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Health Dept. discusses COVID-19 as flu season continues

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Members of the Jones County Board of Health listened to information about COVID-19 testing as well as changes in permitting costs and vaccine requirements for high schoolers at their first quarterly meeting of 2020.

The first report at the March 4 meeting was from the North Central Health District Epidemiolgy representative Amber Erickson. She reported that testing at the Georgia Public Health Lab would begin March 5, which means the time it takes to get test results would improve from two or three days for the Centers for Disease Control to a day and a half.

She said the health district would continue to work with heathcare partners in updating county pandemic plans.

Erickson noted that it was still flu season, and people should continue to get their flu shots. She said the best place to get answers to health questions is local and district health departments.

The representative said COVID-19 is spread through droplets like the flu, but the virus can be killed on surfaces.

She reiterated the need to stress hand washing and self-isolating if symptomatic. Ericson said the rule of thumb for closings for flu is 10 percent infection.

Updated information about COVID-19 is available on the Georgia Department of Public Health website, dph., and the CDC website,

The only old business item on the meeting agenda was the clarification of a motion made by Board member Chris Weidner pertaining to soil reports. Weidner made the new motion: Soil reports are to be completed only if there are any additional drain lines that must be installed.

The motion was unanimously approved.


With no new business on the agenda, the first report was by Environmental Specialist Carly Coley. The first quarter report showed 19 food facility inspections and an increase in new septic permits.

Coley also presented the board with a proposal to revise fees for well water testing. She said the purpose of the change was to make the process simpler. The new prices show a reduction for in-house testing of water from an existing well. The cost for the testing of a non-public water supply both initial approval and annual fee changed from $280 to $150.

The specialist said the client would provide the health department with a separate check for $140 to the Extension Office for the actual testing.

The revised fee schedule was approved by Board of Health members but must be approved by the Jones County Board of Commissioners before being implemented.

Weidner, who is a member of the Board of Health due to his position as chairman of the Jones County Board of Commissioners, asked about options for testing wells in reference to concerns about Jones County wells in the area of Plant Scherer’s ash storage pond.

Coley said the facility was the largest coal-ash plant in the nation. She said the standard was for the ash ponds to be lined, but the ash pond in Juliette was not. The specialist said the health department did a health consultation in 2011 for chemical hazards because of a concern about radon.

She said the Altamaha River Keepers have recently said the water tested positive for hexavalent chromium, which is a manmade form of the element that is considered toxic. Hexavalent chromium is alleged to cause respiratory problems and lung cancer.

Coley said the health department has not been involved in the current situation at all.

Weidner asked if the health department could be involved if asked, and the specialist said the request would have to be approved by the state.

Coley said the maximum acceptable level of the element was set by the EPA.

Jones County Nurse Manager Sherry Bryant gave her report beginning with the numbers for the influenza vaccines given in the schools. She said Jones County was third in the district outnumbered by only Bibb and Houston counties.

She said the high number of flu shots was because of the good relationship between the health department and the schools. Bryant said scoliosis testing at the schools had also been completed.

Bryant said the number of patient visits had increased, and she was excited about starting primary care at the health department.

“We’re increasing services every year,” she said.

The nurse manager said one upcoming challenge for the next school year was the new requirement of a booster dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, also known as MCV4.

The vaccine protects against infections that can cause brain damage, arm and leg amputations, kidney damage and death. The new rule applies to students entering grades 11-12, and the change aligns with current recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Bryant added that she completed an eight-hour QPR Trainthe-Trainers event Feb. 25, which makes her qualified to teach QPR training sessions for the Jones County Suicide Prevention Coalition. QPR is an acronym for Question-Persuade-Refer that is a key element in the campaign to bring awareness to the high suicide rate in the county and hopefully help individuals in crisis.

The last report was from the Jones County Health Department financial report presented by Sylvia Woodford. She said revenues as of Feb. 29 was $412,139 and expenses $397,719. The cash in the bank was reported at $532,038.