ALBANY — While Albany, Dougherty County and other area officials have thus far ignored the public clamor for a list of local coronavirus victims, one Albany official is asking that, in the absence of such a list, the public be alerted to the location of COVID-19 sufferers.
Ward III Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher said Wednesday she thinks a list of locations where the virus has been prevalent would be beneficial as the community tries to stop the spread of coronavirus in a region that has been designated a “hot spot” for the virus by health officials.
“I think everyone understands the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) laws; we know health officials are limited in what information they can release about individual victims,” Fletcher said. “But it would benefit us in many ways to know if there are specific locations where the virus has been widespread. First, and foremost, people would know that it would be dangerous to visit certain areas without taking precautions.
“But it also would alert local law enforcement officials to the possibility that people in that area are not adhering to the shelter-in-place order that the entire state is under. I think it also would alert certain elected officials that there is a need to reach out to their constituents and encourage them to be more cautious. I know if I found out there is an area in Ward III where a large number of cases have originated, I’d do everything I could to make sure citizens in that area are sheltering in place.”
Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Scott Steiner said Wednesday the hospital is working to move into its “next phase” of data collection.
“All I can say at this time is that we are looking more closely at our data and sharing it with the Department of Community Health,” Steiner said. “As we explore the data, there is the possibility that we may find trends (that are helpful in pinpointing localized virus hot spots).”
Fletcher said she hopes additional data will help the community at large to understand the importance of following state and national guidelines to help slow — and eventually stop — the spread of the virus that has claimed 47 lives in Albany/Dougherty County.
“We know not to visit patients at Phoebe and at nursing homes,” the city commissioner said. “But it would be beneficial to know if there are other areas that put us at risk.”
Fletcher said such information would be even more beneficial with the Easter holiday coming up Sunday.
“I’m sure a lot of people are feeling kind of antsy right now, knowing how much they have been looking forward to a family day together,” she said. “But we have to remain vigilant. If we’re going to be out at a public place, we need to make sure we follow the guidelines that are in place. We all need to do everything we can to try and stop the spread of this virus.”