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Muscogee Co. removed from COVID-19 red zone as adjacent county sees increase in cases

Updated: Aug. 26, 2020 at 8:54 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Georgia is being recognized nationwide as having the third-highest amount of reported positive COVID-19 cases.

The good news is the White House task force recently removed Muscogee County and the metro Columbus area from the red zone to the yellow zone.

Muscogee County has seen a nearly 10 percent drop in reported COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, but bordering Chattahoochee County is seeing an uptick.

Georgia reported nearly 170 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which is the second-highest rate in the country last week.

In Columbus, things are looking up. The Department of Public Health reported 26 new cases Tuesday, which is the lowest amount reported since early June, according to Pamela Kirkland with the Columbus Health Department.

“We are seeing a decrease in the number of reported positive cases, so that is a good thing,” Kirkland said.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson said the hospitalization rates have also decreased.

“The hospitalization rate has also plateaued and seems to be staying fairly consistent,” Henderson said. “Right now, it’s been staying around 61 to 65 people hospitalized at any given time who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.”

Kirkland said she thinks the drop in numbers could be attributed to the lack of testing results as people resume some sort of normalcy.

“School is back in session, people are going back to work, things are slowly returning to normal,” she said.

But just south of Columbus, Chattahoochee County is seeing a spike. Looking at the numbers from last week compared to Tuesday, there were 127 new cases reported.

Chattahoochee County Emergency Management director, Johnny Floyd, said most of the reported positive cases are coming from Fort. Benning.

“All together we have had 978 cases, but Fort Benning takes up most of our county,” Floyd said. “The population with Fort Benning and Cusseta is 10,179. We only have about 3,200.”

Fort Benning also has a footprint in Muscogee County and the case count could be from weeks earlier and are now just getting reported. Fort Benning Public Affairs officer, Ben Garrett, said in part, that their “number one priority is protecting the health of the force and stop of COVID-19.”

“This is about the readiness of our force and Fort Benning is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the Defense Health Agency to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Garrett said. “This includes screening and testing new arrivals, creating training bubbles to limit exposure to large groups, and isolating and quarantining those who test positive. It is important the Fort Benning workforce understands their responsibility in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Kirkland said the numbers do fluctuate, but it’s important to keep in mind that the totals of positive COVID-19 tests reflect back to the beginning of March when testing efforts first started.

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