Jan. 27 Update: 731,826 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 733,010 in NC

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NORTH GEORGIA & WESTERN N.C. – In an effort to keep our readers, up to date with the latest number of cases confirmed in Georgia and N.C., Fetch Your News will continually be updating this article with the most recent updates from the Georgia Department of Health (DPH) and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

Updated January 27 at 8:15 p.m.

Georgia Data

On January 27, DPH reported 139 new deaths, 332 new hospitalizations, and 4,128 new confirmed cases. 

DPH confirmed 731,826 cases, 49,247 hospitalized, 8,290 patients in ICU, and 12,135 deaths. The 3 p.m. reported 6,296,044 tests have been completed. Total tests included 437,886 serology (antibody) tests. DPH added a column to the county-by-county tally to include the location of deceased patients from COVID-19. On March 28, the health department also included a breakdown of deaths by county, age, and sex, new deaths.

On April 12, the report started including non-residents receiving treatment as a separate line item. It made a significant dent into the “Unknown” category.

DPH told Fetch Your News that the “Unknown” number is a result of “clerical errors on the part of the reporting agency – nothing more. We have many new labs reporting, and they are not all as familiar with the system.” The department is working to resolve this issue when the staff has time. A few of the unknowns are also homeless.

On April 8, DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey affirmed that the department has the most accurate data, but it’s not real-time data due to backlogs. DPH can’t keep up with press releases from hospitals about new cases because of the delay in processing. Cases confirmed one week might not appear in the reports until the next. Fetch Your News will only report on local cases once, they are confirmed by the DPH or CDC.

In his March 23 press conference, Gov. Kemp mentioned the casualties from the virus, “I am saddened to announce that we have lost twenty-five Georgians to COVID-19. As we mourn, I ask my fellow Georgians to lift up their loved ones in prayer. Please keep them in your hearts and minds.”

DPH released details on the two March 18 deaths, stating the individuals were 42-year-old and 68-year-old women both in an Albany Hospital. They also had underlying conditions along with COVID-19. Please keep all these individuals and families in your thoughts and prayers.

Case location is “based on patient county of residence when known.”

“A confirmed case is defined as a person who has tested positive for 2019 novel coronavirus.” – DPH.

Georgia County – Number of Confirmed Cases and Deaths

 

County Confirmed Cases Confirmed Cases per 100K Antigen Positive Cases Confirmed Deaths Probable Deaths Hospitalizations
To see a breakdown of the COVID-19 deaths in Georgia, click here.

NC Confirmed Cases Data

As of January 26, 2020, NCDHHS reported 733,010 cases statewide, 635,543 presumed recovered, 8,915 deaths, and 3,305 hospitalized. The highest concentration is now in Mecklenburg with 83,816 cases and 741 deaths. Hyde County had the highest 14-day case increase per 100,000 residents. NCDHHS reported 8,580,157 tests have been completed in the state. The confirmed cases report is released each day at 12 a.m.

NC Statistics

NCDHHS has an interactive map for those who want to see the spread of the virus. 

DPH, NCDHHS, and the CDC are urging people to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. If our readers are looking for more information on health practices, please visit the CDC website.

President Trump also released guidelines for the next 15 days, which can be read about here.

Georgian’s wondering about Gov. Brian Kemp’s actions and the state’s public health emergency, find out more here.

North Carolinian’s can find updates for Gov. Roy Cooper, here.

How to safely celebrate New Year’s Eve 2021

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new year's eve

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Everyone’s ready to close the chapter on 2020 and celebrate ringing in 2021, but COVID-19 precautions still need to be taken.

The CDC advises everyone to participate in New Year’s Eve celebrations with those who live in the same household or virtually.

For those celebrating outside of the home, wear a mask, socially distance, wash hands, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, stay home if sick, and get a flu shot.

Those that host a small gathering need to be upfront with guests to set expectations. The CDC recommends events take place outside or open windows if inside. The areas should be frequently disinfected and extra masks should be on hand for those who don’t have one.

