Albany City Commission asks residents to continue sheltering in place as governor allows reopening of businesses

Bo Dorough

ALBANY — With the initial shelter-in-place order for Dougherty County set to expire in six days, local officials are looking at improvements for an extension of the order as coronavirus cases continue to grow.

With the deaths on Tuesday morning of two additional patients who tested positive for the virus, the total for Dougherty County grew to 30.

Of individuals tested by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, positive results have been returned for 647, with 1,079 negative results received. The hospital was waiting for test results on another 1,151 samples that have been taken.

The shelter-in-place order was one of the items discussed during a Tuesday conference call among the COVID-19 task force, Wendy Howell, Dougherty County’s public information officer, said.

“We’re going to be evaluating what’s going on in how the order is extended and altered,” Howell said. “I know they are looking at that in the next few days.”

Stricter enforcement is one element that is being examined. Law enforcement agencies in the county and city of Albany have been investigating residents’ reports of violations of the order.

Howell said she did not have figures available about the number of reports investigated. However, she said she is aware that the Albany Police Department, Dougherty County Police Department and Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office have all investigated some complaints.

The order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, including for funerals, church services and weddings, and requires businesses to have no more than 50 percent occupancy inside a store at any time. Shoppers also are supposed to maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from others inside stores.

Albany Mayor Bo Dorough said that he did not know the number of reports police officers have investigated. On most of the calls, he said, police find that the gathering involves less than 10 people.

“Maybe one or two citations have been issued,” he said. “When they order them to disperse, they disperse.

“They get complaints. Generally people have been co-operating and complying.”

The order requires residents to remain at home unless out for essential business, including commuting to and from work, purchasing food and medication or to care for someone who is sick.

Phoebe has opened a fourth intensive care unit devoted to only COVID-19 patients, the hospital announced on Tuesday.

“We continue to see a substantial number of patients presenting to our emergency centers with COVID-19 symptoms every day, and many of those patients are already critically ill,” Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Scott Steiner said. “We typically operate three ICUs at our main hospital. We now have five units, with four of those reserved for COVID-19 patients.

“Unfortunately, we have not reached the peak of this illness in southwest Georgia, and the need for critical care services in our area continues to grow.”

As of noon Tuesday Phoebe was treating 61 patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus and another 71 with symptoms were hospitalized while awaiting test results.

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