Thursday evening, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton hosted at town hall meeting at LaGrange High School that was originally intended to inform citizens of on city projects, but due to the ongoing global health concerns over COVID-19, it became a briefing about the state of the corona virus in Troup County.
Officials from LaGrange, Troup County, and Troup County School System, were joined by representatives from the Department of Public Health and the WellStar West Georgia Medical Center to provide information on the disease.
Mayor Thornton acknowledged growing worries and tried to ease concerns advised that local leaders are working together and continually communicating with health officials to determine the best course of action to handle the ongoing health crisis.
“The City of LaGrange, as well as the other elected leadership and staff leadership in our community, are taking these issues seriously. We’re talking to each other. We’re sharing information. We’re looking to the experts in the field, the public health experts, and the medical experts, and are looking for direction from them. We’re also taking a lot of direction from the State,” said Thornton.
Thornton advised that local officials began discussing the issue weeks ago to try to prepare, but also not overreact. He noted that they plan to listen to advice from medical experts on how to move forward.
‘We are making sure that we’re making the right decisions and the right choices, but at the same time, not overreacting to sensational news, but getting the facts and understanding exactly what is going on and how we can best be prepared,” said Thornton.
As of Thursday evening, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID19 in Troup County, according to public health officials.
During the meeting, Troup County School System Assistant Superintendent Penny Johnson advised that the school system would meet on Friday to discuss Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s recommendation to close schools for two weeks. During an emergency called meeting on Friday, School Superintendent Brian Shumate ultimately recommended to follow the governor’s advice to close schools for two weeks, which was unanimously approved by the school board.
Mayor Thornton advised that city has implemented precautionary steps including declaring the city hall a “hand-shake-free zone.’ Employees who think they have been exposed to the virus or are showing flu-like symptoms are being asked to stay home, but the plan is to have city services continue.
Utilities are still being tended to, your trash is still going to be picked up, and police will still be available, said Thornton.
District 4 Public Health Director Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo was also on hand to answer questions and concerns about the corona virus. Dr. Obasanjo noted that Georgia recently saw it first death due to the corona virus, saying that vulnerable persons, like the 67-year-old victim, are exactly the type of persons that we are trying to protect from getting the virus. The victim didn’t have a history of travel, so it’s believed he acquired the virus from others within the community. His age combined with a history of other illnesses made him more vulnerable to the disease.
Obasanjo advised that for most people who contract COVID-19, they won’t need to be hospitalized or even show any symptoms. Many healthy adults who get the disease won’t even know they have it. Children also appear to be safe too. For a currently unknown reason, they seem to be immune to the effects, but they can still be carriers and infect their parents or worse, their grandparents.
At the time, Obasanjo noted that while there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Troup County, that doesn’t mean it isn’t here. The virus is almost assuredly in La-Grange, he said, we just don’t have any confirmed cases because many people are asymptomatic.
‘It is very safe to assume that we have it in the community,” said Obasanjo.
Obasanjo recommended social distancing until things improve, and in the meantime, aggressive hand sanitation, telling people to wash their hands regularly and use hand sanitizer.
‘Everybody at this point should be going around with hand sanitizer,’ he noted.
Obasanjo also recommended having a quarantine room in your home, preferably one with a bathroom.
If a person believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19, then should isolate themselves in the room away from the rest of their family for up to two weeks, if necessary. The same steps should also be taken for vulnerable persons. They should also isolate themselves to limit contact with others and have food brought to them.
WellStar West Georgia Medical Center Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Rod Duraski was also on hand to address rumors that the hospital had locked down and they have had confirmed cases. Dr. Rod Duraski explained that the hospital has not gone into lock down. They are still taking patients. The emergency room is still open. They have just limited access to the building to two entrances —the main entrance and the emergency room— and are performing health screenings at each door.
Access to WellStar ran nursing homes is also being limited to a single immediate family member, who will be asked about their recent travel history.
Currently, testing kits are limited, so most tests are being done on individuals who have the highest risk of death. Doctors will also test for other diseases first, like the flu, and if they test positive for the flu, they do not also test for corona virus, thinking it’s highly unlikely for a patient to have both diseases.
Duraski advised they have tested five individuals for COVID-19 within the last week. Four of the patients were cleared and the test results of the remaining patient had not come back as of Thursday. Thornton later encouraged citizens to not follow rumors and random claims from social media.
Dr. Obasanjo noted that the hospital is required by law to report confirmed cases of the disease and he would immediately notify officials to relay that information to the public.
Mayor Thornton urged the public to remain cautious about the corona virus. The disease is dangerous and it’s not a hoax, but people also need to remain calm and not panic.
‘This is a very serious issue. It is not the end of the world, but it is a very serious issue,’ said Thornton.
The author of this article can be reached via email at info@troupcountynews. net.
Tommy Murphy Staff Writer