As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, one hot spot in Georgia is experiencing higher numbers than ever expected. According to the Georgia Department of Health, Dougherty County has more than 1,400 cases and 103 deaths, and is currently ranked third-highest in the state of Georgia.
Reporting in a major hotspot, WALB anchor and host, Damon Arnold is witnessing firsthand the major effects the virus has had on his community.
“Before you knew it we were first at 10, and then we were at 50, and it just seemed never-ending. It just caught our whole community off guard,” Arnold, a graduate of Florida A&M’s journalism program, said.
These rapidly increasing numbers shocked the residents of Albany, the county’s capital and largest city, and ultimately took a toll on the newsroom as people feared for their safety.
“When you walked in at work, tensions were high. You could see people were scared to be around each other. People didn’t really want to go out and do stories with people because they didn’t know who had it,” Arnold added.
The 2017 FAMU SJGC alum knew that as a journalist he still had to continue to keep the community informed.
“My core mission was to figure out ways to make people’s lives a little easier by telling them ways they could cut corners and save money in times like this,” he said.
“Sometimes this business will put you in a position where you have to go and tell a story and you’re just putting your life at risk,” Arnold added.
South Georgia is known for its Southern hospitality, so practicing COVID-19 safety measures is extremely important for Arnold, especially being a journalist.
“If I did have to shake hands, I kept hand sanitizer, I washed my hands frequently, and tried to practice the social distancing when I’m out and about and lead by example,” Arnold said.
Even with the uncertainty of what could possibly happen next, Arnold is still optimistic and has learned a bigger lesson during this pandemic.
“I had to sit back and be thankful for what I have, it could be gone if you take it for granted. Those little activities that you may do outside of the house, don’t take that for granted,” Arnold said.
Even as the numbers continue to rise, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has announced that businesses such as gyms and hair salons will reopen this Friday.
But Arnold knows that he must remain on “high alert” well beyond this weekend. There’s too much at stake and too few people have even been tested for the virus.