In the initial days of the Coronavirus or Covid-19 outbreak many in Georgia believed that the disease would be restricted to urban areas due to higher travel as well as the greater population densities in cities. However, rural Georgia is currently reeling from the effects of the outbreak, leaving many concerned about how hospitals in these regions will handle the large infection numbers that are now confirmed.
There is no denying that rural Georgia has been hit doubly hard by the outbreak. It is not just the number of cases that are alarming, but also the fact that rural hospitals, even in the best of times, are poorly equipped to handle vast caseloads. Several rural towns in Georgia have seen local hospitals close over the past few years as part of larger scale hospital closures across the country.
In Dougherty County, which is a Covid-19 hotspot, there are just 50 hospital ICU beds for the entire county. In the four counties surrounding it, there is not a single hospital bed. The Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany has seen as many as 600 people test positive recently, while a staggering 1000 more people who were tested at the hospital were waiting for their results at the time of writing this post. In sparsely populated Mitchell County, not a single Covid-19 case existed just two weeks ago. Today, the Covid-19 death count here is 9.
Rural Georgians struggle to access healthcare even during ordinary times. However, the Covid-19 pandemic brings with it mindboggling problems as large sections of a predominantly poor population wait for to access testing. The disease seems to have spread faster in rual counties, catching overstressed health care systems and hospitals as well as nursing homes unawares.
Covid-19 does not differentiate between urban and rural populations or the rich and poor. Wherever you live in Georgia, make sure you practice social distancing protocols stringently.