A Rhea County physician said COVID-19 numbers in the rural county have jumped drastically due to an outbreak among migrant workers on a farm. The numbers went from 13 to 188.
Dr. Craig Swafford said on the Facebook page of Rhea Herald News that the workers have been isolated.
He also said a physician at Life Care Center in Rhea County had come down with the virus.
Earlier, Rhea County Executive George Thacker advised citizens to expect a spike in numbers from 13 to around 180.
Dr. Swafford said, "Just some facts to help with some of the fear that people are experiencing. Yes there is a significant jump in the numbers in Rhea County. A large number of migrant workers have tested positive for the virus. We have communicated as the local hospital and the county government with this particular farm and have been assured that these folks have been isolated and will remain so.
"We are working to try and make sure that they have everything they need and will not be exposing other folks in our community. There has been at least one confirmed case at Lazyboy and that person is recovering after spending two days in ICU and appears much better. Contact tracing has been done within the factory and additional testing has been recommended steps have been taken to clean the workspace and minimize any additional exposure there and additional testing has been offered.
"Anyone at high risk of exposure will not be allowed to work for at least 14 days and your local health care professionals have recommended those people have a negative test before they are allowed to return to work.
"There has been one confirmed case in a physician working at Life Care Center in Rhea County. This physician was wearing personal protective equipment. Anyone that was exposed to the physician has been identified and additional testing has been recommended for residents and employees that came in contact with the physician. The physician is now quarantined and will not return to work for an extended period of time. It has also been recommended by local physicians that the physician be tested and have a negative test before they are allowed to resume their duties.
"It has been the experience of the medical staff at Rhea Medical Center that some people that have been infected have taken over three weeks to post a negative test afterwards. This means that they are potentially contagious for longer than CDC guidelines or Tennessee Department of health recommends. Therefore, your local physicians and hospital recommends repeat testing for everyone that test positive before they resume contact with the general population. These recommendations made by your local healthcare providers hospital and county government cannot be enforced as law so there will be a lot of individual responsibility that has to take place.
"The Tennessee Department of health views contact tracing and enforcement of quarantine as their sole responsibility and will not allow local officials to participate unless we were directly involved with your diagnosis or treatment. Therefore, I recommend testing at our local hospital or your local physicians office instead of the department of health that way your local officials can have insight to the number of people affected. We can help ensure your access to repeat testing for safe resumption of work and contact with the general population and any medical needs during your convalescence.
"While this is a potentially serious disease and obviously is highly contagious it does not pose a significant risk of death to most of those who contract it. In fact, it appears that the majority are asymptomatic. That does not mean that we should take it lightly. Steps like social isolation for high risk folks and social distancing and wearing a mask for everyone else can have some small impact but a much more important step is a liberal testing model that identifies people early and a successful quarantine to isolate them that have the disease from those that don’t and ensuring that they are safe to return to society.
"Everyone please continue to live your lives be thoughtful and respectful of your neighbors. Observe the data and try to stick to the facts your local healthcare providers are there to answer your questions and treat you if necessary. Now is not the time for panic but rational thought and recommendations."