A look back over 12 months of sickness and, sadly, death

It has been exactly one year since the first positive COVID-19 case was announced in Grady County and only a few weeks later that the first death was reported. The first positive test result was discovered March 31, 2020 and reported in the April 1, 2020 issue of The Messenger, just days after local governing officials with the county and cities of Cairo and Whigham had declared a joint state of emergency connected to COVID-19.
As the graphic acccompanying this article shows, the number of cases and deaths increased steadily from then until July when the number of cases nearly doubled by August while the number of deaths remained steady at five.
After August, cases increased by about 200 per month until October while the number of deaths practically doubled each month.
By November, we had 875 cases and 25 people who had died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus as health officials pleaded with us to avoid travel and large gatherings at Thanksgiving.
Between December 2020 and February 2021, our cases and numbers of deaths would increase quickly before taking a nosedive the last two months of February and March.
The months with the most activity here were in August 2020 when we had an increase of cases by 244 and seven new deaths.
The opening of school for the 2020-2021 school year was delayed due to the viral activity in the community, and schools opened on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, with students having a choice of in-person or virtual learning.
During the month of September, we had 145 new cases and our second worse month for deaths with 11 new reported by state public health officials.
The months of October and November were cooling periods with only 61 and 43 new cases reported, respectively, and only two new deaths per month.
By December, a surge was taking hold with 205 new cases that month followed by 296 new cases in January. January was also our deadliest month in the last year with 12 new deaths reported from COVID-19.
When schools reopened after the Christmas holidays, in-person learning was required for most students, and the first few weeks saw hundreds of students on quarantine, 125 the first week, 452 the second week, 297 the third week, 180 the fourth week.
The number of school employees on quarantine was also high during that time period, 35 the first week, 29 the second, 24 the third and nine the fourth week.
The number of positive cases involving students and employees also reached a peak at that time. Reporting positive on Jan. 5, were 18 students and 18 employees; on Jan. 12, 23 students and 13 employees; on Jan. 19, eight students and eight employees; and on Jan. 26, 12 students and eight employees. After Jan. 19, the number of positive employees never reached double digits again and since Feb. 23 has remained at zero.
By Feb. 2, the number of students on quarantine dropped below 100 and with the exception of two weeks in February has remained below 100 ever since, reaching a low of two on quarantine last week.
The month of February saw a steep drop-off in cases and deaths in the community with only 63 new cases and three new deaths, the same numbers as reported April 2020, the first month the pandemic reached Grady County.
This past month has seen a continued decline with only 22 new cases and two new deaths reported, pushing us across the 1,500 case threshold and bringing our death total to 45 Grady County citizens.

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