The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Bulloch County more than doubled within the past three weeks, and while increased testing certainly has had an impact, that isn’t the only reason the virus numbers are jumping.
“People are letting their guard down,” said Ted Wynn, Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency director. “We still need to be vigilant.”
The total number of positive coronavirus cases in Bulloch County jumped by five from Tuesday to Wednesday, ending the day at 115 cases. The county’s first reported case was March 27, and the total did not reach 50 cases until May 23.
But since then, in less than a month, 65 more cases appeared. The number of deaths of Bulloch residents caused by COVID-19 remains at three, but cases requiring hospitalization have more than doubled as well. A total of nine coronavirus patients were admitted to East Georgia Regional Medical Center for treatment between March and May 23. As of Wednesday, that total had risen to 14 cases needing hospitalization since March, with the hospital treating 10 people as in-patients that day alone.
The increase — sometimes referred to as “the second wave” — is seen nationwide, Wynn said. Tuesday, "nine states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas — had reported either new single-day highs or set a record for seven-day new case averages. Georgia shares a border with three of these states,” he said.
With restrictions eased, many people are not observing precautions like before, he said. This is likely one reason for the spike in cases.
“Testing is part of it, but the virus is still being spread.”
East Georgia Regional Medical Center physician C. Alan Scott, MD, also warns the public about becoming lax when it comes to protection.
“I agree the threat of COVID-19 is still real and very much present,” he said Wednesday. “Certainly persons with pre-existing medical problems are at the highest risk, but all persons have some risk. The rise in cases is expected as people return to normal activities.”
Keep wearing that mask
Wynn said he has noticed fewer people wearing face masks in public.
“I was in a store the other day and I was the only one wearing a mask, and there were 20 people there,” he said.
Scott strongly recommends continued efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.
“Social distancing, good hand-washing, avoidance of crowds and wearing masks all are important,” he said. “It is not a sign of weakness to wear a mask. On the contrary, you are demonstrating you care about the persons around you and your community. Enjoy and promote your personal freedom by choosing to wear a face covering. The sooner we eliminate the spread, the sooner we can resume normality.”
All staff at EGRMC wear masks “in observance of current public health guidelines and are doing our very best to protect our fellow co-workers, our patients and their families,” he said.
Wynn said: “A face mask protects others should you be infected and unaware. It is not hard to see when out and about that many do not take this seriously. Clerks and cashiers in our community are for the most part wearing them to protect citizens, so show them the same courtesy and concern. … COVID- 19 is going to be around for a while. We must remain vigilant.”
East Georgia Regional Medical Center is well stocked and ready for a spike in cases, although everyone hopes the increase in coronavirus infections doesn’t skyrocket.
“We are fully staffed with well-trained individuals ready to care for any person who is ill regardless of the cause,” Scott said. EGRMC has “sufficient PPE (personal protective equipment) and resources to care for our community now and into the future.”
The hospital recently received a donation of 600 KN95 face masks from Parker’s convenience stores.
“We’re honored to serve our healthcare heroes, who are providing exceptional medical care to area residents throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” said Greg Parker, the company’s founder and CEO. “We know that mask shortages have impacted our community and want to make sure our doctors, nurses, clinicians and staff members have the personal protective equipment they need to stay safe while caring for patients.”
In addition to wearing face masks in public, Wynn reminds people to regularly wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, and keep up social distancing of at least 6 feet, especially from those who may be coughing or sneezing.
The Associated Press reported Georgia saw an average daily increase of 777 COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks. The number of cases has risen daily for the past 10 days, with 875 new cases in Georgia on Tuesday alone. At that pace, the state could see 8,500 fatalities from the coronavirus by the end of the year, according to the report.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.