Southwest Georgia reaching “critical mass”
Lee County is a cautionary tale.
Located in southwest Georgia, Lee County already had amassed 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of Wednesday afternoon. A school bus driver, for example, tested positive there on Monday.
Lee County and Baldwin County could be considered comps. Both are mid-sized Georgia counties and located south of Interstate 20. Although similar in size, the number of COVID-19 cases in Lee County has dwarfed the number in Baldwin.
With 25 confirmed cases and a population of roughly 30,000, Lee County’s rate is the secondhighest in the state, trailing only next-door Dougherty County.
Each of Lee County’s COVID-19 cases is being handled by the nearby Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany. That hospital system recently has made national headlines for supply shortages and staff shortages. On Monday, the situation became more dire. According to a hospital memo obtained by the Lee County Ledger, doctors and nurses at Phoebe Putney were being ordered to work even if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19. Also, the hospital has dedicated one of its conference rooms for local sewing enthusiasts to make face masks. Also, according to Lee County Ledger Editor Lee Quinn, some Phoebe Putney nurses are now taking matters into their own hands and scouring the internet and purchasing their own masks and protective equipment.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Phoebe Putney Memorial had 31 inpatients who’d tested positive, 78 more inpatients “awaiting test results,” as well as 107 “positive patients at home.” The hospital CEO said on Tuesday that Phoebe Putney is “quickly reaching critical mass, adding that “the required response will quickly exceed the resources of any one health system.”
Lee and Baldwin have followed similar patterns, in terms of shutdowns and sheltering. Most Lee County businesses “began figuring out whether or not to close last week,” said Quinn. Also, Lee County’s curfew began earlier this week, as did Baldwin’s.
In this sense, Baldwin County had a “head start” over Lee County, in terms of shutting down before a surge in cases emerges.