Coronavirus in Ga.: Military base cases, making masks, girl in stable condition

Goodwill of North Georgia joined the growing list of retailers that are closing because of the virus, temporarily shutting down its more than 65 stores in the region starting Monday. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Goodwill of North Georgia joined the growing list of retailers that are closing because of the virus, temporarily shutting down its more than 65 stores in the region starting Monday. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Two people connected to Fort Benning near Columbus have tested positive for the new coronavirus, as military facilities and other government installations clamp down to mitigate the virus’ spread.

A southwest Georgia health system, meanwhile, posted instructions online Sunday for how to sew face masks as it seeks help from donors to overcome shortfalls of protective gear.

And one of the youngest known patients in Georgia stricken by the virus remains in stable condition in an Atlanta hospital.

The number of deaths in Georgia from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, grew to 25 on Sunday. The Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed a total of 620 cases across the state.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Fort Benning is not identifying either of the two patients there, citing federal health privacy rules.

One sought help at Martin Army Community Hospital for an “underlying health condition” and was placed in intensive care before being transferred to St. Francis Hospital. Hospital workers at Martin who cared for the patient also have been placed under quarantine.

“My leadership team and I are committed to the continued safety of Fort Benning and the local community,” Martin Commander Col. Melissa Hoffman said in a statement on the hospital’s Facebook page. “We are actively engaged and monitoring COVID-19 and will continue coordinating with post leadership, military and civilian health care agencies to mitigate the effects of this virus.”

St. Francis said it has isolated the patient and is working with state health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fort Benning also announced a “family member” connected to the military post tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling overseas and returning to Georgia in early March. The patient has “self-quarantined” at home since March 12, officials said.

Military installations across Georgia have taken various steps to limit the virus’ spread. The military is limiting access to Fort Benning and taking the temperatures of people arriving for training, asking them about travel abroad and potential exposure to infected people. Fort Benning has also established an area for people who require mandatory 14-day observation.

Making masks

Facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus, Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany has loaded templates for homemade face masks online so that donors can help the hospital group overcome a dire shortage of supplies.

The health system published the instructions after being flooded with offers to help with the supply shortfall.

Hospitals across the nation have struggled with a shortage of protective gear, complicating care of critically ill patients and putting hospital workers at greater risk. Gear such as gowns, gloves, eye shields and special N95 respirator masks are in short supply.

Phoebe Putney employees started sewing their own masks for hospital employees to cover their remaining N95s and extend the respirator masks’ life spans.

“While we can only provide materials to local volunteers, we are happy to share our mask-making instructions with volunteers and hospitals around the country,” Phoebe Director of Volunteer Services Suzanne Perrine said in a news release. “We will gladly accept masks from those who want to support Phoebe, and we encourage Americans to support hospitals in need in their communities as well.”

Mask-making instructions and a list of needed supplies are posted online.

With coronavirus concerns, not a lot of people were hitting the road on the nice day. Cars head northbound at the  I-85, I-75 split in Atlanta on Sunday morning March 22, 2020. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

12-year-old Emma in ‘stable’ condition

Relatives of a 12-year-old girl are still searching for answers to how she contracted COVID-19, which has left her fighting for life at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

The girl, named Emma, tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Her cousin, Justin Anthony, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via text message that Emma is in stable condition.

Anthony said the family is not aware of any underlying health condition. Just 1% of COVID-19 patients in Georgia are in the 0-17 age group, according to the state’s latest figures, though ages aren’t known for 3% of reported cases.

“They are currently running many tests,” Anthony said via text message.

Staggered moves

The state's public colleges and universities, which have suspended on-campus instruction and switched to digital learning for the remainder of the school year, have launched a process to allow students to gather their belongings from student housing.

John Fuchko III, vice chancellor for organizational effectiveness at the University System of Georgia, said each campus has developed a staggered process with input from the state Department of Public Health to maintain social distance. Students started receiving instructions, including appointment windows, last week.

Twenty-four of the system’s 26 colleges and universities, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, have on-campus housing. Institutions are making arrangements for international students and others with hardship cases to remain housed on campuses, Fuchko said.

Students, or a certified designee, can bring themselves and up to two other helpers, but have been asked not to report to campus if they are feeling ill.

If students cannot make their allotted windows, or they and their families are not comfortable returning to campuses, other accommodations can be made.

“We do have a tightly controlled process. But it is flexible,” Fuchko said.“Our schools are not going to do anything that puts students at risk or our employees at risk.”

Cities, stores shuffle 

Over the weekend, Chamblee and East Point became the latest metro Atlanta cities to ban in-person dining at restaurants and bars. The businesses are required to only offer takeout or delivery service.

Kroger announced Sunday it was creating special shopping hours at its Georgia stores for higher risk customers, blocking off 7 to 8 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays for seniors over 60 and other vulnerable populations. Publix will open for shoppers 65 and older Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 to 8 a.m. starting Tuesday.

Goodwill of North Georgia joined the growing list of retailers that are closing because of the virus, temporarily shutting down its more than 65 stores in the region starting Monday.

Staff writer Asia Simone Burns contributed to this report.


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