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Georgia Community Is Pushed To The Edge By Coronavirus Outbreak


All right. Now we're going to go to Dougherty County in rural southwest Georgia. It is home to just 90,000 people, and yet it has one of the nation's highest rates of COVID-19.


That's right. Almost 1,500 people have tested positive for the virus, and more than a hundred people have died.


JEFF HULLINGER: A small community in South Georgia right now is a hotspot for COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We've learned the situation inside the hospital is becoming dire.

HULLINGER: It is a staggering number that we are seeing right now.

MICHAEL FOWLER: It just went like wildfire. It was just like a bomb hit here.


ANDREA OWENS-WHITE: Hi. This is Andrea.

GREENE: Andrea Owens-White is calling from Albany, the biggest city in Dougherty County. She says this is a close-knit community pushed to the edge by this virus.

KING: One of her close friends from church is on life support.

OWENS-WHITE: I know so many who have passed away. I mean, it's several people. This is where I have been all of my life, and it's just been devastating. And you want to reach out, and you don't know how.

KING: Owens-White is a florist. She's owned Flowers By Andrea on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for 33 years. It's her childhood home. She converted it into a small business.

GREENE: But in this moment, when she wants to comfort her customers, no one is taking orders.

OWENS-WHITE: Definitely a drastic cut. And I too - in my household, we were hit with the virus ourselves.

GREENE: Back in February, her husband, a pastor, attended a funeral where authorities now suspect the county's coronavirus outbreak began.

KING: Not long after that, she started feeling symptoms.

OWENS-WHITE: I had a sore throat, and I noticed I had a dry cough.

GREENE: Her husband, who's a cancer survivor, was even more sick.

OWENS-WHITE: And we also noticed my mom, who is 92 years old, she had begun to lay around and not feel very well.

KING: Her mom ended up in the ICU with double pneumonia, which is an infection of both lungs. Everyone is home now, thankfully recovering, but Owens-White has been a caretaker all while being sick herself.

GREENE: She was forced to close her flower shop for now, and she has filed for unemployment. She does feel like she has fought off the coronavirus, though the thought of it coming back keeps her up at night.

OWENS-WHITE: Even some days, you know, I don't admit it, but I wonder if it's still there because you don't really know. You just don't know.

GREENE: All she can do now, she says, is wait. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.