Almond says more cases may be clinically diagnosed
In addition to three known positive tests of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Elbert County, there may well be more cases locally, according to Elbert County Emergency Management Agency Director Chuck Almond.
In consultation with a public health epidemiologist in Athens, Almond said the state health official assured him that there are cases of COVID-19 being clinically diagnosed in the Athens hospital without going through the testing.
“There have been clinical diagnoses by doctors of COVID-19 in Athens without doing the test,” said Almond. “That means you can assume that there are more cases than the reported positive tests, and that’s what I’ve been saying all along. People need to understand there are more positive cases than what we are showing.”
Three cases have been reported through positive tests in Elbert County through the Georgia Department of Public Health.
The first of those cases resulted from a positive test in Athens last week in which the patient was transferred from Elbert Memorial Hospital (EMH). In that instance, the patient called 911 in the morning on Wednesday, April 1 and was taken to EMH for a medical issue.
Then, the patient was transferred to Athens Regional (Piedmont) where, after approximately 10 hours, the patient turned out to be a COVID-19 victim verified by a test.
Almond said the patient needed to be taken to the local hospital for “medical reasons.”
EMS transported the patient to EMH, and there the patient was treated in the emergency room. The EMH staff determined that the Elbert County patient needed to be treated at the Athens hospital, and Elbert County EMS transported the patient to Athens.
EMH Nursing Director Tammy Harlow said the patient was then taken to the Athens hospital and the patient arrived in an Elbert County EMS ambulance sometime “after lunch.”
Almond said that during “in-depth” medical treatment the patient was receiving at the hospital in Athens, the staff there tested the patient and found out that the patient was positive for COVID-19. The Athens hospital contacted Almond and Harlow to tell them the patient was positive at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1
According to Harlow, there was nothing to indicate to the EMH staff that the patient had COVID-19. The patient, said Harlow, did not indicate any COVID-19 suspicions while being treated.
Harlow said Thursday afternoon that she checked with staff at EMH and that none of the staff saw any indication that the patient had any symptoms of COVID-19.
“I went back and asked and they said there were no signs,” said Harlow. She explained that everyone is screened before they enter the hospital, but in situations where a patient is brought in for medical emergency procedures they treat the patient quickly and the screening process is less intense. However, even after EMH found out the patient was positive for COVID-19, no one in the local emergency room reported that the patient had COVID-19 symptoms.
Almond said EMS personnel are wearing personal protective equipment on all calls.
Almond added that the patient’s family has been contacted about the positive test. Almond said he did not know if the patient was still being treated at Piedmont Hospital as of Tuesday.
The second case, reported Sunday by Almond, was a person who tested positive in Athens, although it is not known where that person tested.
That patient, said Almond, called him and verified a positive test. The purpose of the call to Almond was to discuss a medical issue.
On Tuesday morning Practice Administrator Brooke McDowell of The Medical Center (TMC) reported the first positive case from the Elberton health facility.
Any details that may be forthcoming on that case would be relayed through McDowell by the Georgia Department of Public Health.
McDowell said that TMC has tested a total of 48 patients with Tuesday’s positive result, 39 negative and eight more tests pending.
In all, according to McDowell and Almond, 55 known tests have been conducted on Elbert County citizens. Elbert Memorial Hospital has tested one patient, and that test came back negative. That means of the total 55 tested, 40 have come back negative.
Pending test results total 26 from TMC and four from a drive-through facility in Athens for a total of 30.
Almond said Monday that he would not be able to verify whether or not Sunday’s positive report of COVID-19 resulted from a drive-through facility test.
It is possible that Elbert County residents tested at the drive-through facility will never be confirmed as positive or negative.