Gilmer Schools is changing COVID response for students tomorrow

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – “We will shift our focus away from contact tracing and quarantine to monitoring children for signs of illness,” says a new statement from Gilmer County Schools as the announcement comes today that COVID response and state guidelines are changing again. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said it was a return to focusing on educating kids in school and not being an “arbiter of quarantines.”

responseDr. Ridley sent the letter out with this statement today, notifying the community of the change. He added that he wants to be a partner with parents in their care for their children.

Ridley noted that the change is coming after the governor and the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced changes in their guidelines for COVID response,acknowledging the hardships that families have had due to quarantines on any possible exposure.

Now, instead of instantly quarantining students who have been around others in school who have tested positive, they will be allowed to stay in class while being “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask. His letter this morning stated 10 days, but Dr. Ridley said that continued updates have made that a misprint as the schools will be encouraging mask usage for 5 days.

Additionally, the statement extended this same change to those currently in quarantine due to exposure. While the last update on the school systems website noted 77 students currently in quarantine, Dr. Ridley said this number is not up to date with these changes as well as another set of changes to guidelines that the schools just received last Thursday.

The school system will continue notifying parents when their students have been exposed and will be sending out letters “notifying you that your child was in class, on the bus, participated in a sport, etc. with a positive case just as we do with any other communicable disease.”

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley

As such, some tracing will still be done with this new response as the school is still asking parents to monitor their children and notify the school if they test positive. Dr. Ridley stated, “We will continue to notify DPH when a notifiable disease is reported and alert DPH of concerns with clusters and outbreaks which may require immediate public health intervention.”

But this isn’t contact tracing as it has been in the last year, these notifications will not continue for those that have been around someone who was around someone who was exposed to a student that tested positive.

The school system is asking parents to continue monitoring your child each morning before sending them to school. They also noted that students showing any signs of the virus or any illness should not be sent to school.

The school system is also taking extra steps for parents in understanding the change or with further needs as Ridley’s statement asked parents to contact their student’s school if they have any concerns of if their child might need extra help for a medical vulnerability.

Superintendent Ridley did confirm that he had discussed the new response individually with members of the Board of Education before implementing them. While he said they mostly agreed with the new format, he did confirm that the board could still add or reinstate any extra steps and precautions should they feel the need arises.

The school system had just posted recent changes on January 4, 2022, with updates from over the December break, but the state is already updating new changes with this today. Dr. Ridley also said in his letter, “While the constant change in guidance has been frustrating at times, we want to thank our Gilmer County families for their support throughout this pandemic. We hope that with the help of our parents, we can even more effectively monitor students for symptoms while also meeting the new DPH standard of keeping healthy students in class.”

 

Gilmer Schools responding to COVID case increases

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Gilmer Schools have seen an explosion of positive COVID cases and quarantines throughout this week.” Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley read a statement during the Gilmer County Board of Education this week on Thursday night, August 19, 2021, during their Regular Scheduled meeting.

Gilmer Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley, COVID

Gilmer Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley

As of that meeting, the total cases in Gilmer’s school system surpassed a district wide 900 students in quarantine and 100 positive cases in students and staff.

That explosion also culminated in the cancellation of the season opening varsity football game against Pickens on Friday, August 20, 2021. The school system stated, “Decisions such as these are not taken lightly, and we must prioritize the safety and well being of all student-athletes and spectators for both teams.”

Dr. Ridley said in a letter to parents about COVID restrictions earlier this week that the school system would be mandating masks and face coverings starting on Monday, August 23, 2021. He stated, “I feel it is imperative that we act now in an effort to keep our students safe and our schools open.”

In efforts to notify and share the information well in advance, that letter was sent out. However, at the Thursday meeting, Dr. Ridley also informed citizens that while working with the Department of Health, new guidelines will be coming next week in implementation. He confirmed that he would be discussing these with the press on Monday to inform citizens more about those changes as the school looks to continue implementing DPH guidelines into the schools.

As of now, Monday will see masking on school buses only with strong encouragement to wear masks throughout the day. Dr. Ridley also urged others to consider using masks and getting vaccinated against the virus. During his statement in the meeting, Dr. Ridley stated, “Students and staff who are fully vaccinated or masked during exposure will not be subject to quarantine.”

Additionally, the Board of Education also approved COVID leave time for staff that have exposures and positive tests. Superintendent Ridley stated that the official numbers will be updated on their website tomorrow, August 20, 2021.

COVIDWith the announcement of new COVID guidelines made and implementation on the way, the school system is currently working on the “logistics of implementing this new guidance as early as Monday or Tuesday of next week.”

Gilmer is continuing with quarantining for 10 days and requirements to be fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications with an improvement of symptoms.

Additionally, Dr. Ridley previously told FYN that virtual academy was not being implemented for the start of school, but Gilmer does have the option if the need arises. He did not mention virtual academy at the meeting.

As the Superintendent shares more information on the changing guidelines FYN will continue to share new articles with the updated information.

May 3 Update: 882,074 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 974,319 in NC

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NORTH GEORGIA & WESTERN N.C. – In an effort to keep our readers, up to date with the latest number of cases confirmed in Georgia and N.C., Fetch Your News will continually be updating this article with the most recent updates from the Georgia Department of Health (DPH) and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

Updated May 3, 2021 at 8:15 p.m.

