As the COVID-19 cases in Georgia continue to climb, Muscogee County jumped ahead Dougherty County in the total number of cases, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
This is significant because Albany was one of the state’s first hotspots back in March and April, drawing national attention because of the rapid spread of the virus.
Numbers released Friday afternoon show the state has more than 90,000 reported cases. Muscogee County has 1,943 compared to 1,939 in Dougherty County. Columbus has been surging in recent days.
On June 23, Columbus set a single-day record with 128 cases. That record was broken on July 1 when the state reported there were 143 new cases in Columbus.
Back in March when the virus started to take a foothold in Georgia, Albany was nearly leading with the way with cases, just behind the major Metro Atlanta counties.
The numbers in Albany have been on a steady decline over the last six weeks. One category where Dougherty County still surpasses Columbus is COVID-related deaths. There have been 155 deaths in Albany, compared to 52 in Columbus.
Muscogee County has about 200,000 people. That’s about twice as many as the population of Dougherty County.
As the numbers rise in Columbus, so does the concern. And that concern is translating into lines.
There were well over a hundred cars lineup before the drive-through testing at West Central Georgia Health District site at 6:30 a.m., 30 minutes before testing started.
And a Muscogee County Sheriff’s deputy tells News 3 it’s been like that all week.
Columbus resident Ryan Swihart was the first in line.
“We got here at 5 and we were the first ones here,” Swihart said. “No one really showed up until about 5:30. Then at 6, there were probably 15 cars that showed up.”
That’s 5 — in the morning. And they kept coming. By the time testing closed around noon, 345 people had been tested, a Health District spokesperson told News 3.
The lines are not limited to just testing.
Abou 8:30 this morning there was a line almost 20 deep to purchase disinfectant spray and wipes. That store opened at 8 and an employee told News 3 the line at the door started forming about 6.
So why is this happening? And why now?
Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson posted several charts on his official Facebook page. Here are the two that tell the story the best.
Above is the number of cases in Columbus. In a perfect world, this should be leveling out. Well, it’s not a perfect world and nothing tells it better than this slope.
Above is the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Piedmont Columbus Regional and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare. By mid-May it had dipped into the teens. On Wednesday, 91 people were hospitalized here due to the virus.,
Swihart said he was in line early this morning out of an abundance of caution.
“We have a family member who tested positive and we are just being on the safe side to make sure we are not testing positive,” Swihart said.
There will be no testing tomorrow because of the Fourth of July. Testing at the Comer Avenue site resumes from 8 to 11 Sunday morning. You have to be a Georgia resident to be tested at the DPH location.