For most people, one of the the hardest parts of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is remembering to wear a mask in public.

However, for the almost 800 first responders throughout Carroll County — including law enforcement, firefighters, ambulance services, and other medical personnel — wearing a mask on the job may not be required in most circumstances because of the varying nature of the work.

“It’s hard to communicate when you are wearing a mask,” Tim Padgett, Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director of Carroll County, said, “and communication is a vital key that we depend on.”

Nevertheless, the threat of infection is just one more hazard of the demanding and often dangerous occupation of being a first responder.

According to Padgett, he discussed the growing spread of COVID-19 with various local health officials in late February 2020. This included medical personnel from Tanner Health System, representatives of the Carroll County Department of Health, and local infectious disease expert Dr. Laura Larson.

“Shortly after that time we gradually began to have daily briefings and ramp up our protocols and best practices,” Padgett explained.

Padgett is a 36-year veteran first responder and Villa Rica High School graduate. His experience, and that of other first responders, has informed how other emergency crews have responded to the global pandemic.

Ever since the crash of an Atlantic Southeast Airline commuter aircraft in 1995 in the Burwell area of Carroll County, local agencies made it a priority of having key medical supplies such as masks, gloves, and gowns available.

“We were not totally prepared back then,” he said, “so every effort is made now to be as prepared as possible, whether it be for a plane crash, a tornado, or a once-in-a-century pandemic.”

According to a press release posted by the Georgia Department of Health District 4, a 12-county region that includes Carroll County, on Monday, the district continues to show a downward trend in weekly COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Spring break, however, is causing a spike in cases in other states, the release states.

The most current COVID-19 figures released by the GDH District 4 office in LaGrange show that a total of 7,267 cases have been documented in Carroll County, including 137 new cases in the past two weeks. There have a total of 129 reported deaths recorded in Carroll County during the entire pandemic.

Meanwhile, a total of 7,041 doses of the available COVID-19 vaccines have been administered at the Carroll County Point of Dispensing (POD) by the Department of Health as of April 2.

Those wishing to make an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can call 1-888-457-0186 or visit the Georgia Department of Health website at www.dph.georgia.gov.