ATLANTA – The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Georgia pushed past 1,000 Tuesday, with deaths rising to 38, as officials in southwest Georgia's largest city warned that they're out of intensive care space and Georgia's municipalities were urged to impose more restrictions.
The number of positive results surged to 1,097, with southwest Georgia's Dougherty County still reporting the highest per-capita numbers, according to the state Department of Public Health. Infections there rose to 90, a rate that's 10 times as high as Georgia statewide.
Nationally, as of Tuesday afternoon, at least 50,023 people across every state, plus Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories, have tested positive for the virus and at least 615 patients with the virus have died.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, no COVID-19 cases have been reported in Bulloch County, said Ted Wynn, Bulloch’s public safety director.
In Dougherty County, state officials and the Albany hospital are working to create more intensive care and general beds. Georgia lists 10 of its 38 deaths so far in the mostly rural and poor southwest part of the state.
Dr. Steven Kitchen, the chief medical officer at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital said during a televised briefing Tuesday that the hospital’s three ICUs are filled and that the hospital had improvised a fourth 10-bed unit for non-COVID-19 patients. He said that unit was full too, and that on Monday, doctors had to work to discharge patients from the ICU to make room for five patients whose conditions were worsening.
“We continue to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in our care,” Kitchen said. “We’re quickly approaching the point of maximum capacity. We need a relief valve.”
Officials hope that relief valve will be in a second hospital that the system owns across town. Kitchen said the hospital and state officials were working to create new ICU and general beds at its north campus. He said the state is supposed to send nurses to help staff it.
“Trying to find additional nurses at this point, that's precious commodity and a precious resource,” Kitchen said.
Georgia officials have already delivered 20 additional ventilators to Phoebe Putney, Kitchen said.
Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said officials have procured a quarantine facility in a local hotel and are trying to channel patients who have tested positive to the location, which is being secured by soldiers from the Georgia National Guard.
The virus causes only minor flu-like symptoms in most people, who recover in a matter of weeks. But it is highly contagious and can be deadly in some, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Severe cases are often only able to breathe with respirators, stressing the health care system's capacity to respond.
The Georgia Municipal Association advised all of the state's 538 cities to order curfews from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and close gyms, movie theaters and other businesses.
The association weighed in as new a new order by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp took affect that shuts down bars and nightclubs, prohibits public gatherings of more than 10 people and orders people most at risk of illness or might have been exposed to shelter at home.
Kemp has favored letting local governments decide whether to require stricter limitations. His statewide actions fall short of those issued in most other states, despite pressure from some lawmakers and health experts for tougher measures.
The state Department of Public Health on Tuesday called for volunteers with and without medical training. Medically-trained volunteers may be used to answer COVID-19 questions by phone or help at testing sites. Nonmedical volunteers may be used for administrative or other help.
The Georgia Department of Labor has said unemployment filings are much higher than normal, although weekly numbers won't be released until Thursday. But more than a dozen businesses have filed notices with the state in the last week that they're laying off a total of more than 1,200 employees.
Bulloch Academy extends closure date
According to an email sent to Bulloch Academy students and parents Monday, the school will remain closed through at least April 12.
· Online and consumable learning will continue through the closure.
· All scheduled athletic and school related activities are cancelled through April 12th.
· The CTP-5 test for 3rd-8th grade students is cancelled for this school year.
· Spring Break will be observed the week of April 6-10. No schoolwork that week.
City of Statesboro closes all offices
After closing Statesboro City Hall for a sanitizing scrub-down Monday and reopening for business Tuesday, Statesboro officials announced that they are closing almost all of the city government’s buildings to the public Wednesday, March 25, through April 7.
The one exception will be the front lobby of the Statesboro Police Department, said Layne Phillips, public information officer in the city manager’s office.
For now, officials are encouraging the public to conduct their business with the city by phone. The main City Hall number is (912) 764-5468, where staff members can connect callers to the desired department, Phillips said.
Georgia has a new hotline dedicated to answering questions and concerns regarding COVID-19. To learn more, call 1-844-442-2681.