Local COVID-19 Information & Hotline
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The Coastal Health District of Georgia serves the counties of Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long & McIntosh

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers about COVID-19

Updated 4.1.20

This is a rapidly evolving situation and information is likely to change.

Administrative Orders from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Q: What new restrictions have been announced?
A:
Governor Brian Kemp issued an administrative order for March 24th through April 6th which states:

Related to Governor Kemp’s Administrative Orders:
Have a concern regarding a place of business violating Governor’s Executive Order? Go to www.gov.georgia.gov. Click on “Contact Us” and then click on “Constituent Services” and fill out the contact form.

Cases and Transmission

Q: How many cases do we have here?
A:
We currently have 86 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19; 9 in Bryan County, 5 in Camden County, 39 in Chatham County, 5 in Effingham County, 19 in Glynn County, 7 in Liberty County, 1 in Long County, and 1 in McIntosh County. Three residents have died: 2 in Chatham County and 1 in Bryan County.

It is important to keep in mind that some people who have the virus do not have symptoms. It’s also possible that people with mild illness will not get tested. That means lab-confirmed case numbers may not show an accurate picture of the presence of COVID-19 in our communities.

We update the case count every day at noon and 7 p.m. on our website. Also, the Georgia Department of Public Health updates its website, dph.ga.gov, every day at noon and 7 p.m. with a map of lab-confirmed cases around the state of Georgia.

Q: What happens now that we have started getting cases?
A:
We all have to do our part to prevent further spread. We know the testing numbers don’t tell the whole story. As more tests are being done, we we will get more positive results. That doesn’t change the fact that we know there is widespread transmission of COVID-19 throughout Georgia.

That means:

Q: Is there community transmission?
A: Yes. We know that COVID-19 is in our communities. Whether a county has one confirmed case or several, the bottom line is that we know the virus is here and we need to take every possible measure to prevent it from spreading.

Testing

Q: Who can get tested and where?
A:
Right now, all tests for COVID-19 must be ordered by a physician. Local health departments cannot evaluate, test, or treat COVID-19. Some doctor’s offices and hospitals do their own testing. Other physicians may send patients to a drive-through specimen collection facility nearby, but even at these facilities you cannot get tested without a doctor’s referral.

Q: Why aren’t there enough tests?
A: We have a limited number of specimen collection kits, and communities across the country are experiencing shortages in the protective clothing medical professionals must wear while performing a test. Efforts are being made on a national level to ramp up production of the kits and availability of personal protective equipment.

Q: Why can’t everyone get tested?
A: We understand that people want to be tested but the reality is that we do not yet have the capacity for widespread community testing or screening.  Fortunately, the vast majority of people infected with COVID19 are ONLY mildly or moderately ill with “cold-like” symptoms and can safely recover at home with self-isolation and symptomatic treatment. Strategies to reduce COVID-19 in communities are focused on slowing the transmission of disease and in particular to protect:

– Individuals at increased risk for severe illness, including older adults and persons of any age with underlying health conditions.
– The healthcare and critical infrastructure work forces.

For those reasons, priority for testing is given to:

Q: Do we have drive-through testing in our area?
A: The Coastal Health District has set up 2 drive-through specimen collection centers, but these centers are not open to the public. Testing must be prioritized right now because we have limited specimen collection kits and medical supplies. Following state guidelines, we are focusing our testing from the drive-through sites on:
– Healthcare workers and other first responders who are critical for caring for our communities during this epidemic who frequently interact with vulnerable populations
– People working with and caring for vulnerable populations, such as long-term care facility staff
-People living in congregate settings where the disease can spread quickly.

At this time, anyone coming to one of the drive-through sites must have a physician’s order to be tested.

Q: What if I have symptoms or think I have COVID-19 but don’t fall into a priority testing category?
A: If you have symptoms including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, then you should stay home and away from others. You shouldn’t go outside your home except to get medical care but – and this is important – don’t seek medical care without calling the healthcare provider first. That will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

If you have symptoms:

If your symptoms worsen and you experience difficulty breathing, seek medical care right away.

Q: Are there tools to help me decide if I need medical care?
A: Yes. The CDC has an online Coronavirus Self-Checker. The purpose of this tool is to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care. This system is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease or other conditions, including COVID-19.

Apple, CDC, The White House, and FEMA have also worked together to create an app to help with personal decision-making. This tool can help you understand what to do next about COVID-19. Click here to access this tool.

Q: How many people are being tested in our area?
A: We do not have county-level data on the number of tests being ordered or pending results. Statewide information about confirmed cases, deaths, and the number of completed tests in Georgia can be found at dph.ga.gov.

