The Georgia Department of Public Health in its noon Daily Status Report for Thursday listed nine deaths for Clarke County despite the announcement by an Athens nursing home operator Wednesday that 10 of its residents who had “previously tested presumptive positive for COVID-19" had passed away “in the past few weeks.”
The Daily Status Report listed Clarke County as having its first COVID-19 death on March 24 (or a little more than two weeks ago), seven deaths attributable to COVID-19 on April 2, eight on April 3, and nine first on April 7.
Separate from the announcement, Oconee County Coroner Ed Carson said on Wednesday that he and Athens-Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson have requested test kits from the Department of Public Health epidemiologist in Athens and been told they are not available.
The statement by Carson and announcement for PruittHealth Grandview, which operates the nursing home at 165 Winston Drive, off North Chase Street just outside the perimeter, raises questions about the meaning of at least the death statistics released twice a day in the Department of Health’s Daily Status Report.
It also points to continued problems with testing, underscored by an announcement by area legislators Wednesday evening, by comments of hospital administrators on Monday, and by a news release by the Northeast District of the Department of Health on Tuesday.
The Thursday Daily Status report shows the Northeast Health District, which includes Oconee and Clarke Counties, added only nine confirmed cases in the 24-hour-period ending at noon, with neither Oconee nor Clarke adding a single case.
Across the state, the Daily Status Report for noon on Thursday listed 685 new cases, down from 1,063 new cases a day earlier and 1,504 the day before that.
The Thursday noon Daily Status Report listed one new death in the Northeast District attributable to COVID-19 in the 24 hours ending at noon on Thursday. A 53-year-old woman in Jackson County without known underlying conditions was first listed in the 7 p.m. Daily Status report for Wednesday.
Across Georgia, the Daily Status Report listed only 17 new deaths in the noon Daily Status report.
UPDATE: Clarke County added a single death (a 72-year-old male with known underlying conditions) in the 7 p.m. Daily Status Report. The Northeast Health District added 15 new confirmed cases, with one of them in Oconee County. The state added 319 new cases and 83 deaths.
Methodology Not Specified
The Department of Health has never provided information on how it gathers data for the Daily Status Report.
It provides a report twice a day, each time replacing the earlier report as soon as it uploads the most recent one.
I have asked repeatedly for trend data and details about the data, both by telephone and email, without any success.
The trend data I report in this blog are based on my capturing and downloading the Daily Status Reports each day and entering the data in spreadsheets.
Chart 1 below shows the trend in reports of deaths in the Daily Status Report for Clarke County since the first death on March 24.
I also inserted the quote from PruittHealth explaining that 10 deaths at the nursing home occurred in the “past few weeks.”
“We cannot confirm or deny the cause of death,” the statement says, though the patients had previously tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.”
|Chart 1 (Click To Enlarge)|
The statement recommends anyone wanting more information to contact the Department of Health, which compiles the Daily Status Report, or the “medical examiner.”
Oconee County Coroner Ed Carson called me on Wednesday after I posted about the Daily Status Report that day and sent me a subsequent email message.
“Both Oconee & Clark county have requested test kits from the Department of Public Health epidemiologist in Athens and are being told they only have 5 kits ant (and) they are saving for LTCF (Long Term Care Facility’s),” Carson wrote.
“We are unable to do testing without the kits,” he added.
He also sent me a copy of a memo from the Medical Examiner Office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation advising coroners and other medical examiners either to rely on a healthcare provider for COVID-19 tests or to get a specimen themselves and then turn to the Georgia Department of Health for analysis.
Carson sent me an email message just after noon on Thursday saying “I did get a call within the last hour. Seems they are trying to get us some kits now.”
Carson said he had a limited supply of Personal Protective Equipment that he could use to protect himself from the virus in dealing with COVID-19 cases.
In a Facebook posting Wednesday evening, area state Representatives Spencer Frye, Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower said “Testing remains an area we must continue to improve.
“Gov. (Brian) Kemp outlined the state's plan to continue increasing testing capacity, including partnerships with the University System of Georgia, CVS, and other private providers,” the message said.
“We expect testing to ramp up significantly and much quicker results,” the three said.
Michael Burnett, CEO of Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, and Montez Carter, president and CEO of St. Mary's Health Care System, both said in a conference call with area business leaders on Monday that they had been hampered by testing limitations.
“Last week we were able to test patients in house, which was a big game changer for us,” Burnett said. In the past, he said, the hospital had to send out specimens and wait about 10 days for results.
Sarah R. Peck, clinic manager for the Clarke County Health Department, sent out a news release on Tuesday saying that the Northeast Health District of the Department of health “will begin using a mobile clinic to provide COVID-19 testing throughout a 10-county area.”
The first of the mobile testing events was scheduled to be offered on Tuesday in Barrow County.
The tests will be open to people who are “mildly ill” and “do not require medical care or hospitalization” and are healthcare workers or first responders, work with vulnerable populations, or live and work in “congregate settings where the disease can spread rapidly.”
A similar facility has been operating at the Oconee Campus of Athens Piedmont Regional on Virgil Langford Road.
I have included below the three charts I have used with previous posts. In each case, the chart is updated to reflect data from the noon Daily Status Report for Thursday.
Chart 2 is for the 10-county Northeast District of the Department of Health.
|Chart 2 (Click To Enlarge)|
Chart 3 shows the cumulative trends in confirmed cases, deaths, testing, and hospitalizations for the state of Georgia.
|Chart 3 (Click To Enlarge)|
Chart 4 shows for the state the number of new confirmed cases and deaths on each of the days since the first positive test was reported in Georgia on March 2.
|Chart 4 (Click To Enlarge)|