Will Davis

Monroe County has seen a surge in coronavirus cases but it’s not because you’ve been playing golf, eating inside at El Tejado or going to Ingles without your mask on.

No, it’s because nursing homes have emerged as the breeding ground for COVID-19. Monroe County went from about 30 cases last week to 100 cases as of Tuesday, May 19 largely due to the outbreak at Pruitt Health in Forsyth. Georgia is now posting daily updates of nursing home cases. About half of the deaths from COVID-19 are now from nursing homes.

We reported last week about the outbreak at PruittHealth in Forsyth. The facility now reports that 55 of 57 residents have the virus. Five residents there have died of it. That means 5 of Monroe County’s 7 total deaths came from the nursing home in Forsyth. 

Down at Bolingreen, they have just one resident out of 92 who’s tested positive. Two staff members have also had it.

Things are harder to figure at PruittHealth on Hwy. 42 near Blount. Last week we reported that the facility had not sent in results, according to the state website. That still appears to be the case.  However that report elicited this angry anonymous email to my inbox.

“The statement is disingenuous,” said the emailer known only as anon_31029@protonmail.com. “We report, daily, to the Georgia Dept of Health. There [are] *no* COVID-19 cases within the building. You, at our local newspaper, will restrain yourselves from spreading disinformation.”

Well I never want to spread disinformation, so I scoured the internet to clarify why the Blount facility is not listed on the website. I haven’t been able to confirm the good news. So I did what any good reporter would do. I called the nursing home and asked for confirmation.

“No comment,” she said, and hung up.

Look, I don’t blame our friends at the nursing home. They’ve been put in an incredibly difficult circumstance. Our senior citizens deserve our love and care and prayers so they are spared of the ravages of this disease. But this episode highlights how the lack of information has helped fuel panic. And the panic led our country into this ridiculous and harmful shutdown. If we had knowns this was largely a nursing home problem, it could have helped us develop a much more targeted approach rather than a destructive, 2-momth nationwide shutdown. Instead, some governors sent COVID patients back into nursing homes, allowing it to spread and kill even more of those most vulnerable.

And it’s not just the lack of facts from nursing homes that are impairing us. HIPPA laws barring information about patients also makes it very hard to figure out what’s happening.

For instance, we have heard from two sources that a Navicent ICU nurse who lives in Forsyth had no symptoms but apparently had the virus. It  spread to his family and his spouse has been in the hospital. Again, if the public could get facts about the virus and how it’s spreading, it would help us take better precautions. But our laws make that almost impossible.

Nevertheless, we do have a lot to celebrate. Georgia has done far better than the doomsday media predicted when Gov. Kemp began to open our state back up. Kudos to our Monroe County commissioners for going on the record early on to encourage him to do that. Thumbs up to our school board for moving ahead to hold graduation ceremonies in July, and for planning to open school on schedule on Aug. 3.

A mud pie on the city, though, for canceling its July 4 fireworks. The virus is virtually incommunicable outside and in the heat. But maybe the city has a point. Perhaps we should demand our liberty and independence back first before we celebrate it.