Leaders remind residents to remain vigilant as Dougherty County remains a Covid-19 hotspot

Dr. James Black, head of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital emergency services, speaks at a Saturday news conference.

ALBANY — The number of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus has grown to 83 as the hospital awaits the result of nearly 600 additional tests.

“We have hundreds of people who have been tested, but only 144 results,” Bo Dorough said during a Saturday news conference held to give a community update.

Dorough also said a rumor that 90 percent of test results are positive is not true.

“A little over 50 percent of people being tested are testing positive,” he said.”

On Friday, Dorough and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas signed a shelter-in-place order asking that people remain at home unless it is a necessary trip.

The order allows residents to go to work and out for such excursions as shopping for food and medicine and medical appointments.

Officials said no additional deaths were reported in Dougherty County due to COVID-19 and stood at five, although a news release from Phoebe Putney memorial Hospital Saturday said there was one additional death. Deaths also have been reported of one resident from Early County and one from Terrell County, bringing the total in the 14-county Southwest Public Health District to seven of the 13 reported in the state as of Friday.

Dougherty County has one of the highest per-capita rates of infections and deaths in the state, and the number of cases is expected to climb dramatically as fresh results of tests come in.

Officials also have prohibited dining in at restaurants, which are still serving customers through takeout, curbside service and delivery, and asked retail stores to limit occupancy and have patrons maintain at least a 6-foot distance from each other as they shop.

The measures are meant to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

To protect medical personnel and other patients, officials are asking people with coronavirus symptoms to call Phoebe’s COVID-19 hotline at (229) 312-1919. If a caller needs to have a testing sample taken, operators there can give additional information.

The county’s emergency operations center is now being staffed daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and is a way for residents to call for information rather than calling 911.

“It’s also a resource in directing you to other resources,” Albany Fire Department Chief Cedric Scott said. “Do not call 911 for COVID-19 questions or where you can be tested. We don’t want to overwhelm the 911 system. We can answer those questions without calling 911.

A separate hotline for testing for health care personnel, first responders and portions of the population considered more at-risk will open at 1 p.m. Sunday.

In addition, a team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health has been allocated to help track the disease in Dougherty County and help stem the rate of transmission.

“(Residents) need to stay at home,” Cohilas said. “We’re trying to arrest the growth of this virus in our community so we do not overwhelm our resources. Right now our objective is to keep the spread of the virus down as much as possible.”

Dr. Charles Ruis, director of the the district health office, said that as measures have been put in place across the country to slow the spread of the pandemic, the rate of death from COVID-19 has declined.

The most recent numbers indicate a death rate of 1.3 percent, down from 3.8 percent a week or 10 days ago, he said.

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