The background music needs to be low, so guests don’t have to shout. COVID-19 has been proven to spread through droplets present in one’s breath and shouting makes it easier to spread the virus.

Guests are asked to bring their own food, utensils, plates, and cups and to only use single-serve condiments.

The CDC also recommends partygoers don’t partake in alcohol or drugs because it could impair judgment.

Alternative New Year’s Eve Options

To keep everyone safe, a virtual New Year’s Eve celebration is highly encouraged, such as an online countdown, virtual concert, or dinner. Many fireworks shows and countdowns will take place on television or online.

People living together can decorate, play music, have a party together, watch movies, or plan a special meal. Also, reach out to family and friends through call or text to wish them a Happy New Year.

Neighborhoods can plan a countdown to midnight where they stand outside and cheer together.

new years eve

Individuals could set resolutions for the new year and practice self-care by reading a book or taking a walk.

Images courtesy of CDC.

CDC guide to safely celebrating Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving CDC

ATLANTA, Ga – Thanksgiving is next week and to help those concerned with coronavirus safely take part in the holiday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued the following guidelines.

First, the organization recommends to only celebrate with people who live in your household. However, Thanksgiving is a time when many gather together with their extended families. The CDC posed that families could host a virtual Thanksgiving where everyone shares a meal digitally. People could also watch television and play games with people who live in their household or write down everything they are grateful for and share those items with family and friends.

Individuals could also prepare traditional dishes and leave them outside a loved one’s home.

Individuals could leave dishes outside to protect family members.

CDC asks that visitors bring their own utensils, food, drinks, plates, and cups. Also, people are advised to avoid going in and out of areas where food is being prepared or handled. Single-use options such as ranch dressing packets and disposable items are encouraged.

Hosting Thanksgiving

Those hosting the Thanksgiving meal are urged to have the event outside, limit the number of guests, frequently disinfect touched surfaces, and set expectations. If they choose to have an indoor meal, the CDC recommends opening windows, limiting the number of people in the kitchen, asking people to bring their own food and drink, and if sharing food, only one person should serve with plastic utensils.

People should follow the 3 W’s of wearing a mask, washing your hands, and waiting for social distancing aka maintaining six feet of separation.

The mask needs to be two or more layers and securely fitted over your mouth and nose. Also when eating Thanksgiving dinner, the CDC recommends that the mask is stored in a safe place.

When washing hands, people should take 20 seconds to scrub clean with soap and water. Also, everyone is encouraged to keep hand sanitizer on their person. The sanitizer should be at least 60 percent alcohol.

Thanksgiving Travel

For those who are traveling to visit loved ones, the CDC strongly recommends that everyone stay home to limit potential spread of COVID-19. However, those who are traveling should check travel restrictions, get their flu shot, always wear a mask while on public transportation, maintain six feet separation, wash their hands, bring extra masks and hand sanitizer, and avoid touching their face.

A virtual meal between households is urged by the CDC.

Thanksgiving Shopping

As for Black Friday, many stores began their sales at the beginning of November. CDC recommends that people participate in online sales and use contactless pick-up methods. If shopping in person, visit open-air markets and maintain social distance.

Images are courtesy of the CDC.

Preparing for a safe and spooky Halloween

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – As families and businesses navigate Halloween during a pandemic, Union County is preparing a socially distanced October 31 for the local children.

Halloween at the Market will transform the farmer’s market into trick-or-treat central from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event is replacing Halloween on the Square in order to keep everyone safe and limit the potential spreading of COVID-19.

Local businesses and organizations that want to participate are encouraged to sign up on the Downtown Blairsville website. It’s free to contribute to Halloween at the Market.

The Chamber of Commerce has announced theatrical performances, drive in movie, Trunk or Treat, free candy, and games as part of the drive-thru event.

Halloween

Images from 2019 Halloween on the Square

More details are expected to be announced as the event approaches.

