July coronavirus spike in Dougherty County shows the disease remains a threat

Dr. Steven Kitchen, chief medical officer at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, says a recent COVID-19 surge shows the disease remains “devastating and deadly.”

ALBANY — With a resurgence in COVID-19 cases hitting locally and around the country, there is no doubt the disease is going to remain for some time to come.

While the number of patients hospitalized locally represents a significant increase compared to a few weeks ago, the impact is nowhere near as great as was the case during the spring, Dr. Steven Kitchen, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s chief medical officer, said during a Friday news conference.

On Friday, 68 patients were hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 in Albany at Phoebe and nine at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus.

During June, after the “flattening of the curve” produced a dramatic drop in new cases, the number of patients hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 had declined to the low 30s.

Dougherty County’s increase mirrors what is going on around the state and country, the physician said.

“We’ve seen it in surrounding locations — Tift County, Colquitt County, Lowndes County,” Kitchen said. “We have seen those numbers steadily increase over the last several weeks.”

One reason the disease has been able to maintain its presence and spread is that a person who is infected usually shows no symptoms for three to five days but can still transmit it to others during that time, Kitchen said.

New treatments and therapies are being tested, he added, and companies are developing a number of vaccines, some of which show promise. However, it will take some time before a potential vaccine or vaccines can be proven safe and effective for use.

“There is simply no silver bullet at this time,” Kitchen said. “I think we need to accept this virus will be around for a while.”

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