Letter dated March 24, 2020, sent to Jimmy Starline, Chair of Camden County Board of Commissioners and Steve Howard, County Administrator
Dear Chairman Starline and Mr. Howard:
We wanted to provide you the perspective of Southeast Georgia Health System (the "Health System") with respect to COVID- 19 and its potential impact on our community. As of noon today, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia has increased to 1026, with 18 positive cases in the Coastal Health District (2 in Bryan; 1 in Camden; 7 in Chatham; 2 in Effingham; 5 in Glynn; and I in Liberty). There is also one positive case in neighboring Charlton County. All available data suggests the number of cases is going to continue to increase as COVID-19 spreads throughout the community.
The Health System began planning and preparing in February and opened our Incident Command Center on February 28. Through our hospitals, emergency departments and outpatient clinics, we have performed testing on 201 patients and received results for only 50 patients due to delays nationwide on turnaround times for testing. Currently, we have treated 1 confirmed COVID-19 patient at our Camden Campus and have cared for several Patients Under Investigation (PUls), as inpatients, meaning the patients have been tested for COVID-19 and we are awaiting results. We are using significant amounts of increasingly-limited Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), other supplies, equipment and staff to care for these patients.
We have well-qualified physicians, advanced practice providers and nursing and clinical staff ready to care for our community. The have been consulting with each other as well as with colleagues that are in areas of the country that have already been hit hard and are up-to-speed on the best care and treatment for COVID-19 patients. We have quickly created many additional negative pressure rooms and are accumulating supplies, utilizing Georgia Emergency Management Agency ("GEMA") to request and receive additional supplies, and have proactively canceled all elective surgeries to conserve supplies and blood products and to decrease the risk of transmission to our patients and staff. But, even with extensive preparation, if we see a large surge of patients consistent with the rate of spread in other affected areas, we - like any health system – will be challenged to bring to bear the appropriate staff, equipment and supplies to care for our community.
We urge you to consider action that would assist in slowing the spread in our community, including limiting non-essential activities and curtailing gatherings of more than 10 people. As we have seen in nearby communities, social gatherings, including funerals and church services, have been the source of outbreaks that have resulted in a number of deaths and hospitalizations, taxing their local healthcare resources. If the transmission can be slowed, that will allow additional time for supplies, critical drugs, and equipment to be manufactured. It will also ensure adequate ventilator and other respiratory support for patients that need it. Area business owners have kindly offered physical space to assist in caring for a surge of patients, but without the appropriate staff, supplies and equipment, additional space alone would not allow the Health System to sufficiently care for a surge of patients. We respectfully request that you take action to help us best care for the community during this unprecedented time.