Georgia Data

On May 3, 2021, DPH reported 15 new deaths, 32 new hospitalizations, and 579 new confirmed cases. 

DPH confirmed 882,074 cases, 61,702 hospitalized, 10,110 patients in ICU, and 17,593 deaths. The 3 p.m. reported 8,384,277 tests have been completed. Total tests included 515,601 serology (antibody) tests. DPH added a column to the county-by-county tally to include the location of deceased patients from COVID-19. On March 28, the health department also included a breakdown of deaths by county, age, and sex, new deaths.

On April 12, 2020, the report started including non-residents receiving treatment as a separate line item. It made a significant dent into the “Unknown” category.

DPH told Fetch Your News that the “Unknown” number is a result of “clerical errors on the part of the reporting agency – nothing more. We have many new labs reporting, and they are not all as familiar with the system.” The department is working to resolve this issue when the staff has time. A few of the unknowns are also homeless.

On April 8, DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey affirmed that the department has the most accurate data, but it’s not real-time data due to backlogs. DPH can’t keep up with press releases from hospitals about new cases because of the delay in processing. Cases confirmed one week might not appear in the reports until the next. Fetch Your News will only report on local cases once, they are confirmed by the DPH or CDC.

In his March 23 press conference, Gov. Kemp mentioned the casualties from the virus, “I am saddened to announce that we have lost twenty-five Georgians to COVID-19. As we mourn, I ask my fellow Georgians to lift up their loved ones in prayer. Please keep them in your hearts and minds.”

DPH released details on the two March 18 deaths, stating the individuals were 42-year-old and 68-year-old women both in an Albany Hospital. They also had underlying conditions along with COVID-19. Please keep all these individuals and families in your thoughts and prayers.

Case location is “based on patient county of residence when known.”

“A confirmed case is defined as a person who has tested positive for 2019 novel coronavirus.” – DPH.

Georgia County – Number of Confirmed Cases and Deaths

County Confirmed Cases Confirmed Cases per 100K Antigen Positive Cases Confirmed Deaths Probable Deaths Hospitalizations
To see a breakdown of the COVID-19 deaths in Georgia, click here.

NC Confirmed Cases Data

As of May 3, 2021, NCDHHS reported 974,319 cases statewide, 938,740 presumed recovered, 12,691 deaths, and 1,007 hospitalized. The highest concentration is now in Mecklenburg with 110,561 cases and 941 deaths. Cherokee County had the highest 14-day case increase per 100,000 residents. NCDHHS reported 12,504,937 tests have been completed in the state. The confirmed cases report is released each day at 12 a.m.

NC Statistics

NCDHHS has an interactive map for those who want to see the spread of the virus. 

DPH, NCDHHS, and the CDC are urging people to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. If our readers are looking for more information on health practices, please visit the CDC website.

President Trump also released guidelines for the next 15 days, which can be read about here.

Georgian’s wondering about Gov. Brian Kemp’s actions and the state’s public health emergency, find out more here.

North Carolinian’s can find updates for Gov. Roy Cooper, here.

Ask the Doc! Cologuards and the Lance Armstrong Shot

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Dr. William Whaley has returned for the new year and is ready to answer your questions about colonoscopies vs the Cologuard test and the other about Myelodysplasia and the Lance Armstrong shot.

 

 

North Georgia Technical College President dies of COVID-19

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CLARKESVILLE, Ga – On September 13 at 8:17 a.m., North Georgia Technical College announced on social media that its President Dr. Mark Ivester passed away from COVID-19 on September 12, 2020.

Ivester, 57, battled the virus for several weeks before passing away late Saturday evening in a Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Braselton, Ga. The Acree-Davis Funeral Home will be handling the funeral arrangements. Anyone wishing to send condolences or flowers can do so on the funeral home’s website.

Ivester dedicated his life to the technical college for almost 20 years. He became president of North Georgia Technical College in 2016. Previously, he served as the vice president of economic development. Additionally, Ivester earned a doctorate in education from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Brenau University, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Condolences are pouring in from the community and across the state either on social media or the Acree-Davis Funeral Home condolence wall. One individual wrote:

“Had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Ivester working at NGTC and he was always so sweet and had a vibrant smile upon his face. Prayers for the family, friends, and colleagues during this time. Sorry for the loss.”

North Georgia Technical College has not released details about an interim president or memorial services at this time. The technical college has campuses in Clarkesville, Blairsville, and Toccoa.

Ivester is survived by his wife, Eleanor, and their children.

Clay County Students will attend classes two days a week

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HAYESVILLE, N.C. – Clay County Schools have opted for a two cohort model once students return to class for the 2020-2021 year.

All schools except for the pre-k will follow an A/B schedule. Students will be broken into two groups. The A group will go to school on Monday and Tuesday while the B group attends class on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a virtual learning day for students and a deep cleaning day at the school.

Parents and guardians can also select to place their children in entirely online learning.

