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First Coronavirus Death Reported in Athens as Oconee Residents Press for Restrictions

The Northeast Health District reported the first COVID-19 death in Athens today.

The victim was a 67-year-old man who had an underlying medical condition, according to public health officials. The elderly and people with pre-existing heart or lung disease or diabetes are most likely to die from COVID-19.

Overall, positive coronavirus tests in Georgia jumped to 1,026 today, with 32 deaths. Sixteen of those cases were reported in Clarke County and three in Oconee County.

Medical professionals and others are pressuring Oconee County commissioners to pass a “shelter in place” ordinance similar to the one Athens-Clarke County approved last week.

Commissioners received one letter signed by 70 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, and another signed by a group of progressive Oconee residents, according to Lee Becker at Oconee County Observations.

Athens hospitals have 50 critical care beds and serve a region of 627,000. Even if just one in 500 falls seriously ill with COVID-19, that would mean over 1,200 people in need of hospitalization.

“The time has passed for voluntary measures and simple social distancing,” the medical professionals wrote. “Too many people are still congregating in businesses and neighborhoods with little regard for the risk they pose to others and to our healthcare system.”

Commission Chairman John Daniell told Becker the county is seeking voluntary compliance with recommendations. But nonessential businesses, such as restaurants and gyms, remain open in Oconee County despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging no gatherings larger than 10 people.

In other coronavirus news, with no conventions or other events scheduled thanks to coronavirus, staff at the Classic Center and Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau are being repurposed to build hand-washing stations.

Starting today, ByoPlanet International is assembling portable sanitation stations in the Classic Center’s empty Grand Hall. It is employing 40 Classic Center and CVB employees who would have otherwise been laid off.

In addition, the Clarke County School District is offering meals for CCSD employees to take home. Food prepared by Emmanuel Stone and culinary arts students at the Athens Community Career Academy can be picked up from 3–5 p.m. today.

And the ACC Library is live-streaming storytelling at 10:30 a.m. weekdays on Facebook.