First Baptist Church has also announced a drive-thru Fall Festival on October 31 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Currently, the CDC cites that many traditional Halloween activities are high risk for spreading the virus and encourages safer alternatives. Low risk activities include pumpkin carving outside with neighbors, home decorating, Halloween ISpy, virtual costume contest, scavenger trick-or-treat inside the home, and movie night with family members.

Moderate risk activities are one-way trick-or-treating with individually wrapped bags at the end of the driveway, a small, socially distanced, open-air costume parade, an outdoor Halloween party with cloth masks and physical distance, an open-air, outdoor haunted attraction, visiting pumpkin patches with hand sanitizer and distancing, and Halloween movie night with friends spread six feet apart.

Also, costume masks aren’t substitutes for cloth masks. The CDC warns against costume masks unless “it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.” A costume mask shouldn’t be worn over a cloth mask because it can result in breathing difficulty.

What does it cost to clean a courthouse?

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – In the past week, two county courthouses closed due to confirmed COVID-19 cases. This week county commissioners revealed two vastly different bills for sanitization services. However, neither expenditure is feasible as a regular expense for counties if more virus cases arise within government offices.

Gilmer County paid Restoration 1 out of Dawsonville $6,007.81 for cleaning a 106,000 square foot courthouse and road department building. Fannin County Commissioners to pay a maximum of $70,059 to American Property Restoration out of Atlanta for cleaning its 69,752 square foot courthouse.

Since Tuesday, American Property Restoration dropped the price by five percent to $66,500.

Cutout from the American Property Restoration invoice.

Each county received disinfectant fog and surface wipe downs, but Fannin’s sanitization process included a negative air machine. It circulated the fog throughout the ventilation system to ensure the removal of COVID-19 throughout the building. Other additional charges in the Fannin bill include HEPA filters, labor for wiping down equipment, and PPE for workers. The 30 counts/charges for HEPA filters and labor for equipment wipe down was listed at $30 each.  

The 24-person team required heavy-duty disposable PPE, and the company charged $48 per person. 

As for disinfectant fog, Fannin paid $1.39 per square foot for the first 30,000 square feet and 50 percent off that price for the remaining 39,752 square feet. Gilmer paid six cents for 80,000 square feet at the courthouse.

View the American Property Restoration invoice and the Restoration 1 invoice.

Given the emergency nature of the COVID-19 situation, neither county had time to bid out the process. Both operated within a short window to quickly clean and reopen the courthouses. 

Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton told Fetch Your News that this was a “true emergency;” he didn’t have time to shop around. Also, American Property Restoration specialized in COVID-19 cleaning.

“Not a matter to see who could do it the cheapest,” said Helton. It was about protecting the citizens of Fannin County from an unknown element. The advice about preventing COVID-19 continues to change almost daily.

The fans placed within the Fannin Courthouse to disperse the fog.

Restoration 1 that cleaned Gilmer’s courthouse also had a professional COVID-19 virus disinfection team.

However, Fannin can apply for CARES Act funding from the State and receive reimbursement for virus-related expenses. Helton added that the knowledge of the funds made him slightly more comfortable with the price. 

“If we prevented one citizen from going to ICU that cost would be comparable to $66,500 and would not be eligible for CARES funds,” added Helton.

Fannin hasn’t yet applied for the reimbursement because the state hasn’t made the portal available to smaller counties at this time.

In June, Gov. Kemp issued a letter explaining CARES Act funding policies to state counties. Previously, only the top five counties with the highest percentage of cases had access to the funds.

According to the letter of guidance from Gov. Kemp, local governments must apply to receive their 30 percent share of $1.23 billion. Once processed, the allocation will be available for “immediate advancement.”

How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in courthouses

Turning to the future, Helton agreed that it’s not feasible for Fannin to spend $66,500 again, and the county probably won’t perform another cleaning to this extent at the courthouse. Possible future options include cleaning the office with the confirmed case was located, but they haven’t made a final decision.

The commissioners started requiring employees under their authority to wear masks while at work and strongly encouraged the practice among everyone in the courthouse, including the public. Temperature checks also began this week for those visiting the facility.

