2 coronavirus deaths bring Georgia’s statewide toll to 3

Published 4:48 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2020

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The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Coronavirus infections were blamed for two new deaths in southwest Georgia on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total death toll to three.

Officials at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany said in a news release that two patients had died from the new virus. The hospital is in Dougherty County, one of the hardest hit Georgia counties outside metro Atlanta.

“The entire Phoebe Family is saddened to learn of the first COVID-19 deaths in our area … ,” said Dr. Steven Kitchens, the Albany hospital’s chief medical officer. “Unfortunately, more deaths are likely to occur, and we will certainly see more positive cases as we receive more test results.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Georgia has 197 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported Wednesday. It’s latest numbers did not include the two new deaths. State officials reported Georgia’s first death from the virus last week.

Dougherty County officials said Tuesday they have evidence some infections are linked to two recent funerals. Dougherty County in southwest Georgia has reported seven confirmed infections, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s latest numbers Wednesday.

Christopher Cohilas, chairman of the Dougherty County Commission, urged residents to call their doctor or a local COVID-19 hotline if they were exposed to others showing symptoms during a pair of funerals tied to two churches and one funeral home.

“We know from speaking with these people, some of the folks who were at these funerals were infected with the virus,” Cohilas said.

He did not specify how many infections had been linked to the funerals.

A large outdoor music festival in Atlanta has been postponed until fall, joining Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Masters golf tournament and other large-scale events sidelined by concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers of the Shaky Knees Festival on Wednesday said the event featuring headliners the Black Keys, the Strokes and Smashing Pumpkins is now set for Oct. 16 to 18.

State prison officials said in a news release Wednesday that they’d been notified that an employee at one of the state’s 34 prisons had tested positive for the virus. They declined to release any additional information, citing security and privacy restrictions, but said the person last reported to work Thursday. The Department of Corrections said there were no known cases of the virus among the state’s prisoners.

Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday there’s a concern a sharp increase in infections could fill Georgia hospitals to capacity and leave them with supply shortages. He said the state is awaiting orders of large quantities of protective gear — including 10,000 gloves and 100,000 face masks — to equip medical professionals and first responders.