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Mayors discuss Chambers County being hit so hard by virus

LANETT — With 30 confirmed cases and four deaths being reported due to the coronavirus, Chambers County is currently one of Alabama’s most impacted areas.

East Alabama Medical Center announced Monday that there are five COVID-19 related deaths in Chambers County. The Alabama Department of Public Health said Monday there were 30 confirmed cases in Chambers County.

“It’s my understanding that 10 deaths have been reported in Alabama,” said Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy said Saturday, before the fifth Chambers death was announced. “Four of them are in Chambers County. That’s 40 percent of the total. When you add in the two deaths in Lee County, that’s 60 percent of the state total in a two-county area.”

Of the four deaths, two were from the Valley area and two from western Chambers County, McCoy said.

Mayor McCoy said he knew the two people from the Valley who had died and had been heartbroken to learn of their passing. He said both were women in their late 40s or early 50s who were good people who loved life and until being stricken by the virus had been healthy.

He said both had been guests at a service at Mount Hermon Baptist Church on Sunday, March 8.

Dr. Lamar Johnson, pastor of Mount Hermon, told The Valley Times-News on Monday that some members of the church had tested positive for the coronavirus but that they were now home and doing well.

He said that the church was now closed to group gatherings but that services were continuing on Facebook Live and that the response had been very good.

“We’re live with our 11 a.m. Sunday morning worship service and again at noon on Wednesday,” he said.

“This is not something new for us. We’ve been doing it for more than a year.”

Johnson said he wanted to thank people throughout the Valley for their prayers and their support for Mount Hermon through the current crisis.

From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, people came to the church and remained in their cars while praying for Mount Hermon, the community at large, the nation and global community.

“We are so appreciative of this,” Johnson said.

EAMC-Lanier Hospital Administrator Greg Nichols was among those at Mount Hermon on Sunday morning. He was wearing a protective mask and gloves as he went from car to car distributing a flyer to those present at the prayer service.

“There have been several COVID-19 coronavirus cases in your area, and there could be more,” the single-page notice read. “To help keep you and your family safe, EAMC needs to screen Mount Hermon Baptist Church members for COVID-19. We will also give you information that helps you know how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We ask that you please call 334-528-SICK so that EAMC can ask you screening questions over the phone and possibly schedule you for a COVID-19 test at EAMC-Lanier in Valley. There will be no out-of-pocket expense to you. When you call 334-528-SICK (7422), please tell EAMC that you are a member of Mount Hermon Baptist Church. Thank you for your help in stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

Nichols told The VTN that the staffs of EAMC in Opelika and EAMC-Lanier in Valley were going through a very difficult period right now.

“Even so, they are keeping a very positive attitude, and I am so impressed with that,” he said. “They are truly dedicated to their work. The one thing that gets them down is when they lose somebody. They feel that they are there to save lives. They are working long hours and are there under trying circumstances. It’s very hard when someone passes.”

Nichols said that it lifts everyone’s spirits when they see gestures of appreciation such as the “Heroes Work Here” sign at the top of the hill at EAMC-Lanier or those times when people in the community treat them to lunch.

“That sort of thing really means a lot,” he said.

Valley Mayor Leonard Riley said that Chambers County’s numbers should be a wake-up call for everyone.

“It shows that we have a social distancing problem,” he said. “We are accustomed to going to group gatherings, shaking people’s hand and hugging our grandchildren,” he said. “For now, we have to cut out those group gatherings. We have to get out of these habits.”

“As they are saying on Facebook,” adds Mayor McCoy, “if you don’t stay six feet apart you may be six feet under.”