ALBANY — Even as the state’s COVID-19 cases continue to climb steadily, Dougherty County continued to see signs of recovery.
On Friday, the day Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place order was lifted, there were more than 1,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia, bringing the total to 27,023.
The same day, Phoebe Putney Health System received 24 positive test results out of a total of 227 tests throughout the system.
As of Friday, there were 124 confirmed deaths of Dougherty County residents who tested positive for the coronavirus, but the number of new patients has slowed significantly.
“We had a report from Phoebe — they released eight patients yesterday and only took in one new patient,” Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said during a Friday telephone interview. “I think what we’ve been seeing is what we’ve been predicting, (that) is more of the surrounding counties are going to see it increasing while we’ve been flattening.”
Now the danger is the potential of a “second wave” of cases, the chairman said.
As of Friday, Phoebe reported a total of 2,327 total positive cases over the two months it has been testing patients. During that time, there have been a total of 4,942 negative test results. On Friday there were 189 patients awaiting test results.
During the crisis, 82 patients have died at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany and 23 at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center. On Friday, there were 57 COVID-19 patients in Albany, 17 in Americus and one at Phoebe Worth Medical Center in Sylvester.
Phoebe’s numbers include patients who died at one of its facilities, while the Dougherty County numbers include patients who died at Phoebe, at a residence or hospice or at a hospital in another county.
At the peak, there were more than 160 Covid-19 patients hospitalized at Phoebe in Albany.
“This is a dynamic process,” Cohilas said. “We have weathered a tremendous storm on the front end. We have flattened the curve. This is vastly different than where we were two or three weeks ago.
“We know from the science community, the medical community, you can experience a second wave. We need to be really cautious.”
Dougherty and Albany governments have encouraged residents to continue to shelter in place for now, only going out for essential business, including work and to purchase food and medicine, and to wear a mask covering the face and nose while in public.
Cohilas said he understands the situation of businesses that are losing revenue and individuals who are not working.
“It has a profound mental health impact on people,” he said. “There are people who could lose businesses, people wondering how they will feed their family. What we do know is social distancing works, good hygiene works, not coughing on people. We are in a difficult (situation).”
As businesses re-open, there will be additional challenges, officials said.
Kemp allowed some businesses, including bowling alleys, hair and nail salons, and tattoo parlors to re-open on April 24, and on April 27 restaurants were allowed to re-open for dine-in customers as were theaters.
Businesses must meet a list of criteria in order to re-open, some of which may be a challenge with the shortage of personal protection equipment, Albany Mayor Bo Dorough said.
“I’m getting calls from people saying they can’t find masks, they can’t find thermometers,” he said.