The Perfect Enemy | Three years later, Dougherty Co. remembers start of COVID-19 pandemic - WALB
April 10, 2024

Three years later, Dougherty Co. remembers start of COVID-19 pandemic – WALB

Three years later, Dougherty Co. remembers start of COVID-19 pandemic  WALB

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) – Three years ago, the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Dougherty County. Back then, no one could anticipate the devastation that was to follow.

Thousands would become sick and hundreds would die. People were terrified, with relatives and loved ones dying, almost daily it seemed.

On Friday, Albany and Dougherty County leaders reflected on the enormous community impact.

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Phoebe officials said while the pandemic was an extremely difficult time, they learned a lot in terms of getting a handle on the virus.

At one point, Dougherty County was considered one of the worst COVID-19 hot spots in the nation. In Albany, the virus spread like wildfire at funerals and repasses.

“I never thought I would have seen that type of pandemic,” said Nathaniel Payne, funeral director for Martin Luther King Memorial Chapel. “We probably buried over 150 cases of COVID. It was just trying to give care to the families that we serve. It was an experience. One that I would not want to go through again.”

Albany was hit particularly hard. In part because of its predominantly Black population who were vulnerable. And many were skeptical of the vaccine.

Michael Fowler is the Dougherty County coroner.
Michael Fowler is the Dougherty County coroner.(WALB)

“On the front end of it, many of them did not have the vaccination because the vaccination was not out at that time,” Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said. “Then even after the vaccination came out, many still didn’t believe. They thought it was some kind of trick. So they did not get vaccinations. But many changed their mind after their loved one died because they didn’t get the vaccination.”

Many are still skeptical. Almost one in three people are not vaccinated in the U.S. But many are still suffering.

Dianna Grant is the chief medical officer for Phoebe Putney Heath System.
Dianna Grant is the chief medical officer for Phoebe Putney Heath System.
(WALB)

Dianna Grant is the chief medical officer for Phoebe Putney Heath System.

“And when I talk about long COVID effects, it just may be chronic pain, joint pain,” Grant said. “It may be that cough. That shortness of breath. And even affecting your systems. Your lungs, your heart, moving forward. Our challenge now is what are the treatment plans. And what else could be developing from it.”

The COVID emergency is over. Fear has turned to caution. But health experts warn, viruses fight to survive.

“We anticipate that COVIDis now an endemic,” Grant said. “It’s not going anywhere. It’s here. What we are battling now is that virus does not become a lethal form again. And we hope by the vaccination rate, that we can bring it under control.”

People are still advised to take some of the same precautions they were during the pandemic like washing your hands and staying home if they feel sick.