Q: How will we know if people in our area are positive for COVID-19?
A:
Laboratories must report positive tests to public health. When we are notified that we have lab-confirmed positive cases, we will let the public know through this website, media partners, social media outlets, and through other community partners such as Emergency Management Agencies. But again, we should be mindful that the “lab-confirmed” case numbers likely don’t show a completely accurate picture of the presence of COVID-19 in our communities. That’s why we all have to do our part to keep COVID-19 from continuing to spread.

Q: Can you tell me if my neighbor/coworker/friend/a healthcare worker has tested positive for COVID-19?
A: No, we cannot disclose any personal information about individuals who have been tested for COVID-19. The only information we release about confirmed cases is county of residence. Rather than focusing on your exposure to a specific individual, it may be more helpful to take appropriate social distancing precautions with everyone right now to lessen your risk of exposure.

Q: Are there home testing kits available?
A:
Not at this time. But again, if you have mild symptoms you should isolate yourself from others in your household and care for yourself at home. If your symptoms become worse, call a healthcare provider.

Q: How many people have recovered from COVID-19?
A: We will not be able to provide an accurate recovery number for several reasons. Firstly, we do not have a true case count that includes ALL individuals with COVID-19. Our count only includes lab-confirmed cases, but not individuals who have symptoms but were never tested, or those who were infected but had no symptoms at all.

Also, recovery status is not data we collect. Our investigation focuses on activity histories and contact tracing to limit further spread, and we provide recommendations for patients moving forward, but we do not track patients throughout their clinical presentation.

Social Distancing

Q: What is social distancing?
A:
Social distancing means minimizing contact with people. It also means that if you are near someone in public, try to stay at least 6 feet away. The less contact people have with one another, the less opportunity for the virus to spread. Slowing the spread of the virus means we can keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.

Precautions

Q: Should I wear a facemask?
A:
If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.

Q: Are homemade facemasks helpful?
A: Homemade facemasks do not fully protect you from coronavirus infection because the virus may still be able to pass through the pores in the fabric. A facemask may keep you from unknowingly touching your nose and mouth when you’re out in public and have not washed your hands.

In a healthcare setting, the CDC says homemade masks should be a last-resort strategy when there are absolutely no respirators or facemasks left, and should be used with other protective equipment like a face shield.

Q: Should I go to my house of worship?
A:
Currently in the state of Georgia, gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed. We understand this is a time when faith communities need to stay connected so we certainly support any efforts to provide the opportunity to worship online or electronically.

Q: Should I go out at all?
A:
Residents throughout the state of Georgia are being encouraged to stay home. Governor Brian Kemp has issued a partial shelter-in-place order, which applies those with “increased risk of complications” from the coronavirus, including the elderly and those undergoing cancer treatment.

Get more information HERE.

Recommendations also encourage the use of drive-through, pick-up, or delivery options when considering food from sources outside the home.
We absolutely encourage all those measures at a minimum and fully support more stringent measures of social distancing.

Transmission

Q: Can COVID-19 be spread through water?
A: Click here to find out more about drinking water, recreational water, wastewater and COVID-19:
COVID-19 and Water Transmission

Q: How does it spread?
A: It’s thought that the main way COVID-9 spreads is from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes in close contact with someone else – within about 6 feet, in fact. That’s why social distancing and staying at least six feet away from others is so important.

It is important to note that a person can still spread the virus even if they have no symptoms.

Q: Can I get coronavirus if I touch something that an infected person has touched?
A: It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Q: How long can it live on surfaces?
A: The virus may be able to live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. That’s why it’s important to clean high-touch areas such as counters, doorknobs, light switches, and key boards.

Treatment

Q: Is there a treatment?
A:
There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.

Q: I heard there is something that can help treat COVID-19.
A: There are no drugs approved to prevent or treat the coronavirus. Be aware that some people may try to sell you a treatment that is unauthorized and not appropriate, and could even be dangerous.
Click here to read more about COVID-19 scams

Chloroquine phosphate, when used without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider, can cause serious health consequences, including death. READ MORE.

Q: Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
A: There is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation but it will be some time before a viable vaccine is developed and adequate studies have been done.

More Information

Q: Can I go outside?
A:
The guidance right now is for people to stay home if at all possible. If you go outside to take a walk or ride your bike, social distancing is still important.

Q: Isn’t it mainly older people who get really sick?
A: While older people are at higher risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19, younger adults can also get sick from the virus and develop serious complications. About 60% of Georgia’s cases are in adults ages 18-59.

Q: I still have questions. Where can I get more information?
A:
There is a state of Georgia hotline people can call with questions or if they think they may have been exposed: 1-844-442-2681

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has the most current and accurate information on COVID-19.

Again, if you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, please contact your primary care doctor, an urgent care clinic, or your local federally qualified healthcare center. Please do not show up to an emergency room or healthcare facility unannounced.

Providers: Healthcare providers who suspect COVID-19 in a patient should immediately contact the Georgia Department of Public Health by calling 1-866- PUB-HLTH (782-4584).