The number of cases of the coronavirus are hitting all-time highs statewide, and while Franklin County isn’t at record levels, the surge is beginning to show locally. Concerns over the virus’ latest increase also led Royston officials Tuesday to cancel the city’s annual Christmas parade.
The number of cases of the coronavirus are hitting all-time highs statewide, and while Franklin County isn’t at record levels, the surge is beginning to show locally.
Concerns over the virus’ latest increase also led Royston officials Tuesday to cancel the city’s annual Christmas parade.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 3,709 new confirmed cases of the virus Tuesday in statewide statistics.
That follows a record 5,017 new cases reported Friday and another 4,872, the second-most in one day, reported on Monday.
The state has had 44,182 new cases in the past two weeks, with 12.1 of those being tested for the virus testing positive.
Franklin County has had 125 cases confirmed in the last two weeks, which is about a tenth of all of the 1,260 cases found in the county since the pandemic began in the spring.
Of those being tested in Franklin County, 18.5 percent have tested positive in the past two weeks.
A rise in cases was also reported in the Franklin County School System.
In its annual weekly report on the virus Tuesday, the school system reported as of that day that 17 students had tested positive for the virus.
That number was by and far the highest number of students with the actual virus the system had reported since August. The previous high was seven on Sept. 1.
In addition, 12 school system employees had positive tests as of Tuesday. That was also a record since August, with the previous high being seven on Aug. 25.
In addition to those with confirmed cases, 188 students had been quarantined due to exposure.
Combined with the number of students with positive tests, 5.69 percent of the system’s students were out of school due to the virus as of Tuesday.
Deaths from the virus, which lag behind confirmed cases by a week or so, are not near record levels.
Franklin County has had 19 deaths from the virus and none since Nov. 9.
The increase in cases is beginning to take its toll on area healthcare providers and activities.
St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia hasn’t been filled by the virus, but St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens has.
“As you know, COVID numbers are increasing everywhere around the nation and across much of Georgia, including here in our service area,” St. Mary’s Sacred Heart President Jeff English said. “Our hospital is very busy from all causes, not just COVID, but we are managing the volume pretty well at this point. Currently we are not on diversion here at Sacred Heart Hospital, though in Athens, St. Mary’s has had to go on diversion briefly on several occasions recently.”
“Diversion” means that a hospital’s normal capacity “is greatly exceeded,” information from St. Mary’s said.
“When a hospital goes on diversion, EMS will transport patients to the next nearest appropriate facility,” information from the hospital said. “If all facilities in a region are on diversion at the same time, EMS will alternate. There is no diversion for heart attacks or women in labor. Diversion is most commonly due to lack of inpatient beds, resulting in admissions backing up in the Emergency Department. This in turn results in reduced capacity to see [emergency] patients in a timely manner, which can create long wait times.”
England said people need to continue to work to “flatten the curve.
“A vaccine is coming, but it will take months to roll it out and for it to take effect,” he said. “In the meantime, it is as important as ever to wear a mask, keep good social distance, avoid large gatherings, wash your hands, and stay home and call your doctor if you develop symptoms of COVID or the flu. This is especially true since flu season is starting. Our communities have done an amazing job of flattening the curve before. We need them to stay in this fight with us by everyone doing their part.”
Exposure to the virus caused the closure of the Franklin County Courthouse Thursday, but offices reopened Tuesday.
Similarly, Royston City Hall reported exposure to the virus, causing a city council meeting Tuesday to be moved to Zoom.
City Manager Ed Andrews encouraged citizens to pay bills online at www.cityofroyston.com or to use the city’s dropbox at City Hall for payments.
The Royston Downtown Development Authority and City Council agreed Tuesday to cancel the city’s Christmas parade, which was scheduled for Saturday evening.
MainStreet Director Michael Crump said that the consensus of the DDA was to cancel the parade due to rising number of coronavirus cases in the area.
Plus, he said, rain is expected at the time of the parade.
“As much as we hate to do this, it may be in the best interest this year to cancel it,” Crump said.
Members of the council agreed.
“I’m all for trying to celebrate Christmas and spread Christmas joy, but I dare not be responsible for spreading COVID,” Council Member Keith Turman said.
With other communities canceling their parades, Turman said, more people than usual would be expected at the event.
Police Chief Donnie Bolemon said that his department and his Police Explorers are also being hit with positive virus cases or quarantines.
“My staffing numbers as far as assistance for the parade is going to be very limited obviously,” he said.
The Royston Council voted unanimously to support the DDA’s decision to call off the parade.
The Royston Christmas Market will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Depot.