How Southern Politics are Failing One Town's Coronavirus Response

ATHENS, Ga.-At Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, the staff has spent the past few days MacGyvering gear: Can anesthesia machines be repurposed as ventilators? Looks like it. Do handsewn masks help stanch the shortage of medical-grade gear? Absolutely. On a Monday Zoom conference call, Piedmont Athens Regional Chief Executive Officer Michael Burnett told civic leaders in this college town better known for R.E.M. and Georgia Bulldogs football: "I have a UGA mask a nurse's mom made for me. I'm stylin'."

Joining the call from across town at St. Mary's Hospital, CEO Montez Carter said his staff is also planning for a wave of Covid-19 patients. "It's not just adding beds," he said. "It's the staff, equipment, physicians, the infrastructure needed to handle that surge."

The hospitals are located in Athens-Clarke County, population 126,000. They're prepared to handle Covid-19 cases in Athens. But the real question is: Can they handle their neighbors?

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