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The Coastal Health District of Georgia serves the counties of Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long & McIntosh

Chatham News


Chatham County Health Dept. Offers Free Lead Screening Through Oct. 30

Are you concerned your child may have been exposed to lead? Lead exposure is dangerous during early childhood development, but fortunately it’s easy to detect. A simple blood test can reveal elevated lead levels, and your child can be tested for free in Chatham County through October 30th.

Next week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which is a nationwide effort to raise awareness of this preventable but dangerous environmental threat. Last year in Chatham County, more than 3,600 children under age six were tested for lead in the blood, and 86 of them had blood lead levels that were too high.

Even low levels of lead in blood can affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed if damage has occurred, so it’s very important to detect elevated blood lead levels early so you can stop further exposure.

“The most common source of lead exposure is from lead-based paint, which you often find in homes built before 1978,” said Dr. Chris Rustin, Administrator of the Chatham County Health Department. “Savannah is well known for its historic architecture, but our older housing supply means many children could be exposed to lead in paint or the soil.”

When lead paint gets old, it can start peeling and become a hazard. Adults and children can get lead into their bodies by breathing in the lead or by swallowing lead dust that settles in food, food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills, and other places, or eating paint chips or soil that contain lead. A child can be exposed to lead through other means including toys, jewelry, fishing lures, glazed pottery, and other products.

If you would like to have your child tested, contact the Chatham County Health Department at 912-356-2441 to make an appointment for a free screening between now and October 30.

More information about lead poisoning is available at cdc.gov/nceh/lead/.

Chatham Co. Health Dept. to Offer COVID-19 Testing at Additional Locations by Appointment; New Hours at Civic Center Testing Site

Changes are coming to the Chatham County Health Department’s COVID-19 testing program next week. The specimen collection site at the Savannah Civic Center will have new operational hours beginning Monday, October 5th. Every Wednesday, the Civic Center site will close, and testing will instead be offered at varying locations by appointment.

“Each Wednesday, we’ll target a specific area of Chatham County where case numbers are highest, or where more of our at-risk residents live,” said Tammi Brown, Nurse Manager of the Chatham County Health Department. “We want to be sure the people who need testing the most will have easy access to this service.”

On Wednesday, October 7th, free testing will be offered from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Midtown Clinic of the Chatham County Health Department at 1602 Drayton St. Due to space limitations, appointments will be REQUIRED for testing on Wednesdays. Please arrive no more than 5 minutes early for your scheduled appointment. You have 2 options for appointment scheduling:

  • Schedule Online: covid19.dph.ga.gov. You cannot schedule a test more than two weeks in advance.
  • Schedule by Phone: Call the COVID-19 Testing Call Center at 1-912-230-9744 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.         

The new operational hours for the Civic Center specimen collection site are listed below. For more information about testing in Chatham County, visit gachd.org/covidtestsav/. For more information about testing in other areas of the Coastal Health District, please visit gachd.og/covidtest/.

COVID-19 Testing at the Savannah Civic Center

No appointment is needed for testing at the Savannah Civic Center at 301 West Oglethorpe Ave.

  • Monday: 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday: Closed. Staff conducts testing at varying community locations by appointment
  • Thursday: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Every 1st and 3rd Saturday from 8:30-11:30 a.m.
  • Saturday schedule for October: 10/3 and 10/17

Walk-up testing begins at 8:30 a.m. for the first 100 people in line. The walk-up line forms on the Montgomery Street side of the Civic Center – please do not line up earlier than 8 a.m. Face coverings must be worn, and individuals must keep 6 feet from others in line.

Drive-through testing begins when walk-up testing is complete.

Drive-through Flu Vaccination Clinics Planned

It’s unknown what kind of impact COVID-19 will have on flu season and for that reason, getting vaccinated against the flu this year is more important than ever. To make it as convenient as possible for residents to get the flu vaccine, health departments in the Coastal Health Districts are planning drive-through flu vaccination clinics. No appointment is necessary for the drive-through clinics. Click the link below for a complete list of flu vaccine events.

Schedule of Drive-Through Flu Vaccination Clinics

Flu vaccinations are also available at your health department (by appointment) during regular operating hours.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over six months of age. Vaccination is particularly important for those at high risk of complications from flu, including adults 65 and older, children younger than five, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma and diabetes. It takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot for the vaccine to provide the body protection against the flu.

“It stands to reason that getting COVID-19 and the flu at or about the same time could be dangerous.  High levels of COVID-19 and flu could also take a tremendous toll on our healthcare system,” said Health Director for the Coastal Health District, Lawton Davis, M.D. “Getting the flu vaccine reduces your chances of getting the flu and that, in turn, helps protect all of us.”

