ALBANY — The mayor of Georgia’s biggest coronavirus hotspot is not on board with Gov. Brian Kemp’s plans to reopen some businesses later this week.
Albany mayor Bo Dorough appeared on CNN and called Kemp’s order to reopen the ‘wrong decision,’ and said he would be imploring the governor’s office to make an exception to the order for Albany and the rest of Dougherty County.
The saga of COVID-19’s rapid spread through Albany begins with two highly attended funerals where attendees who were not showing symptoms and did not know they had coronavirus spread the virus to the other attendees at the funerals. That was in March.
Albany is the county seat of Dougherty County, so when you read about Dougherty County this is related to the outbreak in the city of Albany. Currently, Dougherty County has 1,436 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 98 deaths. That is more deaths than any other county in Georgia.
The picture for Dougherty County is more bleak when you consider the concentration of COVID-19 cases. This is done by looking at the number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, Dougherty’s concentration of coronavirus cases is 1,537 cases per 100,000 people. That puts Dougherty County right up with New York City in terms of how concentrated the virus is and how quickly it is spreading. New York City has an infection rate of 1,620 confirmed cases per 100,000 people.
Back to Dorough’s response to Kemp’s order. Dorough cited several reasons he believes Kemp is wrong to reopen the state. Dorough said he believes the process of reopening the economy should be guided by benchmarks and not dates, he said reopening should be gradual and controlled and he expressed concerns about how barbers and beauty shops, which rely on close contact could properly socially distance.
In addition, Dorough is concerned that reopening will wipe away the success at flattening the curve that Georgia has already seen. “I believe that the deceleration of infection is attributable to the shelter in place order that the governor entered earlier this month,” Dorough said.
Another big concern of the mayor’s is local control.
Kemp’s order doesn’t just allow beauty salons, tattoo parlors, restaurants and bowling alleys to reopen, it prohibits local cities and counties from taking any action that strengthens or weakens that order.
“As an elected official, I’m concerned that the governor has prohibited us from implementing measures that might be appropriate for our locale,” the mayor said.
When announcing his decision to reopen sectors of Georgia’s economy, Kemp cited declining emergency room visits, a flattening of COVID-19 cases and reduced strain on Georgia’s hospitals.
Dorough says that isn’t what he’s seeing in Albany.
According to Dorough, Albany’s medical ICU, Cardiac ICU and surgical ICUs are all filled with COVID-19 patients.
“We remain at capacity, our hospital has been under stress,” Dorough said. “The fact that there are beds available throughout the state is somewhat misleading.”
As of 7 p.m. Monday, 3,702 people had been hospitalized for coronavirus statewide. The chances of needing to be hospitalized if you get infected by coronavirus is 19%.