Two coronavirus deaths confirmed in southwest Georgia; total now 3

Two southwest Georgia patients who died with coronavirus-related symptoms have been confirmed to have had the virus, hospital officials said in a news release Wednesday.

That makes at least three Georgians who have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. More diagnoses are arriving as testing capacity ramps up.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

» THE LATEST: Health officials confirm 197 coronavirus cases in Georgia

“Each day, we are caring for additional people we suspect may have COVID-19,”  said Steven Kitchen, chief medical officer of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

The state Department of Public Health is releasing numbers once a day and did not yet have Phoebe Putney’s deaths included in its official tally Wednesday.

The hospital system, Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany, has been pleading with authorities for faster processing of tests. The hospital system reported that it has more than 400 patients still waiting for test results, including dozens of patients so serious they are hospitalized.

Of the 14 results the system received Wednesday morning, 13 were positives.

The outbreak is mushrooming in the Albany region following diagnoses of people who attended two large funerals in the area, local authorities said.

“We strongly urge everyone to heed warnings and practice proper social distancing. We need to do all we can now to try to slow the spread of the virus,” Kitchen said.