Combatting COVID-19: South Health joins fight against pandemic

Courtesy of South Health DistrictCasey Corbitt and Lauren Lee with the Lowndes County Health Department place specimen into a collection bag at a special point of collection site.

VALDOSTA – Frontline workers across Georgia have been working countless hours to combat the unexpected spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, commonly referred to as COVID-19. 

2020欧冠名单In a period of unpredictability and uncertainty, the South Health District has joined other agencies at the forefront of informing the community and partnering with health care professionals.

A part of the Department of Public Health, the district serves 10 counties: Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift and Turner.

2020欧冠名单While the district offers numerous programs that include environmental health, women and children and contraceptive services, health officials say they have reached an instance of unchartered territory.

2020欧冠名单“We’ve been probably as busy in the last three weeks as I’ve been in the last 10 years working seven-day weeks,” said Dr. William Grow, district health director.

Combatting COVID-19: South Health joins fight against pandemic

2020欧冠名单Courtesy of South Health DistrictDr. William Grow, director of South Health District, joins Dwain Butler, deputy health director and program manager, on a conference call with health professionals and emergency management agencies at 10 a.m. daily.

“This is nights, weekends, Saturday and Sunday, and will continue until this crisis has been improved or we get through this crisis.”

Only operating essential services presently, South Health staff members maintain their focus because it’s a must; as Grow said he believes – they don’t have a choice.

2020欧冠名单Officials are working around the clock conducting daily meetings with local emergency management agencies, assisting nursing homes that are hot spots for coronavirus cases, providing information to hospitals, assisting funeral homes with procedural changes and keeping the community informed.

2020欧冠名单Dwain Butler, deputy health director and program manager, adds to the list caring for its employees and working with an emergency preparedness team.

In response to the pandemic, South Health keeps a daily count of cases and deaths in its coverage area relating to the virus.

The district also opened two new special point of collection sites, one in Lowndes and one in Tifton, that gather specimens to test for the coronavirus. These SPOC sites have been operating for nearly a month.

Grow said health professionals collect the specimens and submit them to a lab for testing.

“We don’t have the ability to actually do the test, but we can collect these specimens and they have to be sent to the site to the providers,” he said.

2020欧冠名单To utilize the service, a patient must be screened by a doctor and be assigned a number to be taken to the SPOC site. The identification number is used to collect and track the specimen.

Combatting COVID-19: South Health joins fight against pandemic

Courtesy of South Health DistrictCasey Corbitt of Lowndes County Health Department takes patient information form off of a car prior to collecting specimen at a special point of collection site spearheaded by the South Health District.

Updating daily, Grow said about 100-150 collections had taken place as of last week.

2020欧冠名单“We are seeing every day increased numbers of positive COVID-19 in our district,” he said last week. “ … We have not seen a peak. We are on the upslope.”

He emphasized his research is based on South Health District data.

If somehow the current pandemic worsens, Butler said the district will be ready to react by adjusting strategy, seeking state advice and uniting leadership.

2020欧冠名单“We’ll reach out to community partners, and we’ll make decisions we feel fit our community best,” he said. “If things worsen, then we will adapt and try to function and assist as best we can.”

2020欧冠名单Butler especially recognizes Lowndes County health department and its employees working the SPOC sites with limited interaction. He added it’s because of them that none of the departments have had to close.

2020欧冠名单The staff at South Health is stretched – some are parents and must tend to their children who are out of school and some staff members have been appointed to other positions – but Butler said the district’s strength stems from teamwork.

"Overall, our staff has been great,” he said. “Everybody has been wanting to chip in, participate any way they can to help and that just helps us. It makes our job a lot easier. … Everybody has been willing to come in and put in those extra hours.”

Some of these hours take place during weekends or late night text messages with one another.

Kenneth Lowery, South Health’s epidemiologist, has required extra assistance with case notifications “just because the contact … has become so overwhelming,” Butler said.

“We need to notify all of these people of their positive results and notify anyone who’s been in close contact with them,” he said, “and you’ve got 166 cases, that’s a little overwhelming for one person to do that. I do commend him.”

In the wake of the virus, Grow said fears have risen from people who have suffered job loss, closures and who have a concern about taking care of family members. It is the unknown that scares people, he said.

Combatting COVID-19: South Health joins fight against pandemic

Courtesy of South Health DistrictAmy Swails, emergency preparedness specialist, gives a briefing at a Lowndes County special point of collection site with Thalia Kennedy, emergency preparedness training and exercise coordinator. 

He said increasing social media rumors magnify fears and make people more frightened.

Kristin Patten, South Health public information officer, said the agency’s job is to aid people in understanding their trepidation.

2020欧冠名单Grow, who called the pandemic the most incredible thing he’s seen in his 50 years of being a doctor, is thinking ahead and said the pandemic will eventually offer a time of reflection.

2020欧冠名单“We’re in unchartered waters nationally, internationally,” he said. “ … I think way down the road when we hopefully and will successfully get through this, we’re going to look back on things that maybe we did right, we’re going to look back on things that maybe we did not do right, things we did wrong (and) things we could’ve did better.”

Butler echoed Grow, adding much can be learned moving forward.

For now, the South Health District keeps an eye on ever-changing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and focuses on providing accurate information to the community while maintaining the privacy of patients, officials said.

Grow said he believes transparency is key between district leaders and the community. Butler said the district must be careful with its information sharing.

“We do have to realize we are public health, and we still have to protect information,” Butler said. “ … We do see numbers, and we can report numbers, but yet we cannot give out personal information and that’s been frustrating for certain people that have been calling wanting us to tell them more. We handle it in the legal appropriate way.”

2020欧冠名单Butler ensures the community South Health serves residents, and said the agency will do what it can.

Patten encourages people to follow CDC guidelines by avoiding crowds, staying away from stores unless it’s necessary to go into them, avoiding going to churches and wearing cloth masks in public settings.

2020欧冠名单“As soon as we are getting the guidance, we’re sending it out,” she said. “To be completely honest, it’s changing because this disease is so unknown and we’re learning about it every single day.”

2020欧冠名单More information is online at .