More face masks are coming to Statesboro and Bulloch County, after requests from local leaders hoping to slow the spread of COVID-19. The number of positive coronavirus cases reached 803 on Monday, up 52 since Friday, as Bulloch continued its surge of cases since June 1, when the total stood at 62.
Monday also marked the highest number of COVID patients hospitalized at East Georgia Regional Medical Center at one time — 25, with five on ventilators, said Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn. There have been 64 hospitalizations total since the pandemic began.
“Bulloch County commission Chairman Roy Thompson and Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar submitted a request to state operations for more face masks” last week, he said. The request was granted, with “delivery pending.”
Local volunteers handed out thousands of free face masks last week. Health experts say masks help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Bulloch County EMS transported two possible COVID-19 patients Saturday, one positive and four possibly positive patients Sunday, and two possibly positive patients Monday, totaling 64 possibly positive and 45 confirmed positive patients transported since the pandemic started, he said.
Mandatory face masks
In Statesboro and across the country on Monday, Walmart, Lowe’s, Verizon, Starbucks, CVS and Walgreens all began requiring customers to wear face masks inside their stores. Aldi will begin requiring masks next Monday, July 27.
Retailers have hesitated to make masks mandatory nationwide out of fear of angering some customers over what, even in a pandemic, has become a political issue.
It was difficult to enforce such rules, even in states that mandate face masks. However, the recent surge of new virus cases — particularly in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona — has left them with no choice, retail experts say.
“To be clear, we’re not asking our store employees to play the role of enforcer,” said Jon Roberts, the chief operating officer at CVS. “What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and heeding the call to wear a face covering.”
NY governor in Savannah
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Georgia on Monday, pledging to help the city of Savannah fight COVID-19 in a barely concealed rebuke to Georgia’s Republican leadership as virus cases continued to rise in the state.
Cuomo declined to directly criticize Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, but warmly praised Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, a native New Yorker who has been a scorching critic of Kemp in recent days.
Johnson was the pacesetter in a revolt by local Georgia officials against Kemp’s refusal to allow local governments to order people to wear masks. Kemp eventually sued Atlanta’s mayor and city council, asking a judge to order local officials to stop taking actions at variance with his own executive orders on coronavirus.
Cuomo delivered masks, test kits, gowns, face shields and hand sanitizer. He said he would help Savannah set up two new public testing sites aimed at lower-income people, and said he would share contact tracing expertise.
Kemp spokesperson Candace Broce declined to comment on Cuomo’s visit.
The number of people hospitalized because of the respiratory illness in Georgia continues to rise, reaching nearly 3,200 on Monday, a level that has tripled in the past month. The total number of cases in Georgia climbed past 145,000 on Monday, while the number of deaths rose to 3,176.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.