American Property Restoration crew in front of the courthouse

According to the CDC, the virus spreads “mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.” By wearing a mask in public areas, employees limit the spread of those droplets.

Helton wanted people to feel safe to visit the courthouse once it reopened.

 

 

Dr. William Whaley and Dr. Raymond Tidman discussed the effectiveness of closing to perform extensive cleanings on courthouses. Both agreed that cases will occur, but spending exorbitant amounts of money isn’t necessary.

“You can teach your own housekeeping staff what they need to know if there has been this virus [case],” explained Dr. Whaley. “If you just shut your doors for 24-hours, the virus is going to die because it doesn’t stick around on surfaces for terribly long.”

Afterward, if someone cleaned the surfaces and highly handled areas, the virus should be removed for that day. However, the practice must occur every day at the end of the day. The county and schools can go over cleaning protocols with their janitorial staff to begin COVID-19 recommended sanitization measures.

CDC guidance about disinfecting cites that coronaviruses die on surfaces in a matter of hours or days. To safely remove COVID-19 from a surface, first clean the area with soap and water, then an EPA-approved spray on the surface. If an EPA-approved disinfectant is unavailable, 1/3 cup of bleach added to one gallon of water, or a 70% alcohol solution will disinfect a surface. Bleach can’t be mixed with other cleaning and disinfection products together. The effectiveness of bleach solutions lasts for up to 24 hours.

Janitorial staff must wear the proper PPE to protect them from harmful chemicals and the virus.

Disinfection plans can adapt as more information becomes available about the spread of COVID-19.

“A COVID virus here or there is going to happen, and you do your cleaning, and that person goes home for a day or two and gets over it,” added Dr. Tidman. “The hair on fire stuff needs to quit.”

Gov. Kemp Provides Overview of Federal Guidance to Mitigate COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

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nursing homes

Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp provided an overview of the recommendations President Trump and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities, or long-term care facilities, have become an accelerator for COVID-19. This is because residents, who are generally comprised of a vulnerable population, are even more vulnerable to the complications of the virus in enclosed environments like nursing homes.

The recommendations are as follows:

  • Nursing homes should immediately ensure that they are complying with all CMS and CDC guidance related to infection control.
  • As nursing homes are a critical part of the healthcare system, and because of the ease of spread in long-term care facilities and the severity of illness that occurs in residents with COVID-19, CMS/CDC urge state and local leaders to consider the needs of long-term care facilities with respect to supplies of PPE and COVID-19 tests.
  • The facilities should immediately implement symptom screening for all staff, residents, and visitors, including temperature checks.
  • All staff must use appropriate PPE when they are interacting with patients and residents, to the extent PPE is available and per CDC guidance on conservation of PPE.

To avoid transmission, facilities should use separate staffing teams for residents to the best of their ability, and as President Trump announced at the White House on April 2, 2020, the administration urges nursing homes to work with state and local leaders to designate separate facilities or units within a facility to separate COVID-19 negative residents from COVID-19 positive residents and individuals with unknown COVID-19 status.

These recommendations will help long-term care facilities as they consider how to best prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. For more information on CMS actions, please visit cms.gov.

CDC Statement on COVID-19 Apple App

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Today, Apple Inc. – in partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – released an app and website
that guides Americans through a series of questions about their health and exposure to determine if they should seek
care for COVID-19 symptoms. The tool provides CDC recommendations on next steps including guidance on social
distancing and self-isolating, how to closely monitor symptoms, recommendations on testing, and when to contact a
medical provider.

This launch is a direct response to President Trump’s call for an all-of-America approach and will help Americans heed
CDC guidelines and self-isolate to limit COVID-19 transmission.

Users can download the free app from Apple’s App Store or access the tool online at www.apple.com/covid19 .
Everyone has a role to play as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19. The latest recommendations can be
found at www.coronavirus.gov .

CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether disease start at home or abroad, are curable
or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most
pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world.

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