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Internal hospital email shows patient with coronavirus started seeking treatment March 4 and symptoms didn’t require testing
Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton

A patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 had previously been to two Northeast Georgia Health System facilities for treatment, beginning March 4, and was discharged without COVID-19 testing, with the hospital noting the patient’s symptoms did not require testing, according to an email sent March 15 by Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS, and obtained by The Times.

The email was directed to system employees and obtained by The Times from multiple sources.

Hospital officials were unavailable Monday afternoon to comment about the email but additional information may be available later today.

The patient first visited Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton’s emergency department on March 4, and according to the email, symptoms at the time did not show a need for coronavirus testing, and the patient was discharged. Guidelines have focused in part on patient travel history. The patient then went to the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group urgent care location in Braselton on March 10, and according to the email, symptoms at the time again did not show a need for coronavirus testing. The patient was then discharged from the urgent care.

On March 12, the patient went to a primary care provider who is not employed by NGHS, and that provider ordered a COVID-19 test, according to the email. That test came back positive Sunday, March 15.

Tests in the state have been limited, with Gov. Brian Kemp stating Saturday during a press conference that the state can process 100 per day. He hopes to double that by the end of this week. Kemp also said local transmission was evident and he encouraged social distancing, which includes avoiding gatherings and keeping a safe distance of as many as 6 feet from others.

According to the email, NGHS leadership is contacting staff in departments and areas that were potentially exposed to the virus by the patient’s visits to NGHS facilities.

“More details are being shared with employees in those areas about what next steps they need to take,” Burrell wrote. “At this point, all employees who are asymptomatic are expected to report for all scheduled shifts as planned per CDC guidelines.”

NGMC Braselton is treating two patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. It was not clear whether that includes the patient who began seeking treatment March 4.