Northeast Georgia Health System continues to see a decrease in its COVID-19 numbers, but leaders are still urging the community to continue using precautions.

The hospital system spoke to members of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce during a COVID-19 update held June 9 via Zoom.

Anthony Williamson, Southern Market Leader and president of Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, addressed the frustrations with the continued impacts of the pandemic. He noted people are ready to return to normalcy after months of shutdowns and precautions, but he said it’s critical for the community to continue to be careful.

“This overall decline is great news and we certainly hope it stays that way, but you need to continue to take care of yourself, your family, encourage your parents and all of your social circle to abide by the guidelines,” Williamson said.

Those guidelines have been critical in helping to flatten the curve, according to NGHS director of infectious disease Supriya Mannepalli. She urged the community to continue social distancing practices, wear masks and wash hands regularly.

NUMBERS DECLINING STEADILY

Across the health system, the number of COVID-19 patients has been steadily declining. On April 29, the hospital system was treating 159 positive patients, 28 of whom were at NGMC Braselton. As of June 15, that number had declined to 46 system-wide with five being treated at NGMC Braselton.

(Across NGHS, there have been 825 patients discharged. There have been 104 deaths.)

Williamson said they’re “certainly not declaring victory” yet, but said the declining numbers are a positive.

“We’re hopeful that the worst is behind us,” he added.

But it’s possible there will be a second wave of the virus, Mannepalli noted.

Meanwhile, a tent at NGMC Braselton previously constructed to provide additional space to treat COVID patients may be dismantled and stored. It could be reconstructed in 12 hours, if needed in the future.

HALL COUNTY AMONG THE HARDEST HIT

Neighboring Hall County was among the hardest hit counties in the state.

As of June 15, the county reported 2,755 confirmed cases. That's 1,335 cases per 100,000 residents.

Meanwhile, Jackson County has reported 262 cases, which totals 350.7 cases per 100,000 residents.

Vardeman said they saw the trend in Hall County and that helped the health system prepare for facilities, staffing and equipment needs. The health system also partnered with community groups to educate the community about guidelines to help prevent the spread.

“As hard hit as we were in Hall County and have been, I think the positive news about that is that our community figured out how to work together and tackle some of the areas that we saw were really making us more vulnerable,” she said. “We know that those intervention strategies worked.”

Vardeman added they plan to keep watching the data so they can respond to any potential increases quickly.

DON’T IGNORE EMERGENCIES

Doug Morrison, medical director of the NGMC Braselton emergency department, urged community members to not delay emergency medical care during the pandemic.

“It’s easy to forget that there are heart attacks and strokes and other medical emergencies going on every day,” he said.

He encouraged the community to not ignore signs of an emergency and to seek help when needed.

“Emergency care can be the difference in life and death,” said Morrison. “My recommendation today is: Don’t ignore these symptoms. They can be potentially life threatening.”

Morrison added the emergency department has implemented strict guidelines to limit possibility of exposure, including masks and visiting restrictions.

“In the emergency department, we’re doing everything we can to mitigate any exposure whatsoever,” said Morrison.

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