Albany becomes unlikely Coronavirus hot spot in Georgia

Leaders of the Georgia town of Albany and surrounding Dougherty County declared a two week Shelter-in-Place order on Friday, desperately trying to stem an outbreak of the Coronavirus, as state and federal health officials converged on southwest Georgia in search of answers in a small county which has already suffered six deaths from the virus.

Well off the interstate some 180 miles south-southwest of Atlanta, Albany's struggles with the Coronavirus stick out like a sore thumb on the state's map, as small towns in the region like Americus and Sylvester reported their first cases of the virus on Friday.

"We urgently need people to pay attention to the experts and follow their guidance to avoid crowds and close contact with others, said Dr. Steven Kitchen, the Chief Medical Officer of the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

Health investigators will first check on infections centered in that hospital system, along with its long term care facilities.

Hospital officials also warned that some who may have the virus - have been refusing to stay away from other people in the community.

"We continue to call and check on people recovering at home and those waiting on test results who have been instructed to self-isolate, and we’re hearing that some them are not following the proper isolation protocol," Kitchen added.

As of Friday, there were 57 positive tests for the Coronavirus coming from people treated in health facilities operated by Phoebe in southwest Georgia.

Those numbers could rise as additional test results come in.

Like much larger cities and metropolitan areas around the nation, Albany and Daugherty County, Georgia have ordered restaurants to stop regular inside service, urging most businesses to temporarily close, like bars and gyms.

"The intent of this Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible," city and county leaders declared.

It was not immediately clear how the virus had been brought to Albany, but officials had floated the idea that funerals for two people who died earlier this week may have further spread the Coronavirus.

"I will continue to assist in providing necessary resources to all those who have been affected," said Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), as state leaders grappled with the fallout from the virus.