Tia Lynn Ivey
A second case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in Morgan County on Tuesday, March 31, according the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH). The highly contagious and potentially lethal COVID-19 virus is currently sweeping across the State of Georgia, the United States of America, and more than 150 countries across the globe. While Morgan County appears to be holding strong with just two confirmed cases as of press time on Tuesday, March 31, the lack of testing for the virus in Georgia and across the country leaves many leaders and healthcare workers worried that the cases of COVID-19 are far higher than currently known.
As of Tuesday, March 31, the GDPH reported a total of 3,817 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 818 hospitalizations and 108 deaths.
Due to limited testing capabilities, local hospitals and medical facilities will often only test patients presenting severe symptom including fever, cough, and shortness of breath and prioritize elderly patients, patients with underlying health conditions, or patients who have been exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. The second case of COVID-19 in Morgan County was confirmed by Urgent Care of Oconee in Madison.
According Jeff Chambers, a physician assistant and one of the owners of Urgent Care of Oconee in Madison and Watkinsville, testing for the virus has been challenging.
“We have been doing it for about three weeks,” said Chambers, who sends off coronavirus tests to a private lab for results. “That’s the only option we had and it took five to seven days to get results. So we had a ton of sick people waiting a week for results.”
The Madison Oconee Urgent Care has conducted about 40 tests for COVID-19, yielding one positive result on March 31. The center only has nine test kits left. The urgent care facility ordered 250 rapid testing kids, which will yield results in five minutes and are expected to arrive on Thursday, April 2. However, according to Chambers, insurance companies are refusing to pay for the new tests and will cost $60 each out of pocket for patients. Chambers noted patients wanting to be tested should call first and when they arrive stay in their cars and the test will be performed right within a patient’s vehicle to avoid spreading the disease to healthcare workers and other patients inside.
As of Tuesday, March 31, The Morgan County Health Department was not offering testing for COVID-19.
Morgan Medical Center will not release how many people they’ve tested for COVID-19 but assures the public the hospital is following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines in determining who should be tested. Megan Morris, director of community affairs and public relations for MMC, urged people to contact their physicians first when seeking a test.
“Individuals would first reach out to their primary care provider if they feel like they may have, or have been exposed to, COVID-19,” said Morris. “If a patient needs to be tested, the physicians may collect a specimen in their office and send it to a lab for processing, or they may refer the patient to the DPH hotline. If a patient feels like they are in need of emergency care, they may also present to the emergency room and our ED physician will determine if they need to be tested. Another option is for individuals to call the Department of Public Health hotline themselves. Individuals calling the hotline are taken through a series of screening questions on the phone.” The GPHD hotline number is (844) 442-2681.
“If the patient meets criteria for testing, an appointment will be made for them to go to a DPH drive-thru location,” explained Morris. “The closest one to Morgan County at this time is in Athens. Individuals will only be tested at DPH sites if they have an appointment. “
Morgan Medical Center is working to ensure the health needs of Morgan County citizens are met.
“We are working with state and local health officials to maintain our test supply during the coronavirus outbreak. Because there is not an unlimited supply of tests at this time, all healthcare providers are being asked to follow the CDC criteria for determining when to administer a test,” Said Morris.