Three area nursing homes are listed by Gov. Brian Kemp’s office as having at least one resident or staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19, including one in Bulloch County.
Experts say the presence of the virus is especially worrisome in such facilities, since there are so many at-risk people — those older than 65 or with other conditions that compromise their immune systems — living in close proximity.
The number may now be higher, as the report on Gov. Kemp’s website (gov.georgia.gov) was last updated April 12. Kemp’s office compiled the list of confirmed COVID-19 cases at long-term health care facilities from information provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health, according to the report.
Heritage Inn Health and Rehabilitation in Statesboro, Syl-View Health Care Center in Sylvania and Orchard Manor in Metter are all listed in the report as each having one resident or staff member who tested positive for the coronavirus. However, a Syl-View employee said Friday the number for that facility had risen.
“We have three residents with the coronavirus,” said Yolanda Jenkins.
Calls seeking comment and information were made to Orchard Manor and Heritage Inn, but persons answering the calls deferred questions to other employees who did not immediately return calls Friday.
Earlier this week, Heritage Inn and its sister company, Statesboro’s Eagle Health and Rehab, both owned by Ethica Inc., submitted requests through the Bulloch County Emergency Operations Center to take advantage of a statewide offer by the Georgia National Guard to cleanse and disinfect nursing homes and long-term care facilities, said Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn.
Nursing homes can contact Wynn at (912) 489-1661, option #9, to submit a request.
The service also includes staff training on sanitary habits and infection/virus control, said Desiree Bamba, Georgia National Guard spokesperson.
According to an Associated Press report, nursing homes have been known since the earliest days of the outbreak as likely trouble spots. A home in Washington state lost 43 residents early in the virus’ spread across the country.
Yet even with that early warning, many nursing homes remained without adequate supplies of personal protective equipment. Testing for residents and staff remains spotty, at best.
Federal officials in mid-March banned visitors, halted group activities and ordered mandatory screening of workers for respiratory symptoms, but by then the virus had quietly spread widely.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities continue to be hotspots for infections in Georgia. The South Central Health District said Sunday that 16 people had tested positive for the virus at an unnamed long-term care facility in Wilcox County, northeast of Albany. The state Department of Public Health last week confirmed infections in 80 long-term care facilities statewide, with at least 81 deaths resulting.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Bulloch County rose to 26 as of Friday evening, Wynn said.
Bulloch County EMS had transported five COVID-19 positive patients, as well as eight “probable positives” as of noon Friday, and East Georgia Regional Medical Center had five patients at that time with the coronavirus, he said.
He reminds residents that the specimen collection center at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds on Highway 67 is now open from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturdays, and people need a referral for testing. Those can be obtained from a local health department or health care provider. Anyone with symptoms — shortness of breath, dry cough, fever, loss of sense of taste and smell — may be eligible for testing, but those at risk — the elderly, those with other diseases and disorders, first responders and health care workers — will take priority, he said.
There has been one COVID-19 related death in Bulloch County.
The number of positive cases in Georgia increased by 11 percent from Thursday to Friday, reaching a total of 17,432. Of that number, 3,395 were hospitalized, and there were 668 deaths, Wynn said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.