Covid-19 suspected in three weekend deaths in Dougherty County

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler 

ALBANY — The Dougherty County Coroner’s Office is investigating three weekend deaths that could be linked to the coronavirus.

Two of the victims were in their 40s and one in their 70s, Coroner Michael Fowler said on Tuesday.

“There’s a great possibility” the three died of COVID-19, he said. “With all three, it’s a great possibility. All the medical symptoms are pointing to this.”

The three bodies have been sent for autopsy and will be tested for the virus. So far the only confirmed death linked to the area is a person who attended a funeral and later died in Atlanta.

“What we’re doing now, we’ve got to check out everything,” Fowler said. “We’re waiting on tests.”

During a Tuesday-morning news conference, health officials said that a cluster of cases in Dougherty County — where transmission occurred at two funeral services held at two local churches and involved a single funeral home — is one of the most significant in the state.

Because of that, officials are now making recommendations to limit potential spread during funeral services.

Medical personnel expect the number of confirmed cases to grow in coming days as test results are returned for some 177 people who have been tested by area health providers.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital took test samples from 78 of those patients on Monday at a drive-through location.

Following the news conference, Fowler handed out a release from the Southwest Public Health District that encourages residents to follow social-distancing practices during funeral and memorial services.

“If we participate in a gathering, we still want to do everything we can to keep the odds in our favor, like avoiding close contact, still trying to keep 6 feet between people, washing hands frequently,” District Health Director Charles Ruis said.

People who are coughing or sneezing should not attend, he said, noting that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets.

“At Public Health, we hope that families who have a loss can mourn in creative ways that will result in less transmission,” Ruis said.

Fowler said one precaution funeral homes can take is limiting services to graveside services for family members only and holding a memorial service at a later date. They also should post someone at the door with hand gel or sanitized wipes for hands during visitation, frequently clean door handles and other points of contact and discourage individuals who are sick from attending services.

“Also, if they’re going to have multiple services, funeral homes need to disinfect the car in between use for each family,” he said.

Other suggestions include a live video screening for family members and friends who cannot travel to the site or are sick and to minimize the number of people gathered.

The Albany Police Department announced on Monday that one of its officers responded on Sunday to a South Van Buren Street residence where a 43-year-old woman, one of the three deaths referenced by Fowler, died. Family members told police that the woman had an underlying health condition but had tested negative for influenza.

The police department announced on Monday that it will take measures to “reduce the amount of personal contact with citizens” during the pandemic.

“Calls for service that are not in-progress, non-violent or non-emergency will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if these calls can be handled via telephone,” the agency said in a news release.

“If these calls require a generated report, then the officer can take the information over the phone. Emergency calls for service or other calls for service which need the presence of an officer will have an officer respond to that call.”

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(2) comments

Missthang257

If police are being limited to only so much contact die to the Corona Virus why was it such a huge seatbelt check on 03/17/2020 on Magnolia Street. That was complete uncalled for because it was such a ready way to spread the virus. The police was all in motorist cars and faces. The police had gloves and hand sanitizer that most was not wearing or using. A lot of motorists didn't have either to protect them. They all sharing in pens and clip boards. That was a easy way to spread this disease to the police, drivers, and children. Yes, it is the law to wear seatbelts and a great thing to check for them but it's the wrong time. That was one of the worst decisions the city could've made at a time like this. This was a easy way to spread germs and disease. We know there are quotas to be made but right now isn't a good time to focus on that. It's time to be safe. They should've been handing out sanitizer if they just had to do something.

Missthang257

With all of this going on as far as the Corona Virus, it said that police will be litimed to only so much contact. Can someone tell me was it such a huge seat belt check on 03/17/2020 on Magnolia Street? They caught a few people but it was very scary with people being inside of your car because you can only account for yourself. If any of those officers were sick they could spread to the motorists and vice versa. That was putting so many in danger. Yes it is the law to wear your seatbelt but now isn't the time for all of that contact. If course they had gloves and sanitizer that they were not using or wearing, but not all motorist had any of that. Just a thought because that was very dangerous and too easy to see germs.

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