Bulloch County lost its first COVID-19 patient Saturday but, due to privacy laws, not even Bulloch County’s top public safety official knows the details.
The sad news is very likely to be followed by more local deaths before the pandemic is over, said Ted Wynn, director for the Bulloch County Public Safety and Emergency Management Agency.
People want to know about positive coronavirus cases — where they occurred and whether they may know or have come in contact with someone who has the virus. But the Department of Public Health and hospitals don’t disclose personal information due to HIPAA laws, “not even to me,” he said.
While he understands the need for privacy, Wynn also recognizes that knowledge of where positive cases have been determined is important, too. People have a right to privacy, “but the community also needs to be aware of what is going on,” he said.
Bulloch County officials have been trying to get information from the DPH about the addresses of COVID-19 patients, hoping to be able to forewarn first responders who may be dispatched to homes or other locations where the virus may exist. So far, they have not been successful in getting that information, he said.
It is unclear whether the man in Bulloch who succumbed to the coronavirus died at the hospital, or whether he had underlying health conditions. All that is known about the 65-year-old man is his age, Wynn said.
“We all need to be in prayer for him and his family.”
As of Monday evening, there were 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulloch County, with the one fatality.
Wynn said he could not stress enough the importance of social distancing — staying home as much as possible, only going out for necessities, and when you do, staying at least 6 feet away from others. The coronavirus is spread by contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze and can live for some time on most surfaces, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
If not for the statewide shelter-in-place order, the number of cases locally could be much higher, Wynn said.
“Social distancing is working and must continue at the local, state and national level to reverse the upward trend in confirmed cases and deaths,” he said.
Continued hand sanitizing and washing and wearing gloves and face masks in public is imperative.
“The CDC advises to use a face mask if you must go to one of the essential businesses,” he said.
As of noon Monday, Bulloch County EMS had transported five COVID-19 positive patients, as well as two others with symptoms who had not yet had test results returned. A fresh supply of personal protective equipment for first responders and EMTs was obtained Monday, Wynn said.
In Georgia Monday, there were 13,315 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 2,589 hospitalized and with 464 deaths.
The statewide COVID-19 hotline is (844) 442-2681.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.