Crisp Regional, county update public on COVID-19 pandemic

Published 2:16 pm Monday, March 16, 2020

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Crisp Regional medical professionals and county public safety officials met with members of the news media Monday morning to reiterate that there are no known active cases of COVID-19 in Crisp County, but stressed that area residents should be prepared as the viral pandemic continues to spread in Georgia and elsewhere.

The hospital has taken several steps to limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The main entrance to the hospital has been closed and all visitors and patients are being routed through the outpatient entrance, where they are screened for symptoms upon entry. [See this recent Dispatch story about precautionary measures in place at area school systems and Crisp Regional Hospital.]

“Don’t come to the hospital unless you are ill,” said Crisp Regional President and CEO Steve Gautney. “This is as much for your benefit as for the protection of our staff here.”

Gautney and others at the press conference encouraged people to avoid locations where there are large groups of people and to begin practicing social distancing measures, like avoiding close contact with others. Limit handshakes or hugs, and stay at home if you feel ill.

Social distancing won’t stop the spread of COVID-19, experts say, but it will slow it. The goal is to prevent a situation where healthcare providers are overwhelmed by a large number of new cases all at once, and Gautney and others can’t rule out that some local residents will eventually come down with the disease.

“We feel like we will have occasion in the next few weeks where we’re going to have a number of patients here that will have to be treated at some point, so it’s important to keep our employees safe and our visitors safe.”

Crisp Regional Chief Nursing Operator April Dukes said the hospital has set up a 24-hour-a-day call line at 229-276-3068 for residents who have questions about COVID-19 and how to protect themselves from acquiring the disease. She also warned patients that screening procedures could mean longer wait times for appointments.

County EMS Director David Edwards advised that residents will begin seeing first responders from his agency arrive to some emergency calls in protective masks and similar gear. This is not out of fear but just a precautionary measure to ensure staff safety, Edwards said. He also recommended that residents take advantage of Crisp Regional’s nurse call line and do not call 911 if they have questions or become concerned that they are symptomatic.

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock, who is also the county’s director of emergency management, discussed the importance of social distancing and said the county has closed recreation department facilities and that all large meetings in the county have been cancelled until further notice. [See this recent Dispatch story about Crisp County’s decision to cancel mass gatherings.]

“We’re doing all of this to make our community as safe as possible during this outbreak,” Hancock said.