CAIRO — The Southwest Georgia Public Health District says the number of cases of COVID-19 in Grady County has now topped 400.

At least 402 cases of the virus have been identified in Grady County as of Thursday afternoon, marking an increase of 40 new cases in the past seven days.

Three individuals were hospitalized with the virus at Grady General Hospital this week, according to Archbold Medical Center.

The national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the state Department of Public Health are now instructing employers to discontinue requirements for employees to test negative twice within a 24-hour period “except in the event of severely compromised immune systems” before returning to work, according to a DPH press release.

“The reason is that almost no one with COVID will remain contagious when 10 days have passed since onset of symptoms or since the date of the patient’s first positive test result,” said Dr. Charles Ruis, District Health Director for Southwest Public Health District 8-2. “In addition, it often takes three months for the test result to revert to normal, and that could create a financial and health hardship on them.”

New guidelines state that employees who are believed to have the virus should show improvement of their symptoms, be fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of fever-lowering medicines, and be 10 days past the initial onset of symptoms or first positive test before returning to work.

Obtaining rapid test results is a challenge due to the limited capacity of commercial laboratories, Ruis said. Unnecessary repeat testing wastes limited supplies and human resources required for specimen collection, the press release states.

Additionally, the CDC has reported cases of prolonged positive test results without evidence of the ability to pass the virus on to others, the press release states. In one study, individuals who had tested positive for the virus continued to test positive 12 weeks later.

COVID-19 testing will be conducted at the Grady County Health Department every Tuesday and Friday this month from 8 a.m.-noon. Testing will also be done on Sunday, August 9, from 8-11 a.m. Appointments are encouraged.

Appointments can be made by calling (229) 352-6567 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays or between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays. Patients can visit covid19.dph.ga.gov and select “Take the Screening Questionnaire” to begin the application process.

Visit southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org to see the full testing schedule for all southwest Georgia counties.

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