The Rome City Commission is likely to pass a renewed citywide mask ordinance on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. in a virtual meeting.
Many of the upper echelon of the city management, alongside several city commissioners, have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past month. The virus has also run rampant through several departments.
The issues haven’t been limited to the city government; Floyd County has run across its own issues during this past year with COVID-19. Thus far, county commissioners have declined to seriously consider a similar measure.
This won’t be the first time the city government has issued a mask ordinance. In July, city commissioners voted to enact a mask mandate days prior to Gov. Brian Kemp nixing local ordinances statewide. The city later renewed that ordinance after the governor’s office began allowing local governments to take their own measures against the spread of the coronavirus.
City Commissioner Craig McDaniel, who is spearheading this iteration of the ordinance, said Monday the rising number of infections leading to hospitalizations is concerning locally. A recent conversation with a friend in the medical industry led him to recognize the amount of strain that treating COVID-19 has put on medical personnel.
He characterized the measure — which he said has the full support of the commission — as one to keep local and state governments from having to take more extreme measures.
“Some people want to go to a lockdown,” McDaniel said, adding that he would not support that measure because of the detriment to small businesses. “If we do that, all the money goes away from local businesses to larger ones like the Walmarts and Home Depots.”
However, if people take basic precautions to keep the spread of the virus down — like wearing a mask — that will, hopefully, alleviate the stress on hospital staffers and businesses alike, he said.
Local COVID-19 numbers continue to increase
Floyd County isn’t an island where the aggressive spread of the virus is concerned.
Whitfield County, which has held in-person festivities including a Christmas parade last week, has continued a high rate of spread with 1,043 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks.
Still, Floyd County has had 527 new COVID-19 cases reported in the past two weeks, which is near an all time high. Taking into account that the state does not include the rapid test results in those numbers, and the low rate of testing, the actual spread of the virus is likely much higher.
Most, if not all, counties in Northwest Georgia are listed as having indicators for high transmission by the Department of Public Health.
Neighboring Alabama counties fall into this category as well, on top of reports of a nationwide spike in new cases.
An Alabama Department of Public Health graphic showing the spread of the coronavirus is intended to be color coded from white to pink to a dark red. But it shows all the counties in the state as dark red — indicating a high rate of spread.
That doesn’t bode well for already overburdened hospital workers locally.
In an earlier interview, Floyd Medical Center’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ken Jones, talked about COVID-19 fatigue in physicians, nurses and staff.
“They’re battling it every day,” Jones said. “It’s day in, day out and it’s a lot more work to take care of these patients.”
They’ve been putting in long hours regularly, Jones said, and a lot of staff have been volunteering to come in on their off-time.
Local hospitals have begun restricting visitation as infections in staff are continuing to be a problem. At this point in the state’s Region C healthcare coalition — which includes Floyd County — there are 236 COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized. That means over 24% of the patients hospitalized are COVID-19 positive.
Of that number, there are 111 COVID-19 patients being treated at FMC and Redmond Regional Medical Center. There are also another five patients awaiting test results.
There still is capacity locally but, since local hospitals share in treating patients within this region, there is some concern that they could be overwhelmed with COVID-19 positive patients in the case of a continuing regional surge.
Currently, Region C is at 92.8% bed capacity and 92.3% ICU capacity, according to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office.
Both Floyd and Redmond have been preparing for an increase in patients and have stockpiled protective equipment for staff.
Up to this point, the numbers haven’t been high enough to enact extreme measures, such as opening the 60 bed emergency overflow unit on the Floyd campus in a converted parking deck area.
The disease has killed 21 Floyd County residents since the beginning of November and eight so far in December. A total of 84 Floyd County residents have died from COVID-19.