covid testing.jpg

Inmates are tested at the Troup County Jail in an area that has become one of Georgia’s new COVID-19 hot spots.

LaGRANGE The latest Georgia hot spot for coronavirus is LaGrange, a city near the Alabama border that has seen major outbreaks in a jail and a nursing home, and significant community spread.

Testing last week at the Troup County Jail in LaGrange found 71 inmates out of 316 with positive test results for COVID-19. At LaGrange Health and Rehab, 65 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 14 have died. Among staff, 22 have been infected.

But there’s general transmission of the virus throughout Troup County as well.

“People are going to casual social gatherings and are spreading it that way,’’ said Hayla Folden, public information officer for the Public Health District that includes Troup. “People want to go outside and they want to gather.’’

Public Health officials say that since Memorial Day, area residents seemed to relax on social distancing guidelines.

The LaGrange surge in cases follows other Georgia cities and counties that have appeared on the New York Times “hot spot’’ lists, including Albany, Milledgeville and Chattahoochee County. In the latest count of metro areas compiled by the Times, LaGrange is No. 4 in per-capita new cases in the U.S., and No. 2 for new deaths. The Times listing says “Still Growing’’ next to the LaGrange totals.

Over the past week, Georgia as a whole has seen large numbers of new infections reported daily. On Wednesday, the new positive cases totaled 1,706, near the state’s record.

Current hospitalizations for COVID-19 are now above 1,000 and climbing. That number has increased every day since June 14, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

Two weeks ago, Troup County had 417 infections, Folden told GHN on Wednesday. Georgia Department of Public Health data now show the county with 1,209 infections and 29 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon.

Folden said the nursing home outbreak has been going on for some time.

“I know we still have new cases among staff members,’’ she said.

The community has launched a drive to distribute masks to residents. So far, local organizations and volunteers have given out 40,000 masks, and area churches are set to distribute 20,000 more, Folden said.

“I do see more businesses require people to wear a mask when they enter,” she said.

Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center, a 276-bed facility in LaGrange, has seen a steady increase of COVID patients over the past three or four weeks.

Dr. Melhim Bou Alwan, medical director for the hospitalist program at Wellstar West Georgia, said Wednesday that many of the COVID-19 patients are either African-Americans or Latinos.

Wellstar Health system has supported the LaGrange hospital with equipment, supplies such as personal protective equipment, and physicians and other workers, Bou Alwan said.

Dr. Danny Branstetter, medical director of infection prevention for the Wellstar system, said that many Georgians have experienced “COVID fatigue,’’ and are not taking proper precautions such as distancing and wearing masks.

A large amount of community spread of the disease comes from 18- to 30-year-olds, who are “the most mobile members of society,’’ and are bringing infections to different groups, Branstetter said.

“We’re seeing smaller rural communities having these upticks,’’ he said. In these areas, “you’re more likely to interact’’ with someone who’s infected, he added.

“COVID is not going away,’’ Branstetter said. So people need to still wear masks in public, do social distancing, and avoid large gatherings, he said.

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by subscribing or making a contribution today.

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.