatively in Hart County since the agency began tracking them. There are no hospitalizations or deaths due to the virus confirmed in Hart County, but The Sun has independently confirmed at least one Hart County resident was hospitalized due to the virus but is now recovering in an inpatient rehab facility.

The National Guard tested all inmates at the Hart County Jail and the employees at the Hart County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday. Sheriff Mike Cleveland said most of the test results had not come back yet as of Tuesday.  

Across Georgia, more than 38,000 people have been infected with the virus as of Tuesday, according to the DPH. More than 1,600 Georgians have died due to complications with the virus and more than 7,000 residents have been hospitalized, while at least 1,600 have been admitted to intensive care units.

The Department of Public Health reports 402,940 people have been tested for the virus in Georgia as of Wednesday morning.