It was leap day, Feb. 29, 2020, and several Rome medical professionals were stumped as they treated a Polk County woman.
She had just returned from a business trip in the Washington, D.C., area. Tests were ordered and the puzzling results were sent away for analysis, with the results coming back a few days later.
She would be Northwest Georgia’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. It would be two more weeks, mid-March, before a Rome woman would become the first area resident to die from the virus. She was one of an eventual 14 victims from the first regional “outbreak,” at Cartersville’s Church at Liberty Square.
Since March 2020, a combined 1,446 residents from Floyd, Bartow, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties have died from the virus, with another 278 from causes believed to be associated with covid. That includes one person each from Floyd and Chattooga counties in the past 7 days.
Nearly 84,000 cases have been reported in our five counties, including 215 from the past week, as posted by the state Department of Public Health.
Almost 146,000 Northwest Georgians were considered fully vaccinated through Tuesday, around 44% of area residents.
As the third anniversary of the outbreak arrives, the numbers — deaths, infections, hospitalizations — continue to drop.
In a recent video update, Dr. Gary Voccio — health director for the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District — says covid numbers across the region are “very, very low.” There are a few virus patients in area hospitals but, again, “the numbers are very, very small.”
One of those hospitals, Atrium Health Floyd, had a dozen covid patients as of Tuesday. But much has changed there when it comes to staging for the pandemic.
The 20 mobile hospital rooms just outside the main entrance haven’t been used since March of last year. Atrium Health Floyd is nearly completely done with its part of decommissioning the unit, an Atrium spokesman said.
Another dramatic step during covid’s height was converting the lower deck of a two-tier parking area into an overflow treatment center to be used if needed. The healthcare center had 100 to 200 extra beds on standby. It was returned to traditional parking use just over a year ago.
A county-by-county look at covid’s spread across Northwest Georgia over three years shows:
Floyd:♦ 458 deaths; 112 “probable” deaths; and 27,015 positive tests. Vaccinations: 47,424 fully vaccinated or 49% of those eligible; region’s highest.
Bartow:♦ 418 deaths, 67 “probable” deaths; and 26,251 cases. 45,005 fully vaccinated or 43%.
Gordon:♦ 258 deaths; 45 “probable” deaths; and 13,741 cases. 24,421 fully vaccinated or 43%.
Polk:♦ 179 deaths; 35 “probable” deaths; and 10,760 cases. 18,746 fully vaccinated or 45%.
Chattooga:♦ 133 deaths; 19 “probable” deaths; and 5,950 cases. 10,334 fully vaccinated or 42%, region’s lowest.
Across Georgia♦ , 35,000 people have died from covid; 7,332 others from “probable” cases; and 2.34 million cases have been confirmed. Nearly 6.1 million people are identified as being fully vaccinated or 59% of those eligible.