Although health officials say at least five Grady countians have been tested for COVID-19, there are no confirmed cases here as of Tuesday night and most local businesses are operating as usual while remaining flexible in their future plans.
Federal health leaders urge people to avoid gatherings of 10 or more, to utilize restaurant drive-thru windows and continue proper hand washing. Most local doctors are allowing patients to reschedule routine appointments and Grady General Hospital is limiting visitors to one per patient.
“Hurricane Michael and tornadoes have taught us to be rather resilient, but we can’t be complacent with this,” urges Dr. Mark Hudson of Quail Ridge Family Practice in Cairo.
Dr. Hudson says the coronavirus is highly contagious and dangerous mainly for those with compromised immune systems. “So, you’d have that slow onset of body aches, fevers, chills. If you’re healthy, well hydrated, well fed, your body’s immune system is going to start to kick in and in three to four days, you’ll start to get over it.”
Because coronavirus poses such a risk to the elderly, one local assisted living facility has locked its doors to protect its residents. Magnolia Place Senior Living is allowing family visits via video chat only.
“We are screening residents two times a day for symptoms and fever. We are screening employees before they begin their shifts,” says Brande Strickland, director. “Our doors are locked and one has to call for admittance if permitted. We are practicing ‘social distancing’ within the house between the residents and employees. We are cleaning and disinfecting 24/7.”
Dr. Hudson says, so far, five possibly seven people in Grady County have been tested for the virus, but results were unknown Tuesday.
Dr. Zita Magloire, C.E.O. of Cairo Medical Care, says like others in the medical community they are following guidelines.
“Patients with cough, fever or shortness of breath are being screened by staff on the phone and will be evaluated in their vehicles. Those who also have had a potential COVID-19 exposure or who have traveled to a high-risk area as per the C.D.C. will be directed to where they can be tested for COVID-19,” says Dr. Magloire.
Patients with a physician referral may be screened at an Archbold location in Thomasville. The hospital has opened a site in the former One Blood building at 2705-D East Pinetree Blvd. They are also working to establish a drive-thru screening location in Thomasville.
At Wellness Life Center in Cairo, some patients may make “tele-visits” with the providers there. “So, patients are able to call, be placed on the schedule, and then seen by the provider in secure video chat through Healow App on their mobile devices. This protects many of the vulnerable from having to come in for chronic care issues and be exposed,” says Dr. Kendra Lynch.
Local pharmacies are keeping their businesses open. Shanda Pyrz with Center Drugs says, “We remain open as usual. We are encouraging anyone with fever or coughing to use our drive-thru. We are being extra-vigilant with cleaning inside of the store.”
Jeff Cox of Cox Pharmacy says, “We are open our regular hours. If we change anything it could be to go to drive-thru only, but right now it’s business as usual.”
Shopping at Miss Myrts for baking and event celebration supplies and home decor is going on as usual, although use of hand sanitizer is available for customers. “We were really busy at the beginning of the week,” says Debbi Miller, owner.
Service at local eateries continues, although some are modifying the way they interact with customers.
Mr. Chick is open for drive-thru service and call-in orders. Their dining room is closed out of an abundance of caution to protect their customers and employees, according to managers.
Maryland’s remains open, but is serving dine-in meals in take-out trays, according to Jeremiah Horne, owner. “We have also increased sanitizing measures in the dining room and throughout the kitchen. Cashiers will be wearing gloves along with other crew members,” Horne says.
Both auto dealerships remain open regular hours for now.
“We are full staff and are here to serve,” says Sam Carnline, owner of Stallings Motors. “No operational changes at this time.”
Austin Hobson of Hobson Chevrolet Buick says, “We are open regular hours for now. We will monitor the situation as new information is released.”
All local banks are also currently open regular hours while planning for potential modifications. First National Bank is the only bank to restrict its lobby access. The lobby is open by appointment only, while the drive-thru remains open.
At Capital City Bank, Charles Davis says there are no changes in the hours and operation in Cairo, but, “the situation is being constantly monitored.”
United National Bank’s Jane Trulock says, “we are working closely with our customers. Now, we are open regular hours, but that could change.”
At Southern Insurance, customers seem to prefer making payments by mail or online, according to Chuck Thomas. “Our walk-in business is way down.” The company remains open regular hours.
Local youth dancers at Off Broadstreet Centre for the Dance Arts will continue preparing for their big spring productions. Studio owner Dana Willis says rehearsal time will give her young students some normalcy and a chance to blow off some pent up energy. Willis says she is tentatively scheduling small group rehearsals, but participation is up to the discretion of each parent.
“Our goal is to stay on schedule with choreography while offering our dancers a safe environment and a little ‘business as usual’,” states Willis.
At Roddenbery Memorial Library, the doors are closed, and meeting room use is canceled until April 1. However, the library will offer curbside service for checkouts and photocopies for those who call ahead, 229-377-3632. Overdue fines are waived during this time. Free WiFi remains available outside the library building around the clock, and that does not require a library card.
Although local governments are restricting access to their offices, all remain in operation. The cities of Cairo and Whigham and the Grady County Courthouse have all closed their offices to outside traffic. Citizens are asked to call for information.
The Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce has adopted a similar routine. Trey Gainous, executive director, says “We are here and using social media to promote our members and answering phones and questions. This will continue until March 30, 2020. After that, it should be business as usual.”
Dr. Hudson says with all of this disruption, he hopes people will approach healthcare with more vigilance. He urges seniors and parents of young children to keep up their immunizations to protect them from other viruses.