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COVID outbreak in area ‘stunning’ – Officials urge caution

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases has local health and governmental officials very concerned.

According to the latest state Department of Public Health statistics, 44 people in Clinch County have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks. And according to Homerville physician Dr. Sam Cobarrubias, those figures are probably low.

“The Covid-19 virus is spreading rapidly through our community. My nurse practitioner and I believe the current strain is making people sicker this time compared to last summer. I am asking you all to observe all the Covid-19 guidelines from the CDC. We have sacrificed this long. The vaccine is here and I am confident we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Sam said in a statement.

The outbreak is hitting all of South Georgia hard. According to DPH figures, in the past two weeks, nearby Coffee County has had 384 confirmed cases; Atkinson-68; Berrien-105; Ware-161; and Lanier-31.

The South Health District said they are currently experiencing the most significant increase in COVID-19 cases that the district has seen since the pandemic began.

The positivity rate across the district has increased to 15-27% in the last two weeks. An increase of up to 10 percent from earlier this month and double or more the positivity rate from October.

“These numbers are absolutely stunning, and we know that we have just started to see cases from the Christmas holiday which means this will likely continue to increase,” said William R. Grow, MD, FACP, district health director. “It is extremely important to take precautions, stay home, avoid social gatherings, and wear a mask if you must go out in public, especially as we conclude the holiday season. Positivity rate increases like this are going to translate into overwhelmed hospitals, critical illnesses and possibly deaths. All of this can be avoided if people will simply take the precautions that public health has been recommending since March.”

Clinch Memorial Hospital has reopened its drive-thru testing due to the increase in cases. The drive-thru testing, in the CMH parking lot, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. from Monday-Friday, and from 8 a.m.-noon on weekends and New Year’s Day.

Testing rates in the district have continued to increase since October, with public health and hospital testing sites being extremely busy in the last several weeks. This increase in testing is important because it allows public health to have an accurate view of the positivity rate within the district.

The City of Homerville has a mask ordinance currently in place, along with other precautions. City officials said police will be reminding local retail stores about the mask ordinance and will issue citations if individuals refuse to comply with safety precautions in the city limits.

During this health emergency, Dr. Sam offered the following recommendations: 

1. When out in public, I suggest wearing 2 (or more) masks. The better the seal, the more protection the masks offer.

2. Protect your eyes-wear glasses, goggles or a face shield.
3. If you gather, you are only as safe as the least safe person in your group. If they did not take precautions, you are putting yourself at risk.
4. When in a group, keeping the air moving is key. Surfaces and such do not seem to be as important as the air where the virus can float for quite some time.
5. If you get exposed to Covid-19, have no symptoms and want to get tested, wait until the 5th day after exposure to do so. If your test comes back negative and you still have no symptoms, you may end quarantine after 7 days. If you do not get tested and have no symptoms, you may end quarantine after 10 days.
4. If you are diagnosed with Covid-19, please notify those you may have exposed to the virus. We suggest that your entire household quarantine for the designated amount of time.
5. We have observed that being overweight or obese is a real risk for getting severe Covid-19 infection.
6. If you are diagnosed with Covid-19, your condition may worsen from days 7-12 of illness. It may occur suddenly.
7. When we diagnose you with Covid-19, we give you a cocktail of medications that we think may help you fight the virus. None of them have been approved to treat Covid-19.
7. If you are diagnosed with Covid-19 and experience shortness of breath, seek medical attention right away and tell them you have Covid-19.
8. The only medication approved for treatment of moderate to severe Covid-19 is remdesivir. It is given through a vein. It is usually the bigger hospitals that will have the medication.
9. These big hospitals may have remdesivir in stock but may not have the bed to treat you.
During this summer’s COVID surge, 13 Clinch County residents died of COVID-related issues.

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