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Virus hits home days after state of emergency is declared here

Days after Grady County joined the cities of Cairo and Whigham in a joint declaration of a state of emergency regarding COVID-19, the county learned it has its first positive case of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Local governing bodies agreed to the action during special called meetings held Friday and Saturday.
Then, on Tuesday it was announced by local and state health officials that Grady County had received its first positive test result.
“People need to take seriously the social distancing, cough and sneeze hygiene, and wash your hands, wash your hands and wash your hands,” says Michelle Thornton, director of the Grady County Health Department. “No congregating of 10 or more and even if it’s under that, stay six feet apart, at least.”
There is a lag in time between having the tests conducted and getting the results. Thornton says it has taken up to 14 days before some test results are known. She says there have been some negative results in the county, but could not confirm a number.
There was confusion Tuesday night over whether there was one or two Grady County residents testing positive. Officials with the Southwest Georgia Health District stated Tuesday there were two positive cases in Grady County, but the state Department of Public Health listed only one Grady County resident as testing positive.
Richard Phillips, director of the Grady County Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday night that Grady County Health Department officials told him there was only one Grady County resident who had tested positive for COVID-19. Attempts by The Messenger to clear up the information were unsuccessful Tuesday night.
Archbold Medical Center confirmed Tuesday there is one patient being treated at Grady General Hospital for coronavirus. Archbold operates the local hospital.
By placing the county under a state of emergency, local government leaders say they hope to curb the spread of the virus in Grady County. The declaration went into effect on Saturday, March 28 at 6 a.m., and will remain in effect until Monday, April 13 at 8 a.m. unless extended.
County Commission Chairman Keith Moye said Friday, “We must all come to realize there is no current cure or immediate medical weapon to stop the spread of this virus . . . As representatives of Grady County and its citizens, it falls upon us to make tough, thought out decisions that will likely impact the finances of our local businesses and citizens. These decisions force us to weigh the personal safety of all against the financial stability of many.”
Under the declaration, residents are required to shelter in place from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. except to perform essential activities, perform work at an essential business or obtain healthcare services.
Any person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been tested for the virus and is awaiting results is ordered to remain in his or her place of residence except to travel to and from healthcare providers.
While grocery stores may remain open, they are not to exceed 50 percent occupancy at any time, and shoppers are to stay six feet away from others.
All churches are required to cancel in-person services under the declaration, while gyms, dance studios, and hair and nail salons are to temporarily close. Restaurants may provide drive through, curbside pickup or delivery services only. Funerals held indoors must limit attendance to less than 10, and social distancing must be observed. Although outdoor parks and recreational facilities are remaining open, gatherings must be limited to less than 10, and social distancing is required.
During Friday’s called meeting of the Cairo City Council, Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Cox said, “Though I was cautious of such actions to begin with, after hearing from the experts, local and statewide, I now believe this is necessary to stress to everyone in Grady County the seriousness of the situation and to focus everyone as to what it will take to defeat this virus. This will show our support to the health care workers on the front lines and will give support to those in charge of enforcing the directives.”
Whigham City Council met Saturday, and unanimously adopted the joint declaration, according to city officials there.
Two days after the local state of emergency went into effect, Archbold reported its first two deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, and a third death was reported there Tuesday.
“We are saddened by the first deaths at Archbold from COVID-19, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these patients. Like other hospital systems across the country, the number of patients we are testing and caring for is rising,” states Archbold officials.
Archbold reports it has 22 positive patients at its Thomasville hospital, with eight other patients awaiting test results there. Although they report one patient at Mitchell County Hospital is positive and one more there is awaiting results, their nursing home in Pelham, Pelham Parkway Nursing Home, has a total of 21 residents who have tested positive, and five other residents who are awaiting test results. Gov. Brian Kemp is sending members of the Georgia National Guard to help at the facility.

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