By Wayne Knuckles
The Clayton Tribune
CLAYTON—The number of people visiting the emergency room with COVID-19-like symptoms continues to climb, officials at Mountain Lakes Medical Center said Thursday.
Nine new cases were reported on the Georgia Dept. of Public Health (GDPH) for Rabun County between Wednesday and Thursday this week.
“There is a large community spread here in Rabun County,” said Rachel Cowhart, Infectious Controls Nurse at Mountain Lakes. “We are seeing an exponential increase in the number of (COVID-19) positives. We are seeing what we knew would happen eventually.”
All four isolation rooms at the hospital have been full, but so far none of the three ventilators on site have been required, said Chief Executive Officer Tammy Coll.
“None of our employees has tested positive,” Coll added. “We don’t want people to not come to the ER for fear of getting COVID. We are staying safe.”
Coll said the hospital is testing a new piece of equipment that will be able to give COVID-19 test results in as little as 15 minutes. Once the equipment’s accuracy has been certified and the staff is comfortable with using it, the rapid tests will be made available to the general public, Coll said.
Currently, COVID-19 testing is being done at the hospital and other local sites, but all tests have to be sent to an outside lab for results, which can take days or weeks.
Cowhart said hospital stays continue to increase because more and more people are testing positive for COVID-19.
Many people who test positive for the disease are able to self-quarantine at home, she added.
Coll said the hospital has adequate supplies for treating COVID-19 patients safely.
“I’m confident in our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) supplies,” she added. “My team and the staff are doing a great job.”
“We appreciate the community following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines,” Cowhart added. “Wear a mask. Wash your hands often. Practice social distancing.”
Anyone with concerns about COVID-19 can visit the hospital or their own physician for treatment. The Rabun County Health Department can also help arrange a COVID-19 test at sites outside Rabun County.
According to the GDPH, there have been 24 hospitalizations and three deaths in Rabun County so far due to COVID-19.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 152,303 confirmed cases in Georgia, resulting in 3,335 deaths, GDPH reported.