ALBANY — Dougherty County’s COVID-19 death toll grew by four in the previous 24 hours to a total of 54 as Covid-19 continues to ravage the region, with Lee County and Mitchell County also having deaths in the double-digits.
Lee County, which has had 15 deaths of residents who tested positive, and Mitchell County, which has had 10 deaths, are among the hardest-hit in the state, according to numbers released on Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Public Health. Statewide, 329, or 3.73 percent, of the 8,818 Georgia residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus have died.
The agency’s website listed 52 deaths for Dougherty County, but those numbers generally have lagged behind numbers reported by Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler, who reported the death total at 54 on Wednesday.
Terrell County had a total of nine deaths, according to state reporting, Sumter County had six and Colquitt County had five.
Terrell County Commission Chairman Wilbur T. Gamble Jr. said the number of deaths has slowed in recent days, which he hopes is a good sign.
One of the early deaths was of a resident who attended the Gethsemane Worship Center in Albany and attended a funeral that included a number of church members, which officials believe may have been a point of spreading the virus in the Albany area, Gamble said.
Gamble said he was somewhat frustrated that Terrell County’s Emergency Management director, also the elected coroner, has been instructed not to release the names of the deceased or the location where deaths occurred.
“Seventeen people died in Terrell County in March,” he said. “The usual number for March is one to three, four at the most. That tells me something.”
A nursing home in Dawson also has had a cluster of deaths.
“I’ve known some who definitely were from a nursing home who died,” he said. “I know some who were removed from the nursing home. I’ve never been told officially. In a small town, you know.”
However, Gamble said, knowing the locations of deaths could be information important for people to know.
“I know if I had someone at the nursing home and four or five people died there, I’d want to get my parents out, if I could,” the Terrell Commission chairman said.
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital has been at the front line in the fight against the coronavirus for weeks, and on Wednesday it reported that 1,505 patients have tested positive for the virus. There have been 2,247 negative test results, and 487 patients were waiting for test results to be returned.
Forty-five people have died at Phoebe in Albany and seven at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center. The number of deaths reported in Albany includes residents of other counties.
The numbers given by the coroner also include Dougherty County residents who died elsewhere.
On Wednesday there were 131 coronavirus-positive patients in Albany and 26 hospitalized in Americus.
A total of 540 patients have recovered, some of whom had been placed on respirators for an extended period.
“We’re pleased the number of recovered patients continues to grow rapidly, but we know we’re still in this fight for the long haul,” Phoebe Health System CEO Scott Steiner said. “Yesterday, we treated 45 likely COVID-19 patients in our main emergency center. That’s down from our highest single-day total of 73, but it is the third-highest total of any day since the COVID-19 crisis began.
“That tells us people in our community are still contracting the virus at a significant rate, and we must be prepared to continue to meet substantial COVID-19 health care demands for quite some time to come.”