“What started as a case spread like wildfire,” she added. “We filled ward after ward until we had at least five floors dedicated to caring for these patients.”
The first cases hit the hospital in Albany, a town of about 72,000 people, in the last week of February and the first week of March, but no one knew, the doctor said.
It was not until March 10 that the hospital was informed that they had treated a positive case of coronavirus, she said.
“These early days were scary and intense. We knew so little about it and how it spread or how to treat it,”
The stress of dealing with the new disease intensified when they went through six months of personal protective equipment for a week.
“We were – and still are – forced to do this stretch of supply. This time it took a toll on all of us,” Akers said.
The doctor said she had spent months not seeing her children awake because of the time it took to treat patients. She limited her contact with her husband and children because she was worried that her PPE had not fully protected her.
“And I updated my will,” she said.
Flood of cases
The Dougherty County crisis began after two funerals in late February and March. There was also a festival in the city center, a big road race and religious services that were still crowded.
“The next day we started seeing people coming to our emergency room who were sick,” Steiner said. “Two (people) the first day, six the next day, eight the next day and it just started to cascade from that point.”
About 20 people who attended at least one of the funerals became infected with the virus
Others were members of the same churches, Steiner said.
Four days later, Gov. Brian Kemp set a limit on rallies across the country. He issued a shelter order on April 2. At the time, there were about 4,800 cases in Georgia and 154 deaths, according to the State Department of Health.
There are now more than 40,400 cases and at least 1,754 deaths.
141 deaths in the county are led only by Fulton County, and 396 hospitalizations are lagging behind only four other populated counties in the Atlanta area.
“The virus does not discriminate”
During the first days of the outbreak, hospital staff struggled to keep patients alive without instructions for therapies that could be helpful, Akers said.
There is no cure for Covid-19 and experimental treatments are in the early stages of testing.
“Some patients die, no matter what we do, and we couldn’t change that result,” Akers said. “It didn’t matter if they were young or old. This virus doesn’t discriminate.”
Workers mourned the loss of patients who took their last breaths without a family there. And they cheered for those who did, and they had to go home, she said.
Akers told the commission that they still need more protective equipment and there needs to be more coordination at the state and federal levels.