Everyday preventive actions to prevent flu spread are also recommended, like staying home if you’re sick, sneezing and coughing into your elbow, washing hands frequently, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

To get more information on the flu or to download the vaccine consent form ahead of time, please visit gachd.org/flu.

Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Testing Event September 25

In observance of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD), free, confidential HIV testing will be offered from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, September 25th at the First City Pride Center at 1515 Bull Street. A rapid HIV test will provide results in one minute. The event is sponsored by Project POWER (Protecting Ourselves With Every Resource), a Coastal Health District Initiative to stop the spread of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and to encourage a more open dialogue between partners.

Launched in 2008, NGMHAAD is observed every September to direct attention to the continuing and disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on gay and bisexual men in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 gay and bisexual men living with HIV are still unaware of their status, underscoring a need for HIV education, testing and prevention services among that population. Last year’s theme, “The conversation about HIV is changing,” continues through 2020, and is anchored in the new tools we have to combat HIV such as PrEP, a medication that prevents HIV when taken as prescribed.  

First City Pride Center is an inclusive advocacy, social and service organization actively working to meet the needs for safety, empowerment, education, and well-being of Savannah’s LGBTQIA+ community.

In compliance with the citywide order, all event attendees are required to wear a mask or face covering. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should not attend.

For more information about testing, please contact Gregory Battle at 912-644-5826 or email Gregory.Battle@dph.ga.gov. To coordinate media interviews, please call Sally Silbermann at 912-484-4116 or email Sally.Silbermann@dph.ga.gov.

New Administrator Named for Chatham County Health Department

Chris Rustin, DrPH, MS, REHS, has been named Administrator of the Chatham County Health Department. Dr. Rustin replaces Randy McCall, PhD, who retired in April after more than 30 years in public health.

In his position as Administrator, Dr. Rustin will be responsible for supervising all Chatham County Health Department programs. He will also serve as public health liaison to various agencies and organizations throughout the community.

Dr. Rustin began his public health career more than two decades ago as an Environmental Health Specialist for the Evans County Health Department. He later managed the Environmental Health programs for the Chatham and Effingham County Health Departments. He left the Coastal Health District 2009 to serve as Deputy Director and then Director of Environmental Health for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) in Atlanta.

Most recently, Dr. Rustin served on the DPH leadership team as Director for the Division of Health Protection. In that role, he was responsible for oversight of several programs including Environmental Health, EMS and Trauma, Chronic Disease Prevention, Infectious Disease Control, Injury Prevention, Emergency and Health Care Preparedness, Pharmacy, and Immunizations. He was also tasked with coordinating the DPH operational response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After spending a decade at the State Department of Public Health in Atlanta, I am excited to return as the Administrator of the Chatham County Health Department,” said Rustin. “As public health services are profoundly local, my goal is to ensure the Chatham County Health Department provides the best public health services to the citizens and visitors of Chatham County. I want to thank the employees of the Chatham County Health Department for their tireless work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and I look forward to supporting them and collaborating with the county and city governments moving forward.”  

Dr. Rustin has a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Master of Science in Safety and Environmental Compliance, and a Doctor of Public Health with an emphasis on Community Health. He is a Registered Environmental Health Specialist with the Georgia Board of Registered Environmental Health Professionals, a Fellow of the CDC Environmental Public Health Leadership Institute, and the current President-Elect of the Georgia Public Health Association.  

COVID-19 Testing, Health Dept. Operational Schedule for Labor Day, Sept. 7

Health Department clinics, Environmental Health offices, and Coastal Health District offices will be closed on Monday, September 7th in observance of Labor Day.

The COVID-19 testing sites in Brunswick and Savannah will be operational on Labor Day with reduced hours.

Drive-through COVID-19 Testing in Brunswick is by appointment only, and will be available Monday, September 7 from 8-10:30 a.m. To make an appointment for testing, call 1-912-230-9744 and choose option #3, or click here to schedule an appointment online.

Drive-through COVID-19 Testing in Savannah is available without an appointment at the Civic Center at 301 West Oglethorpe Ave. The site will be operational Saturday, September 5 from 8:30-11:30 a.m., and Monday, September 7 from 8-10:30 a.m.

The Coastal Health District’s COVID-19 Testing Call Center will be operational with normal hours, Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m., closed Sundays, and open Monday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The call center number is 1-912-230-9744.

Click here for more information about COVID-19 testing in the Coastal Health District.

