ALBANY — Dougherty County and Albany’s leaders are reminding residents to continue practices that helped significantly slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Even as restrictions have been lifted, officials want citizens in the community to continue wearing masks in public to help prevent transmission of the disease that was a factor in the deaths of nearly 140 residents in the county.

The Albany City Commission is expected to vote next week on a joint resolution passed on Monday by the Dougherty County Commission.

At a grocery store on Wednesday, “There were people coming in with no masks on,” Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard said during a phone interview. “They’re putting themselves in harm and they are putting others in harm.”

Howard’s Ward I that encompasses east Albany has been one of the hardest hit in the city, and he said he was acquainted with a number of those who have died.

Of the 137 coronavirus-positive Dougherty County residents who have died, 29 lived in the zip code that includes east Albany and 62 in south Albany, which has had the most deaths of any in the county. Of the 137 victims, 106 were black.

Elected officials consider social distancing measures put in place when the county was a national hot spot in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths as a major factor in getting control of the virus that causes the disease.

Now, they want residents to continue to “mask up” to prevent those who are infected from spreading the coronavirus to others.

Dougherty County commissioners unanimously approved the mask resolution during their Monday meeting. Governments cannot require that people wear masks, but the resolution encourages them to do so during the health crisis.

On Tuesday, Albany City Commission members also indicated their approval. Commissioners could not vote during their Tuesday work session, but gave the proposal overwhelming support during an unofficial “straw vote” held during the meeting.

The commission is scheduled to take a vote during a regular meeting on Tuesday.

“We know for a matter of fact the wearing of masks reduces the transmission of the virus and the receipt of the virus,” Dougherty Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said. “Our recommendations to wear masks are (tied) to what the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends and what we know will reduce the spread of the virus.”

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