County, hospital doing well in COVID-19 battle

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Wayne County residents encouraged to continue fighting

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Wayne County residents have a lot to be grateful for these days.

As the long-awaited flattening of the curve begins to materialize in Georgia’s COVID-19 case reports, things continue to go well at Wayne Memorial Hospital, and Wayne County continues to show one of the lowest case rates in the state.

Wayne Memorial Chief Executive Officer Joe Ierardi said this week that the hospital is managing its case load very well, even though coronavirus patients from surrounding counties are being hospitalized here.

“It’s good to see light at the end of the tunnel!” he said.

He also suggested that, if people in the state continue to use good judgement, progress against the pandemic can continue.

Ierardi said the hospital is doing well with space available and testing kits for COVID-19 patients and has had no need to activate contingency plans for using other spaces to house patients.

“The people of Wayne County are to be commended,” Ierardi said. “They’ve done the things they were asked to do. If you go into the stores around town, most people are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. They’ve done a really good job and the results so far are tremendous! We’re doing very well compared to the counties around us.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, Wayne has a case rate of 43 per 100,000 for the coronavirus—the lowest of any county south of the Altamaha River—while many counties in this part of the state are reporting a rate in the hundreds.

Some counties in heavily hit southwest Georgia are reporting case rates in the thousands.

Wayne has reported no new cases since last week, and no new hospitalizations in more than a week.

Ierardi also said he believes that, if Georgians continue to do what we should, we can reduce the possibility of a second wave of cases in the state.

“We’re happy the tide has turned a little, but we need to keep doing what’s right, using good, sound judgement and following directives to protect ourselves,” he said. “I know it’s inconvenient at times, but it’s important to do what’s best for everyone.”

He suggested that continuing to wear masks and maintain spacing in public can help the situation continue to improve. He said one of the most important guidelines is to stay home when not feeling well.

“We are continuing to screen staff, take temperatures at every shift change and send people home if they feel sick,” he noted. “If you don’t feel good, stay home!”

He said staying home when one has a temperature is sound advice all the time, especially during the pandemic.

Ierardi said the hospital continues to restrict visitation and keep the cafeteria closed to the public.

He also said the hospital is taking a phased-in approach to restoring services and has seen a little uptick in admissions recently.

“We have started doing elective surgery again, and our labs are back in business,” Ierardi reported.

He commended the staff of Wayne Memorial for the quality of the job they are doing in caring for patients under the stresses of the pandemic.

“Our staff all across the spectrum are doing a tremendous job taking care of people,” he said. “The community support has been overwhelming as well. I couldn’t even name all the organizations who have done things to help out.”

He also said that the work done by all the county’s first responder and health care entities has been excellent.

“The coordination has been just fantastic!” he said.

Ierardi said that the hospital is moving toward being able to do in-house testing with rapid results but that it might take a while for the county to have those tests available because the resources for them are being sent to other areas with higher needs.

He said other resources, such as drive-in testing centers and antibody testing, also would be slower coming into Wayne County owing to the low case numbers here.

He noted that, when antibody testing is available, it will help answer some of the questions about who may have developed immunity to the coronavirus and what to expect for the future of the pandemic in this area.