GENEVA COUNTY, ALA. — As the number of COVID-19 cases in Alabama and around the country continues to grow, one Alabama county has only recently made the map. Geneva County in rural Southeast Alabama has two confirmed cases and has administered 77 tests as of April 15, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
This makes the county an anomaly during the coronavirus pandemic, with other counties reporting higher numbers and cases dating back into March, according to ADPH.
The towns of Geneva, Hartford, Samson, Slocomb, Coffee Springs, Black, Malvern and Eunola stretch across the county’s 579 square miles. Geneva County is home to approximately 26,200 people, which is about mid-sized for an Alabama county, according to data form the U.S. Census Bureau.
ADPH Home Health Director Daphne Beagles said she believes the low count is because the county is so rural by nature.
“We are not able to gather in movie theatres, bowling alleys and public transportation,” Beagles said. “We sort of already do the social distancing rule just from the rural way of living.”
Beagles is a native to Geneva County and has been administering COVID-19 tests at drive-thru test sites. She oversees 11 counties in Southeast Alabama.
The only hospital in Geneva County, Wiregrass Medical Center, is located in the city of Geneva. The hospital, as well as local doctor's offices, were given COVID-19 testing kits. These testing kits are distributed based on population size, Beagles said.
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The county plans to have a drive-thru testing site on April 23. All those who qualify for testing will be given a test. The location for the testing site has not yet been determined.
To qualify for testing, you must meet one condition from two categories determined by ADPH and CDC guidelines. The first category includes symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The second category includes conditions such as being 65 years or older, a healthcare worker and having pre-existing health issues that could worsen with COVID-19. If you meet one condition from each category, you qualify for testing.
Also, if you have the symptoms from the first category, such as fever, and they are worsening, you may also receive a test, Beagles said.
Geneva County, like other counties in Alabama, is adhering to Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order. Restaurants have pick-up options, and essential workers are still conducting business.
Despite the low number of cases in Geneva County, Anna Layne West, junior in mechanical engineering, chose to stay in Auburn instead of returning to her hometown of Slocomb, Alabama. Lee County reports 265 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of April 15.
West is quarantining with her roommates in Auburn.
“My brain is better adapted to doing schoolwork in that environment,” West said. “My mom is a nurse, and both her and my dad work at Southeast Health. It will be safer for me to be in my house in Auburn once cases start going up in Geneva County.”
Southeast Health is a hospital located in Dothan, Alabama, and is in Houston County. The hospital has tested 346 individuals for COVID-19, has 68 confirmed cases and 10 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19, according to Southeast Health.
West said she was hesitant to stay in Auburn at first because she knew the numbers in Lee County were growing. However, because her parents work at Southeast Health, she felt she had nowhere safe to go.
"I'm thankful that my parents are essential employees during this pandemic, but I'm also fearful for them," West said. "They're on the frontlines, and my mom comes home every day to tell me it's only getting worse."
West said that while COVID-19 might not be at her doorstep in Geneva County, her parents are potentially exposed every day and that, along with her course work, is why she chose to stay in Auburn.
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