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Days After a Funeral in a Georgia Town, Coronavirus ‘Hit Like a Bomb’

Ms. Bell, 49, said she did not have the strength to turn her mother over in bed, and had called repeatedly to ask for help.

“I’m begging for help,” she said. “I’m here with two kids, and I don’t know if I have been exposed to it.”

She feels, she said, “as if they sent my mother home to die.”

Phoebe Putney is diverting patients to other Georgia hospitals at a rate it has never before approached, transferring 40 in a recent 72-hour period, Mr. Steiner said. But he denied that any gravely ill patients have been sent home.

“Anybody we’ve discharged has been discharged appropriately, clinically,” he said.

Mr. Simmons said that many families are struggling to care for the sick at home, and that for some, a sense of panic has begun to set in.

“Part of the control in life is thinking, if you needed help, you’ve got somewhere to go,” he said. “When that is taken off the table, all sense of control is gone, and hope starts fading.”

He read aloud text messages he received over the weekend. “Please continue to pray,” one said. “My mother, my grandmother and my grandfather have been admitted to the ER with coronavirus symptoms.”

Then, later, “My mother has died.”

For Ms. Johnson, only one person mattered last week.

Her daughter, Tonya M. Thomas, was all she thought of while she was in the hospital. The illness had hit them almost simultaneously, but unaccountably, her 51-year-old daughter was the worst hit, with double pneumonia.

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