After having its first reported case rescinded as an error Friday, two positive cases of COVID-19 coronavirus were reported in Habersham County by the Department of Public Health (DPH) in its Tuesday afternoon update.
Habersham Medical Center CEO Lynn Boggs said Tuesday that the hospital was not treating any COVID-19 patients at press time. Boggs said wherever a patient gets tested, what gets reported is their county of residence. Those patients could be at home or at another hospital somewhere else. At press time Tuesday, HMC had administered 31 tests with 26 negatives and five pending. Boggs said the hospital had an adequate supply of tests for now.
Chad Black, Emergency Services Director for Habersham County, was not aware of the positive cases prior to their reporting on DPH Tuesday afternoon.
Nancy Nydam, Director of Communications for DPH, said that the state could not provide patient-specific information on positive cases, including backtrack information of where they have been. Nydam said that information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as identifying information.
“What is most important for people to understand is that COVID-19 is in Georgia and there is community spread. Focusing on two individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 is not seeing the bigger picture,” Nydam said. “There may be others in the community who have only mild symptoms or others who
either have not been tested or have not received test results yet.”
Dave Palmer from District 2 Public Health said that testing for COVID-19 has been increasing as more kits have become available, adding that some of the cases that were listed on the DPH website as unknown have been resolved.
“As more people are tested, it is likely the number of people who test positive will increase,” Palmer said.
Habersham County had its first positive case reported on the site Friday afternoon, but the case was no longer listed by the Friday evening update.
Palmer was unable to provide any information on the positive case or why it disappeared.
“I know that we have had some issues with the results we get back from labs,” Palmer said. “If a person got tested at a provider in Habersham and lived in another county it could be sent to DPH incorrectly.”
Habersham County Chairman Stacy Hall said during Saturday morning’s county commission conference call that he also sought clarity on the positive case reported and did not receive any information from public health officials. “We have to assume at this point that it was a clerical error,” Hall said.
At noon Tuesday, there were 3,817 total cases in Georgia with 818 hospitalized and 108 deaths.
When a confirmed positive case is reported, Palmer said the health department’s epidemiologist contacts the person, who is asked about where they have been and who they have been around during the time that they could have been contagious.
The people listed as contacts are notified and given instructions based on the circumstances of their exposure. If a contact is experiencing symptoms, they may be tested and told to self-isolate.
Palmer said that if exposure is considered high risk, the individual would be asked to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms. If they are considered low risk, they would not have to quarantine, but would be asked to call public health if they developed any symptoms. If they became symptomatic they would be asked to self-quarantine.
“Residents need to heed the directives for prevention actions such as, social distancing, hand washing and staying home,” Palmer said.
People who are required to isolate themselves must remain in insolation until:
• They have had no fever for at least 72 hours (three full days of no fever without the use of a fever-reducing medicine);
• Their other symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, have resolved;
• At least 7 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.