By: A’Breya Young
The Good Life City as it was once known, is now the definition of a ghost town. The streets of Albany, located in the southwestern region of Georgia, are largely abandoned with residents quarantined. A city known for old-fashioned soul food and the hometown of notable artists such as Ray Charles, Patti Labelle, and Paula Dean, now holds a negative title. As this city searches for the reason why it became Corona’s epicenter, two funerals are thought to have caused the virus to spread rapidly.
Zero to Thousands
As of Friday, April 17th, Albany’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,030 according to Phoebe Hospital. Death rates continued to rise as residents didn’t follow isolation and social distancing guidelines and after two large gatherings led to an increasing number of positive tests.
On February 28th, Emell Murray found her longtime companion, Andrew Jerome Mitchell, unresponsive in their home. The family suspected that Mitchell died from a heart attack and proceeded to have his funeral days later. As hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects to the late retired janitor, family and friends later spent the afternoon at the residence of Murray and Mitchell’s. Consequently, days after Mitchell’s service, Murray was rushed to the hospital with a high fever. After many tests, doctors discovered that Emell tested positive for COVID-19, and she wasn’t the only one. A number of the couple’s relatives and the Pastor who delivered Mitchell’s eulogy contracted the virus. As more cases began to roll in, Phoebe Hospitals were swamped with ill patients who showed similar tell-tale symptoms of COVID-19, and in the span of a week, hospital staff blew through six months worth of personal protective equipment (PPE)
Starting from Point A
Many thought Andrew Mitchell’s sibling, Dorothy Johnson, brought the virus to her brother’s funeral, but as the rate of confirmed cases rose and as tracing went into effect, a key component was discovered. The night of the funeral, a 67-year-old man who attended the service went to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital complaining of shortness of breath. When doctors found he had chronic lung disease and no history of travel that would suggest he contracted the virus, he wasn’t placed in isolation. On March 7th, the man was transferred to the Atlanta area where he tested positive for COVID-19 and died just five days later on the 12th. Ms. Johnson contracted COVID-19 and survived; however, her daughter, Tonya, lost the fight to this deadly virus. With the infection rapidly spreading throughout Albany, officials advised that people stay home and only go out if necessary. Albany’s governor held a briefing pledging that people stay home so the virus could be contained, but some remained fearless and let the gatherings continue.
For Albany to heal, there must be protective measures put into place and people must use discernment. Some may have a little cough or a low-grade fever, but they must take the responsibility of staying home so more families like Mr.
Mitchell’s won’t have to grieve over a loved one. Every day, medical personnel put on their armor to save those in need, and some take this calling for granted. People are grieving over their family members left and right; patients are suffering and dying alone; nurses are holding phones for their patients just so they can say goodbye to their families. Sadly, most of this could be prevented just by staying in-doors and adhering to the guidelines. If people could just hold off on those bonfires and cookouts, life as we knew it can come back, but those who are losing their lives can’t. Next time you want to go outside, think about who’s life you’d be risking.