Northeast Georgia Health System Physicians, Board Members and Local Governments Urge People to Stay Home to Save Lives

Published on March 27, 2020

As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and associated deaths in Georgia continue to climb, Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) physicians and board members – along with Hall County and City of Gainesville elected officials – are collectively urging you stay home for at least 14 days to slow the spread of the virus.

“This is a critical moment in time for the health of our local communities, state and nation,” says Supriya Mannepalli, MD, medical director of Infectious Disease for Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC). “If people don’t stay home and isolate more strictly now, COVID-19 will continue to spread rapidly – potentially as rapidly as it has in other countries that waited until it was too late to avoid dire consequences.”

As of 5 p.m. on March 27, the Georgia Department of Public Health reports 2,001 positive cases of COVID-19 and 64 deaths already caused by the virus.

“When you hear experts talk about ‘flattening the curve,’ what they’re talking about is slowing the spread of COVID-19 before hospitals and healthcare resources are overwhelmed,” says Shravan Kethireddy, MD, medical director of Critical Care for NGMC. “If that happens, we will be forced to start making extremely difficult decisions about who receives care and who doesn’t – and no one ever wants to make those decisions.”

A joint resolution issued by NGHS’ medical staff and board members, in collaboration with the Hall County Commission and Gainesville City Council, recognizes some necessary exceptions for leaving your home. They ask that you leave only for tasks required by your job and necessary needs such as food, medications and medical emergencies.

“Our hope is that businesses will make every effort to encourage people to work from home whenever possible, or to create a work environment that allows for at least six feet of distance between workers,” says RK Whitehead, chair of the NGHS Board of Trustees. “As a local business owner, I know that isn’t easy for my business and won’t be easy for many other businesses – and healthcare workers may not always have those options – but we must all make a serious commitment to social distancing. We believe it’s necessary to save lives.”

If you start to feel sick, Northeast Georgia Health System is advising people to take three simple steps:

  1. Monitor your symptoms at home – pay close attention to symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  2. Call before you come – if you feel you need to leave home for care, call your doctor’s office first to discuss your symptoms and get direction about where to go.  If you don’t have a doctor, call an urgent care clinic or find a practice at www.ngpg.org.  You can also complete an online E-Visit from home by visiting www.ngpg.org/evisit.
  3. Rely on healthcare providers to determine if you need to be tested – caregivers will evaluate your symptoms and will coordinate testing if needed.

If you experience emergency symptoms including trouble breathing; persistent pain or pressure in your chest; new confusion or inability to arouse; or bluish lips or face – seek medical treatment immediately.

Due to a national shortage of test supplies, Northeast Georgia Health System is currently prioritizing testing for these patient groups experiencing symptoms:

  • Anyone who has experienced symptoms within the last 14 days and traveled to high-risk areas identified by the CDC
  • Anyone who has experienced symptoms within the last 14 days and had direct contact with a person who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19
  • High-risk patients with moderate or severe illness:
    • People over the age of 60
    • People with chronic medical conditions
    • Pregnant women
  • Hospitalized patients with respiratory illness of unknown cause and signs/symptoms consistent with COVID-19
  • Healthcare workers
  • First responders (law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, etc.)
  • Patients in illness clusters in a communal location (schools, shelters, etc.)

            Prioritized groups may change to fit the situation as the pandemic evolves. You can find more helpful information at www.nghs.com/covid-19.

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ABOUT NORTHEAST GEORGIA HEALTH SYSTEM

Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is a non-profit on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. Our team cares for more than 1 million people across the region through four hospitals and a variety of outpatient locations. Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has campuses in Gainesville, Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega – with a total of more than 700 beds and more than 1,100 medical staff members representing more than 50 specialties. Learn more at www.nghs.com.

Copyright ©2020 Northeast Georgia Health System, Inc. | 743 Spring Street Gainesville, GA 30501 | (770) 219-9000

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  • What is NGHS doing for the COVID-19 crisis?

If you have a fever and cough or difficulty breathing, these steps will help you find the care you need and limit the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our region:

  • Call before you come

    Please call your doctor's office or an urgent care clinic for advice about where you should go for treatment.

  • Call 9-1-1 for emergencies

    Calling 9-1-1 is always the fastest and most efficient way to get proper treatment for medical emergencies.

  • Consider staying home and taking advantage of an E-Visit

    When symptoms strike, connect with a provider through an E-Visit instead of traveling to the urgent care or the doctor’s office.

    Learn more about E-Visits from these area practices:

We want to thank our community and local businesses for their amazing generosity during this time. Here are some ways you can support our community and staff:

  • Donate items and resources

    We are currently receiving donations of items and other resources through the Foundation. Learn how to donate resources and other needed items by clicking here.

  • Sew Masks for Healthcare Workers

    Many people in our community are sewing masks for our healthcare workers. We have created some mask sewing instructions and information about drop-off locations. Get detailed mask-making instructions here.

  • Send a Digital Letter

    We would like your help making digital letters for the residents at New Horizons Nursing home. Email a letter to NewHorizonsAdmin@nghs.com and we will hand them out to our residents and staff to enjoy.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, so the best way to avoid infection is to avoid exposure. Here are simple steps you can take to lower your risk of catching or spreading illness:

  • Wear a mask – a cloth face cover can protect other people in case you are infected. Everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
  • Avoid close contact – maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household. If someone in your household is sick, maintain 6 feet of distance from them as well.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching tissues.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces to help prevent the spread of germs
  • Monitor your health daily –  Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19. Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.

Learn more by visiting the CDC COVID-19 website.

In late January, NGHS created a Coronavirus Task Force including leaders from across the system to begin preparing for the possibility that our facilities and staff may see patients with COVID-19.

We have been following the guidance of the CDC and are working to ensure staff are diligent in following standard protocol to ask patients about their travel history. In the event that additional preparation is needed, this team will move swiftly to follow any new guidance.

About COVID-19 Testing:

NGHS has the ability to coordinate testing at some of our locations. Please call your doctor's office or urgent care clinic for advice about whether testing is right for you. Recently we implemented a new E-Visit specific to the Coronavirus.

Learn more about E-Visits from these area practices:

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