Cohilas recommends regional coronavirus task forces to report to governor

Dougherty County officials, from left, County Commissioner Russell Gray, County Administrator Michael McCoy, Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas and Commissioners Anthony Jones and Clinton Johnson make a coronavirus public service announcement in March.

ALBANY — Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas has pitched the idea of regional coronavirus groups that would report to Gov. Brian Kemp.

Cohilas broached the topic during a Monday commission meeting conducted online.

“One of the recommendations I have made to the governor’s office directly — I have requested that the governor form regional task forces,” he said.

The rate of coronavirus cases varies greatly by county, with some southwest Georgia counties leading the state in the number of infections.

As of Monday, Dougherty County was fourth in the total number of cases at 1,474, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, behind Fulton, Dekalb and Gwinnett counties. But Dougherty had the most deaths at 108 by the state’s count. Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler reported on Monday a total of 110 deaths of COVID-positive county residents.

Sumter County had the 11th-highest number of cases, and Lee and Mitchell counties ranked 13th- and 14th-highest in the state.

In contrast, Montgomery and Truetlen counties had two confirmed cases apiece, and were among 20 of the state’s counties whose numbers were in the single digits.

Cohilas suggested that Kemp appoint members of the regional bodies who would report on conditions..

“The Dougherty County experience is very different than many other counties in the state,” Cohilis said. “In reality, Georgia is the 21st-largest state in the nation. We are a very diverse population.”

After seeing a spike in cases in the county, Dougherty leaders, along with city of Albany and other officials, enacted social distancing measures.

City officials, including Mayor Bo Dorough and Ward VI Commissioner Demetrius Young, have said it is too early to relax shelter-in-place orders here because the number of cases, while having slowed, still continues to climb.

On Friday, city commissioners unanimously passed a resolution encouraging residents to continue social distancing, which has been credited with reducing the number of new cases, by continuing to stay at home unless involved in a necessary activity, including work and shopping for food.

“I am very proud to say the coronavirus task force, city, county, department heads, law enforcement, medical staff from Phoebe and the Marine base have worked over many days to address the influx of the coronavirus within our community,” Cohilas said. “We are definitely flattening the curve.

“It has been very encouraging to see the trend over the last several days (and), more importantly, an overall reduction in the number of folks who have been admitted to Phoebe Putney with COVID-19.”

Health officials continue to stress the importance of maintaining social distancing.

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