Collection of specimen samples to be sent to labs for COVID-19 testing began Thursday afternoon in Bulloch County. No test results had been returned as of Friday.
The Specimen Point of Collection (SPOC) center, operated by the Southeast Health District, is set up at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds on Highway 67 in Statesboro.
It is not a walk-in clinic. Only residents who have been referred by a medical facility or have been assigned an identification number by the Southeast Health District may be swabbed nasally for the specimen collection, and people who arrive at the site are asked to remain in their vehicles until summoned for their turn.
Aside from coming from a doctor or health care provider, a referral may be obtained by calling the COVID-19 hotline at (844) 442-2681.
The center is “not open for public visitation,” said Southeast Health District Director Cindy Hart. “The centers will be for collection only, and no results will be given immediately, as they will be determined through an external lab system.”
The Department of Public Health will not disclose how many samples were collected so far, said Bulloch County Public Safety and Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn.
Wynn reiterated the fact that people cannot just walk up and request a specimen sample be taken, and that the specimens are not tested on site, but sent off to a lab for testing. Results are not immediately available, and there was no estimate on how long before test results would be sent back.
Bulloch County sheriff deputies are on site at all times to ensure safety and cooperation, he said.
The COVID-19 sample collection centers are mainly for people most at risk — those over 60 or those with chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease, hypertension and diabetes, Hart said. Also a priority are health care workers, first responders, law enforcement and “others who come in contact every day with people who may be infected (but) are well and do not knowingly spread COVID-19 to others,” she said.
As of 7 p.m. Friday, there were 485 COVID-19 reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Fourteen of those resulted in fatalities, he said.
“A confirmed case is defined as a person who has tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19),” Wynn said.
These numbers are expected to rise as testing continues.
“This will be driven by increase numbers of tests performed,” he said. “We will most likely see a case here in Bulloch, but don’t panic. Just continue to do your best to protect you and your family by following CDC guidelines.”
The Southeast Health District follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in suggesting people stay home if they are sick; cover cough or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; and frequently clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Bulloch schools closed at least through April 10
According to a press release from Bulloch County Schools Thursday evening, all schools will observe the scheduled spring break April 6–10. These dates will not be used as make up days for missed school days. Because national and state information about the coronavirus changes daily, decisions about when school will resume or if and when these days will be made up are not known at this time.
Bulloch County Schools will also continue to deliver bags of free meals to children while the schools are closed. Meal service will continue through at least April 10, to 43 locations on weekdays, Monday–Friday. Sites are added on a daily-based need, so check the schools’ website and social media for a current list of sites.
Wynn said Bulloch County Schools served over 1,341 at-risk children Thursday and 1,697 Friday.
Free meal assistance
On Saturday, the Statesboro Food Bank, operated by First United Methodist Church, will offer to-go meals and additional food supplements. Meals will be available at the rear of the church from noon to 1 p.m.
Also on Saturday, Compassion Christian Church, at 831 Cawana Drive, will distribute food from 9–11 a.m.
For more information about how to access assistance in finding food or other needs, go to www.bullochcountyvoad.org.
Effingham, Chatham residents test positive
According to the Effingham County Board of Commissioners, the first COVID-19 case in Effingham was reported Thursday afternoon. Friday, the CDC announced that a Chatham County resident tested positive, according to Savannah media sources.
Effingham County administrators received the news just before 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
In a release, the board said information is very vague currently, but one Effingham resident has tested positive for COVID-19. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
WSAV-TV in Savannah reported Friday that the Chatham resident is isolated at home and the source of the contagion is yet unknown. The Effingham resident is at a Savannah hospital.
To learn the current status of COVID-19 in Georgia, visit the DPH’s interactive tool at the following link: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.