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Cases rise in Georgia, Decatur County

Georgia’s Coronavirus count has climbed to nearly 4,000 confirmed cases and 108 deaths, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported Tuesday.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump declared Georgia a major disaster area due to the impacts of Coronavirus. The declaration will allow federal agencies to provide direct assistance to the state. Last Friday, Congress passed a record $2 trillion economic stimulus package that will provide $150 billion in direct aid to state and local governments, money that can be used to help offset the negative economic impact caused by Coronavirus.

As of noon Tuesday, there were 3,187 total confirmed cases in 139 of the state’s 159 counties, 818 hospitalized and 108 deaths. Every county adjacent to Decatur County has officially reported a case of the respiratory virus. There are seven confirmed cases in Decatur County, with Memorial Hospital and Manor and other private providers around Bainbridge continuously screening for Coronavirus among at-risk patients.

Dougherty County remains the hot spot for COVID-19 in Southwest Georgia. The Department of Public Health reported 455 confirmed cases and 18 deaths, the largest number of county deaths in Georgia. But Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany is reporting higher numbers on its website: 647 positive test results and 27 deaths. To help curb the rising death toll, more than 40 members of the Georgia National Guard were deployed to Albany last Thursday and Friday, including military medics, nurses and doctors.

More and more Georgians are being tested for Coronavirus daily. As of noon Tuesday, private labs had administered 14,260 tests, while 1,921 tests had been conducted by the DPH.

To help increase testing opportunities, officials are working on a collaboration between the state’s public health lab and universities.

In a news release, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said state health officials working with the University System of Georgia and Emory University are undertaking a “laboratory surge capacity plan” to increase coronavirus testing by processing more than 3,000 samples per day. The extra processing started Tuesday.

The plan involves transferring testing equipment from university research labs in the state to accredited clinical labs at Georgia State University, Augusta University, Emory University and the Georgia Public Health lab. Kemp’s office also stepped in to speed up purchases of equipment and testing reagents needed for the labs to jump-start the surge plan over this week.

“We hope this surge capacity plan will allow federal and state public health officials to gain a more complete picture of COVID-19’s impact on Georgia and better inform our collective decisions going forward,” Kemp said in a statement. “We expect this plan will lead to greater testing capacity and more insight into the number of positive cases in our state.”