Dougherty Co. leaders address Kemp’s business order, latest COVID-19 developments at Tuesday press conference

(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)(Source: WALB)
Updated: Apr. 21, 2020 at 12:58 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Dougherty County leaders addressed the latest COVID-19 developments at a Tuesday press conference.

Posted by Dougherty County Georgia Government on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

More from the conference:

“I have good news and bad news,” Bo Dorough, Albany mayor, said.

Dorough said Phoebe has seen several trends, including lowered intakes of COVID-19 patients.

“This indicates the spread of the virus is being curbed,” the mayor said.

Dorough also said the National Guard will start collecting specimens for testing.

The mayor said that testing for COVID-19 will soon be done at the Dougherty County Public Health Department and that further details would be available Thursday.

Dorough also addressed Gov. Brian Kemp’s recent order allowing for some businesses to reopen as early as Friday.

Dorough said his “greatest concern” with Kemp’s order is that no local government can impose any order that is stricter than the governor’s order.

The mayor also said decisions like that need to be guided by benchmarks and not dates and the ability to find the trace of contracting the virus is needed.

“Social distancing cannot be maintained in a barbershop, beauty shop and nail salon,” Dorough said of Kemp’s order.

Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said officials anticipate more deaths from COVID-19.

“That’s frankly one of the harsh realities of dealing with a pandemic,” he said.

Cohilas also addressed Kemp’s order.

The commission chairman said he understood that business owners are facing bankruptcy and other safety issues, but businesses going back online have to operate under “tremendous restrictions.”

Cohilas also said the statewide shelter-in-place “still exists.”

He said residents should continue to shelter-in-place and only go out for essential services and to places following social distancing and safety guidelines, like wearing masks.

“Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean should do something,” Cohilas said, referencing making smart decisions.

Cohilas said officials believe the county has peaked with COVID-19 between April 11-16.

He also said if the county stops with social distancing and other protective measures, deaths will rise and there could be a resurgence of infections.

“We’ve got to make good decisions,” Cohilas said. “Let’s see this storm continue to settle. We need to continue to push our numbers down."

Phoebe CEO Scott Steiner said “anything and everything can be used to make a mask.”

“Please do that,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the hospital system is “very encouraged” by the trends they are seeing and that the hospital system doesn’t want to see a second surge of infections that could be deadlier than the first.

Dr. James Black said the number of COVID-19 patients at Phoebe is going down.

“It’s encouraging and we are happy to see that, (but) we are not done,” Black said.

Dr. Charles Ruis with the Southwest Georgia Public Health District said the governor is promoting more testing and contact testing and the district is following those efforts.

Ruis said the National Guard will be doing the testing all day, seven days a week. No appointment is required.

Additional staff will also be hired to help, according to Ruis.

Gloria Gaines, Dougherty County District 5 commissioner, released a statement on Kemp’s order:

"I urge our beloved citizens to exercise common sense and good judgement in adhering to the governor’s order allowing reopening of certain businesses in Dougherty County and the state. While the order requires screening and social distancing, there are huge questions regarding how that can be archived

Guard your own life. I am sure the governor is not unreasonably exposing himself and his family.

Further, for those businesses who are suffering, I urge the Congress to move swiftly to pass the need funding legislation to give them relief. The first phase of the SBA CARES Act was a disaster and did not address the needs of small business as intended and may very well have the dire needs of these business today."

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