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Leaders discuss current COVID-19 climate

Medical professionals in Troup County remain cautiously optimistic about the future of Troup County as local municipalities begin to reopen their economies.

The city of LaGrange hosted a roundtable discussion Thursday morning to inform the public about the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic in Troup County.

Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo, Georgia Department of Public Health District 4 director, said new cases are increasing, and as the economy begins to open, residents need to take personal responsibility for their health by wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing proper hygiene.

Additionally, Obasanjo said individuals who are exercising regularly and maintain an anti-inflammatory diet are more likely to have mild side effects of the COVID-19 if infected.

“Taking personal responsibility to avoid getting sick by going out and exercise but also being careful,” he said. “Also, improve what we eat and avoid foods that cause inflammation, (such as) animal fats, processed seed oils and then exercise.”

He said that mental health is important, too. He mentioned it had been reported that a third of Americans are showing signs of depression, which correlations with the number of unemployed people.

“It is very important, as we have to open up, to continue to be responsible and take actions that will prevent the spread and reduce the opportunity or probability of getting sick if you do get infected,” Obasanjo said.

Obasanjo said he does expect an uptick in cases due to the Memorial Day weekend and the number of people out. However, he said if people who continued to physically take care of themselves, most of those cases would be mild. He said as long as those people continue to avoid the vulnerable population and do the proper things, the outcome will remain positive.

As of Wednesday evening, Obasanjo said Troup County had 267 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths. He said although those numbers show an uptick, there hasn’t been an increase in the number of emergency room visits.

“What that shows me is that a lot of asymptomatic people are getting tested,” he said. “We are catching it, and we are explaining to people how to stay healthy.”

The hospitals

Coleman Foss, president of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center, said the hospital is still seeing COVID-19 patients, and generally, it’s between 10 to 15 at any time. He said the number does fluctuate, and the hospital isn’t seeing large spikes in cases, but the number of patients isn’t decreasing either.

Foss said the hospital has returned to doing elective procedures and surgeries but hasn’t opened the doors to the medical facility completely. He said visitors are being allowed in on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re not back to normal, but we’re in a whole much better situation than we were previously,” Foss said. “We are seeing some very positive movements.”

Foss said the hospital is also prepared for a possible second wave in the fall or winter. He said the hospital was prepared to see up to 200 COVID-19 patients at one time if needed.

“We feel very good about our ability,” he said.

However, Foss mentioned the hospital noticed that several patients who were experiencing medical concerns not related to COVID-19 delayed coming to the emergency room due to fear of the virus. He said the hospital is fully capable of treating patients for all problems while protecting them from getting infected with COVID-19.

“We have the ability to take care of you and protect from the spread of the virus,” Foss said.

Local

governments

Also participating in the roundtable discussion Thursday were the mayors of LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point. Troup County Board of Commission Chairman Patrick Crews also participated.

West Point Mayor Steve Tramell said things are getting back to business in West Point. He said all the restaurants in the city are open for dine-in again, and West Point City Hall and police department will be open on June 15.

The city council hosted its first in-person city council meeting in months Tuesday at The Depot. Tramell said the city would also start taking bookings for the venue in July.

“We are trying to be cautious and doing the things we are supposed to do,” he said. “Other than a few isolated incidents, we are doing well.”

Troup County Chairman Patrick Crews said the Troup County Government Center is now open full-time, although people are being screened at the door for their temperature. He said the county moved its early voting room to a larger space and has implemented social distancing measures for safety.

Crews said the courthouse had seen a good turnout for voting so far, and he expects those trends will continue. Early voting ends June 5, and the election is June 9.

In Hogansville, Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said city hall is opening on a limited basis, allowing one person at a time in its lobby. He said some restaurants are opening with servers wearing masks and following social distancing.

Stankiewicz said the city would introduce four new businesses to downtown that have opened or will open in the next week.

“That’s a positive sign,” he said. “I think we have shifted from a top-down driven situation to now everybody needs to take personal responsibility for their own health and welfare.”

In LaGrange, the city council has also started to meet in person, hosting meetings at the Del’avant Event Center in downtown LaGrange. Mayor Jim Thornton said the venue is bigger and allows for social distancing and also allows residents to attend the meetings and make comments.

“We’re learning, and we’re continuing to adapt as we can to try to get things going again, but at the same time, to be safe (and) to be smart, and take the virus seriously because we know the virus is still with us, and we know it’s going to be with us for a while,” Thornton said.