Coronavirus death toll rises to 40 in Georgia

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

The novel coronavirus has killed 40 people in Georgia as of noon Wednesday, doubling the state’s official death toll since Saturday night.

The fatalities are among a total of 1,247 confirmed COVID-19 cases spread over 96 of Georgia’s 159 counties, according to the state Department of Public Health. More than 6,000 diagnostic tests have been completed across the state, largely by commercial labs.

Most infections continue to be clustered around the Atlanta metro area, with a large number also occurring in the northwestern part of the state around Rome and further south in the Albany area. In all, nearly 400 people remain hospitalized from COVID-19 infection.

Albany is home to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, which has seen an influx of patients as supplies of protective gear and testing materials dwindle. The health system’s CEO, Scott Steiner, said Tuesday that the hospital’s ability to treat patients is “quickly reaching a critical mass.”

“COVID-19 is now a crisis in our region, and the required response will quickly exceed the resources of any one health system,” Steiner said in a statement.

Other hospitals in the state “have refused to accept” patients from Phoebe who have not contracted the virus, Steiner said, leaving the Albany facility to handle a large number of admissions with limited bed space.

“Winning the battle against this pandemic will require a coordinated and cooperative response,” Steiner said.

Congressional lawmakers are close to a nearly $2 trillion deal to help prop up businesses and families hit hard by the economic slowdown prompted by the spreading virus.

Cities like Atlanta and Savannah have issued stay-at-home orders to curb transmissions of the coronavirus. Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered a statewide ban on bars, restaurants and gatherings of 10 or more people unless it can be guaranteed people will stay six feet apart from each other.

The governor is scheduled to hold a virtual townhall at 8 p.m. Thursday with public health and emergency preparedness officials.

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