Chatham Co. Health Dept. Resumes Operations at Midtown Clinic

Health department services are available once again at the Midtown Clinic of the Chatham County Health Department. The clinic is located at 1602 Drayton Street in Savannah.

On May 1, 2020, the Health Department consolidated services from two locations into one site, and all appointments were shifted to the clinic on Eisenhower Drive. The change was needed to free up staffing resources for the COVID-19 testing site.

Since that time, additional employees have been hired, and now general clinical services and immunizations are available at both Chatham County Health Department locations again.

All health department services require appointments, and anyone over the age of two must wear a face mask. To make an appointment for services at the Midtown Clinic at 1602 Drayton Street, call 912-651-3378. For appointments at the Eisenhower Clinic at 1395 Eisenhower Drive, call 912-356-2441.

For more information on services, go to gachd.org/chatham.

Chatham Co. Health Dept. Expands Pediatric Primary Care Services

Parents in Chatham County now have an additional resource for managing common childhood health problems. The Chatham County Health Department has expanded its pediatric health program to include certain primary care services like treatment of eye and ear infections, upper respiratory infections, seasonal allergies and more.

Nurse practicioner examines child during wellness visit

Services will be offered at the Eisenhower clinic of the Chatham County Health Department by Sierra Peebles, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner.

Appointments can be made for head-to-toe wellness exams, sports physicals, and treatment of common childhood concerns, like:

  • Seasonal allergies and sinus infections
  • Ear and eye infections
  • Upper respiratory infections and sore throat
  • Dermatitis and Eczema

Peebles can also make referrals for other health department services, like immunizations, pediatric dental care, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and the Babies Can’t Wait developmental program.

“I am excited to begin offering pediatric primary care services in our community,” said Peebles. “Health monitoring, illness prevention, and education are so important for a healthy childhood and adolescence, and every family deserves access to this type of care.”

All services are by appointment only. To make an appointment for a child health visit, call the Chatham County Health Department at 912-356-2441.

Chlorine Dioxide Should NOT be used to Treat COVID-19

The Department of Public Health has received reports that people are using diluted chlorine dioxide to “treat” COVID-19.  Chlorine dioxide is a bleach-like cleaning agent and, if ingested, can have severe, adverse health effects, including death.

Chlorine dioxide products have not been shown to be safe and effective for any use, including treatment of COVID-19.

Products are being marketed online under various names: MSS, Miracle Mineral Solution, Master Mineral Solution, Water Purification Solution, CDS, Aqueous Chlorine Dioxide, and others.

Ingesting chlorine dioxide products are not meant to be swallowed by people, and can lead to:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms
  • Life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration
  • Acute liver failure
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Severe vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea

The Georgia Poison Center advises that chlorine dioxide not be swallowed, and not be used outside of industrial settings where appropriate precautions against injury from this chemical can be used.

For more information or if you or someone you know has ingested chlorine dioxide, call the Georgia Poison Center Hotline: 1-800-222-1222

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Warning:

The FDA reminds consumers to be cautious of websites and stores selling products that claim to prevent, mitigate, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19. Fraudulent COVID-19 products may come in many varieties, including dietary supplements and other foods, as well as products purporting to be drugs, medical devices or vaccines. Products that claim to cure, mitigate, treat, diagnose or prevent disease, but are not proven safe and effective for those purposes, defraud consumers of money and can place consumers at risk for serious harm. Using these products may lead to delays in getting proper diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 and other potentially serious diseases and conditions.

West Nile Virus Detected in Chatham Co. Mosquito Population

Chatham County Mosquito Control has confirmed that a mosquito sample collected from an area in south Savannah has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). Mosquito control personnel routinely collect and sample mosquitoes in all areas of Chatham County. This is the first positive WNV test in the Chatham County mosquito population this year. Chatham County Mosquito Control will treat the area with insecticide Wednesday evening.

No human cases of WNV have been confirmed this year in Georgia. WNV is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not feel sick. About 20% of people who are infected will have mild symptoms like a fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. However, a West Nile Virus infection can be serious, and 1 out of 150 infected people develop a severe, sometimes fatal, illness.

“This report of West Nile Virus in our mosquito population is unwelcome but not unexpected, as we typically see mosquito activity increase in the summer,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director of the Coastal Health District. “There is no vaccine or cure for West Nile Virus, so the best protection is to avoid mosquito bites.”

Residents are always encouraged to follow the “5 Ds” of mosquito bite prevention:

  • Dusk/Dawn – Avoid dusk and dawn activities during the summer when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
  • DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing the DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.
  • Drain – Empty any outdoor containers holding standing water because they are breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.
  • Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.