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COVID-19 on the move in Putnam

June 18, 2020 - 06:00
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10 new cases mar brief enthusiasm

  • COVID-19 on the move in Putnam

For many, the Memorial Day weekend seemed to be a time to let their guards down as people began to think the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was going away as Gov. Brian Kemp continued his efforts to open the state back up.

When the pandemic hit in late November and early December, there wasn’t a playbook to fight the virus, but over time, many facts have emerged including a two-week incubation time. Social distancing appears to be diminishing as officials in the county noted. Face masks are beginning to disappear. The possible result?

As of Monday, June 15, there has been a spike in the confirmed cases in Putnam County. Six days earlier, there were 102 confirmed cases on June 9 with eight deaths from the virus reported. In the six days since, there are now 112 confirmed cases, 12 deaths and 18 people have been hospitalized.

“This is not going away. That is our biggest message,” said Michael Hokanson, public information officer and risk communicator for the North Central Health District. “Yes, the state is opening up, but the coronavirus is still out there. We are seeing 45 percent outbreak in the county and 55 percent county-wide. That is pretty significant. People need to be careful.”

There have been 336 tests in Putnam, and in the last week, there has been an increase of 21 percent. The positivity rate of testing has increased from 6 percent last week to 8 percent as of Monday.

The real eye-opener comes as there was a 400 percent increase in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Putnam between May 25 and June 7.

“We have been fighting this since the very beginning,” Hokanson said. “The Public Health Department can’t see if people are doing what they should. People have to do these things responsibly. We can’t be eagles swooping in when people are not behaving responsibly with this pandemic.”

In other coronavirus news in the county, the Eatonton Health and Rehabilitation Center, although still considered an outbreak location, has seen the number of infected patients and staff stabilize somewhat over recent weeks.

In Monday’s North Central Health District Operational report, the center had 36 confirmed cases, including two staff members. Ten patients have been hospitalized and nine deaths have occurred. That translates to 47 percent of EHR’s patient census has been infected during the outbreak.

“Eatonton Health and Rehab is still considered an outbreak location as long as new cases are reported,” Hokanson said. “They are a high risk for COVID. They have very close quarters, and people are not getting out. Long-term care facilities with people living close together are more of a risk of COVID-19.”

Hokanson was asked if the Health District was encouraged by any of the recent numbers from Putnam.

“Well, it is good to see numbers starting to move, but take it with a grain of salt,” he said. “People’s numbers aren’t going up. The virus is still out there, and it is very possible to spread it to other people. When this started, there was no vaccine, no cure and no precaution manual. It has all been action-based prevention. We couldn’t plan for this 100 percent in November. We didn’t have any historical data.”

There is free testing available in Putnam County from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Thursdays. To receive a free test, citizens must call 844-987-0099 to get set up for the test. The Putnam County Health Department does not do walk-in testing.