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Crisp, Dooly schools to close next week

Precautionary measure to help halt coronavirus spread

As of presstime Friday, there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 identified in the Dispatch’s readership area of Crisp, Dooly, and Wilcox counties.

Officials in Crisp and Dooly counties however have, in light of Gov. Brian Kemp’s recent suggestion that temporary school closures may help stop the spread of COVID-19, decided to close school beginning Monday, March 16. Crisp County public schools will remain closed through Friday, March 20 and will re-evaluate the situation with an eye toward whether to remain closed an additional week. Dooly County public schools will remain closed through the end of Spring Break on April 3, with students to return to class there on April 6.

Wilcox County School Superintendent Julie Childers said that schools there will remain open for the time being since there has not been a reported COVID-19 case within a 50-mile radius of the Wilcox system.

In a late development Friday, Crisp County officials decided that school nutritionists will provide a lunch and snack for public school students while schools are closed. The student may pick up his or her meals from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20 at the following locations:

-Cordele Dispatch, 206 W. 13th Ave.

-Sunset Homes, 509 W. 22nd Ave.

-Morningside Homes, 604 N. 2nd St.

-C C Shearer, 1101 McClendon Court (Drayton)

-Clara Scott, 213 N. 13th St.

-Greater Morris Baptist Tabernacle Church, 705 N. Joe Wright Dr.

-J.W. Williams Funeral Home, 407 W. 17th Ave.

Follow the Dispatch’s website, www.cordeledispatch.com, or our Facebook page for developments that may arise over the weekend.

Here’s the full statement issued Friday by the Crisp County School System:

“Even though there are no positive cases for COVID-19 in our local area right now, we do understand the seriousness of this pandemic and are taking necessary precautions to help our students and staff stay safe. In making sure that we are following recommended federal and state safety protocols and hoping to minimize the chance of contracting or spreading this virus, Crisp County Schools will be closed Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 20th. As for school beyond March 20th, we will be messaging everyone about those plans at the end of next week. This decision has been made with other community agencies in an abundance of caution. Thanks for being supportive and flexible during this most uncertain time. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work together to overcome this virus outbreak.”

Dooly County School Superintendent Craig Lockhart issued the following statement regarding the decision to temporary close schools:

“Dooly County School System has been in communication with the Department of Public Health, area school systems, and law enforcement regarding the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, we have received support from Governor Brian Kemp in favor of closing schools for the next two weeks. School closures are a method of keeping people separated, which is a key preventive measure from spreading the coronavirus. Such decisions are not taken lightly, and we value safety as our number one priority. With this in mind, Dooly County Schools will be closed for students beginning March 16, 2020 to March 27, 2020. Spring Break will still follow March 30, 2020 to April 3, 2020. Students are expected to report back to school on April 6, 2020. All sports, field trips, and students travel is also suspended until further notice. Along with other school systems in the state, we are working with the Georgia Department of Education to see how this will impact standardized testing in April and May.

“Our mission statement reads: “The Mission of Dooly County Schools, in partnership with parents and the community, is to provide students with a rigorous, standards-based curriculum that will promote college and career readiness and foster productive citizenship.” We must provide students with a quality education even during events such as these. Therefore, students are receiving study packets and assignments so they remain sharp and receive educational services. Please do not take this school work lightly. We must use this time to continue learning and growing.

“If the COVID-19 outbreak disappears to a degree we can return to school before March 27th, announcements will be made for students to return. I urge all families to sign up for CyberSchool Alerts on the Dooly County School System website so you can always get timely information.

“The goal of this school closure is to prevent illness. If we do not see any cases of COVID-19 in Dooly County Schools, then we have done our job. We thank you for your support of Dooly County Schools.”

In addition to the public school closures, some area churches, including First Baptist Church of Cordele, are opting not to hold regular Sunday worship services as mass gatherings in Crisp County are cancelled. Another of the cancelled events was a scheduled campaign stop by U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who had planned to headline a meet-and-greet at Game On Sports on Tuesday, March 17.

Officials are urging residents to understand that these are precautionary measures to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. Misinformation has flooded the Internet, but residents would be best served by focusing on prevention and preparation and avoiding panic.

Crisp Regional Healthcare’s leadership team has provided a wealth of accurate and timely information and has met daily to monitor developments of what has now officially been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

On Friday, they released the following statement:

“Important Notice: Currently, testing for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can only be done by public health authorities.

“Community hospitals like Crisp Regional cannot perform these tests without approval from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.

“They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill are able to isolate at home.”

On Wednesday, Crisp Regional addressed false rumors that the hospital is treating a COVID-19-positive patient:

“Crisp Regional has not received any patients who have tested positive for the new Coronavirus.

“Crisp Regional is committed to the health and wellness of the community. As such, for the safety of our patients, visitors and employees, effective Thursday, March 12, the hospital will be limiting public entrances.

“’Though we have seen no cases of the coronavirus in our facility, we are taking precautionary steps to ensure the safety of our patients, employees and guests,’ said Steve Gautney, CEO, at CRH. “As an extra step, all hospital guests will be asked screening questions prior to entry,” said Gautney.

“For your health and safety, the CDC recommends screening for all visitors. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

“- Main Entrance at CRH is closed until further notice.

“- Patient Guidelines and Entrances:

“· Emergency Department 24/7

“· Outpatient Entrance 6AM-8PM

“- Patient Screenings at Outpatient, Emergency Department, and Medical Office Building Entrances. Screenings include temperature check, cough, shortness of breath, or fever.

“”After Screenings, patients will be assigned a designated waiting area depending on if they are symptomatic or non-symptomatic.

“-Visitor Guidelines and Entrances:

“· Emergency Department 24/7

“· Outpatient Entrance 6AM-8PM

“· 1 visitor per a patient. (Not to be confused with 1 visitor at a time)

“-All visitors will be screened at the Outpatient, Emergency Department, and Medical Office Entrances. Screenings include temperature check, cough, shortness of breath, or fever.

“After screenings visitors will be allowed if they are non-symptomatic.

“Be sure to call before going to a Doctors office, Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

“Cafeteria will be restricted to employees and screened visitors only!

“Finally, we all should be vigilant about the spread of germs – especially during cold and flu season. The best ways to protect yourself and those around you are to:

“· Practice Respiratory Etiquette: Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your bent elbow.

“· Practice Hand Hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60% to 95% alcohol.

“· Take Environmental Health Action: Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects like cellphones, keyboards and door knobs.

“· If you have not received a flu shot, while it won’t protect from COVID-19, it is your best protection for the flu. Thank you for choosing Crisp Regional as your healthcare provider. This situation is changing on an ongoing basis; we will continue to update you as new and pertinent information is available. We are doing all we can to keep you and everyone in our communities safe and healthy.

“For the latest on the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website at cdc.gov or the Department of Public Health at dph.georgia.gov.”