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Local authorities making preparations for Coronavirus – if needed

March 12, 2020:

Breaking News . . .

Effective immediately . . .
All Seminole County Schools closed through March 27.

The Seminole County School System was notified last night that a school employee exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus. This employee was possibly exposed to the virus in a physician’s office in another state. We called parents and guardians of all students who were in contact with this employee, and will continue to follow the protocol recommended by the Georgia Department of Health while we wait for the test results. We are in close communication with public health officials and the Georgia Department of Education, and we will share updated information as it becomes available. In an effort to implement proactive measures to minimize risk to students, employees, and families, all schools will be closed through March 27. Also, all extra-curricular activities have been suspended. At this time, students should plan to return to school on Monday, March 30th unless notified otherwise. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we go through these unchartered times. “As always, the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff will be at the forefront of all decision-making,” commented Mark Earnest, Superintendent of Seminole County Schools

March 11, 2020, Donalsonville, Georgia – Seminole County Schools, Donalsonville Hospital and Seminole Manor making preparations

As of March 11 zero cases of the Coronavirus have been confirmed in Seminole County or Southwest Georgia; however, local authorities are not taking any chances and are currently making preparations in the event the virus spreads into the southwest Georgia area.

After finding out that the Coronavirus has spread into northern Georgia, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) said it was not caught off guard, and health experts said they’ve been preparing for an outbreak like this for years.

The Southwest District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis said each public health scare we’ve had over the years has only prepared them for something like the Coronavirus which is why Dr. Ruis said the offices here have been in constant communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), school systems and hospital systems.

Ruis said they have encouraged schools and businesses to have contingency plans in place for now. These are basically just to prepare in the case they do need to close for some time.

DPH said officials said business owners should encourage employees to stay home if they feel sick, even telling companies they may need to rethink their sick-leave policies if the Coronavirus were to come into South Georgia.

Ruis said his team is in constant contact with the CDC, so they can easily update everyone when needed.

Donalsonville Hospital administration and healthcare professionals are continuing to monitor and adjust to the information and guidelines the CDC has disseminated concerning the COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus. For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding this issue please visit www.cdc.gov.

At the hospital, there are long-standing plans in place to deal with these kinds of infectious diseases, especially respiratory diseases.  Donalsonville Hospital’s infectious disease expert, Brenda Turner, RN, Infection Control said, “the coronavirus is very similar to other respiratory viruses like influenza, in both its symptoms and the way the disease is spread.”

If a patient tested positive for the virus, staff would use the same precautions as treating any other highly infectious disease, such as making sure the patient had their own room and using a mask if outside of the room. Staff would also use PPEs or Personal Protection Equipment such as masks, gloves, and other protective gear when caring for that patient.

Doctors could quarantine the patient, if need be, in one of three negative pressure rooms available at Donalsonville Hospital. 

The hospital’s infectious disease team meets regularly, listening to updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia State Department of Public Department of Health, and monitoring the path of the disease.

Due to the similarity to influenza, the hospital is confident in its preparedness. 

“As we learn more about it, we do realize a majority of identified COVID 19 patients will have a relatively mild disease, and we understand how respiratory diseases can be spread person to person, and we know how to protect ourselves against that,” Ms. Turner said. 

Healthcare professionals urge people to wash their hands, avoid touching the mouth, nose and eyes, and stay home if sick. If you do experience mild symptoms, call your primary care physician by phone before visiting the facility. Currently, Seminole Manor Nursing Home is under NO VISTATION until further notice. The main hospital has a “Healthy Visitation” policy indicating that visitors please refrain from visiting hospitalized patients if they are experiencing any flu-like or respiratory illnesses. For more information please visit our website www.donalsonvillehospital.org 

Seminole County 

School System

The Seminole County School System recognizes parents’ concerns about the encroaching spread of the Coronavirus, and its potential impact on our schools. Seminole County School Superintendent Mark Earnest commented, “We aim to provide the best and most up-to-date information available from our local health department and the Georgia Department of Education.” 

At this time, the school system is encouraging its schools and families to follow common strategies for preventing the spread of communicable diseases.

These strategies include: ask the parents to keep children home who exhibit cold and flu-like symptoms; encourage staff to refrain from coming to work if they have cold and flu-like symptoms; encourage all students to keep unwashed hands out of their mouths, eyes, etc; encourage all students to use anti-bacterial soap; have teachers review hand-washing techniques with students; discourage the sharing of food; provide anti-bacterial soap rather than hand sanitizers in classrooms and bathrooms; encourage maintenance and classroom staff to use anti-bacterial products on all high-touch surfaces daily. 

The school system has also begun an increased frequency of school building cleaning by maintenance using more effective cleaning products. 

Additional updates as they become available will be posted at donalsonvillenews.com.

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