Photo provided by Joey Camp at the Hard Labor Creek State Park quarantine area.
Photo: Joey Camp
Photo: Joey Camp

First coronavirus patient isolated at park by Georgia shares his story

The first COVID-19 patient isolated at a special park site by Georgia health officials is a 30-year-old Afghanistan war veteran who cooked at a Waffle House in Canton before he began experiencing a fever, chills and aching joints.

Joey Camp sought help last week at Northside Hospital Cherokee, where he said he was diagnosed with pneumonia and tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Cass High School graduate doesn’t know where he contracted the illness, though he suspects his health became compromised after he failed to take insulin for his diabetes.

“Every joint in my body hurt,” said Camp, a former truck driver from Cartersville who served in the Georgia Army National Guard. “I could not move a joint in my body from my ankles, up my back, arms — could not without sharp pain.”

Camp said he volunteered to be isolated because he lives with a friend, who has an infant son.

He was transported Tuesday by ambulance to Hard Labor Creek State Park near Rutledge, the COVID-19 isolation and monitoring site that Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week. Camp said he is living in a trailer in a remote section of the sprawling park and is taking antibiotics, watching Star Wars films on his cell phone and eating takeout meals – including chili dogs — left for him by state health officials.

The state government has set up seven emergency trailers in an area of the park that is closed to the public and monitored by law enforcement officials, Kemp’s office said. Camp said he is the only patient at the park, located about 50 miles east of Atlanta. He spoke with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter by phone Wednesday.

RELATED: Georgia preparing park for isolating patients exposed to coronavirus

Waffle House announced this week that it had closed its 1849 Marietta Highway location in Canton and was preparing to sanitize it after one of its employees there tested positive for the disease. Waffle House did not identify the employee, but said he last worked there on March 1.

“Working closely with the Cherokee County Health Department, we were instructed to tell Associates who worked with the affected Associate on March 1st to self-quarantine at their homes through Saturday,” the restaurant chain said. “To our knowledge, none of those Associates have shown any signs of illness.”

Without identifying him, Northside Hospital Cherokee confirmed one of its patients showed signs of exposure to the disease after he arrived there for help on March 5.

“The patient was placed in a negative-pressure room and responded well to treatment,” said Lee Echols, Northside Hospital’s vice president of marketing. “The patient was discharged on March 9.”

Camp’s brother, Josh, a medical lab technician from Cartersville, said he is quarantining himself at home because the two had contact on Feb. 29.

“I have been basically not breathing on anybody and staying in my house for the most part,” Josh Camp said.

Told not to leave his trailer during his stay at the park, Joey Camp expects to remain quarantined there for about 14 days in all. He compared the setting to an RV campground.

“The conditions are actually kind of nice. I cannot complain at all,” he said. “I’m inside of a pull-behind RV with a bed, television and a refrigerator — all of that stuff.”

Health officials, he said, are careful about not coming into contact with him. He is calling them every few hours with details about his condition.

“They won’t stand next to the door when I open the door,” he said.

Meanwhile, he is optimistic he will pull through, saying he draws strength from his Christian faith and his drive to survive.

“I am going to — no matter what.”

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