At Hayesville Primary, elementary, and middle schools the teachers will change classes, not the students. Hayesville High School (HHS) students will be switching classes because the majority, 43.9 percent of parents voted for that option.

Homes with multiple school-age children will have those children placed in the same cohort so they can attend school on the same days. Cohorts will consist of 150 to 200 students.

School survey responses from parents and teachers.

With the two day model, students can receive two days of attending all their 90-minute learning blocks in a controlled environment. They also have access to all school amenities including teachers, high-speed internet, counseling, and tech support.

This model isn’t the safest option due to the potential exposure of 150 to 200 students twice a week. It also places the heaviest load on teachers who must create lessons for in-person and remote children.

Schools will release information about which Clay County students will be in Cohort A and Cohort B on Wednesday, August 5 at 4:00. Students in Cohort A will attend each week on Monday and Tuesday beginning August 17. Students in Cohort B will attend each week on Thursday and Friday beginning August 20.

33 percent of parents selected fully remote learning in the return to school survey.

As for faculty, 45 percent of HHS staff were in favor of fully remote, and 30 percent chose the two cohort model.

If the school or county reaches a five percent COVID-19 infection rate, a decision will be made about closing the school buildings again. Currently, Clay County is at a less than one percent infection rate.

All students attending in-person classes will always be required to wear a mask with scheduled outdoor breaks. Faculty and students will be given five masks from the state. They must wash masks at home and can decorate the masks.

During break times, students will separate and safely remove their masks. They won’t be allowed to congregate in groups at any time during the school day. Students will always be sat six feet apart.

Remote learning children will be locked into the program for five weeks at a time. Parents must contact the school by September 11 if they wish to transition their child back into in-person instruction. Students can switch from in-person to remote at any time. In both instances, the principal must be notified ahead of time.

The Pre-K school will be fully open five days a week.

Clay County Schools Superintendent Dale Cole reviewed this model with stakeholders and the Clay County Health Department and all felt comfortable moving forward with this model.

https://www.facebook.com/453607465219318/videos/910665199446161

What does it cost to clean a courthouse?

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – In the past week, two county courthouses closed due to confirmed COVID-19 cases. This week county commissioners revealed two vastly different bills for sanitization services. However, neither expenditure is feasible as a regular expense for counties if more virus cases arise within government offices.

Gilmer County paid Restoration 1 out of Dawsonville $6,007.81 for cleaning a 106,000 square foot courthouse and road department building. Fannin County Commissioners to pay a maximum of $70,059 to American Property Restoration out of Atlanta for cleaning its 69,752 square foot courthouse.

Since Tuesday, American Property Restoration dropped the price by five percent to $66,500.

Cutout from the American Property Restoration invoice.

Each county received disinfectant fog and surface wipe downs, but Fannin’s sanitization process included a negative air machine. It circulated the fog throughout the ventilation system to ensure the removal of COVID-19 throughout the building. Other additional charges in the Fannin bill include HEPA filters, labor for wiping down equipment, and PPE for workers. The 30 counts/charges for HEPA filters and labor for equipment wipe down was listed at $30 each.  

The 24-person team required heavy-duty disposable PPE, and the company charged $48 per person. 

As for disinfectant fog, Fannin paid $1.39 per square foot for the first 30,000 square feet and 50 percent off that price for the remaining 39,752 square feet. Gilmer paid six cents for 80,000 square feet at the courthouse.

View the American Property Restoration invoice and the Restoration 1 invoice.

Given the emergency nature of the COVID-19 situation, neither county had time to bid out the process. Both operated within a short window to quickly clean and reopen the courthouses. 

Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton told Fetch Your News that this was a “true emergency;” he didn’t have time to shop around. Also, American Property Restoration specialized in COVID-19 cleaning.

“Not a matter to see who could do it the cheapest,” said Helton. It was about protecting the citizens of Fannin County from an unknown element. The advice about preventing COVID-19 continues to change almost daily.

The fans placed within the Fannin Courthouse to disperse the fog.

Restoration 1 that cleaned Gilmer’s courthouse also had a professional COVID-19 virus disinfection team.

However, Fannin can apply for CARES Act funding from the State and receive reimbursement for virus-related expenses. Helton added that the knowledge of the funds made him slightly more comfortable with the price. 

“If we prevented one citizen from going to ICU that cost would be comparable to $66,500 and would not be eligible for CARES funds,” added Helton.

Fannin hasn’t yet applied for the reimbursement because the state hasn’t made the portal available to smaller counties at this time.

In June, Gov. Kemp issued a letter explaining CARES Act funding policies to state counties. Previously, only the top five counties with the highest percentage of cases had access to the funds.

According to the letter of guidance from Gov. Kemp, local governments must apply to receive their 30 percent share of $1.23 billion. Once processed, the allocation will be available for “immediate advancement.”

How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in courthouses

Turning to the future, Helton agreed that it’s not feasible for Fannin to spend $66,500 again, and the county probably won’t perform another cleaning to this extent at the courthouse. Possible future options include cleaning the office with the confirmed case was located, but they haven’t made a final decision.

The commissioners started requiring employees under their authority to wear masks while at work and strongly encouraged the practice among everyone in the courthouse, including the public. Temperature checks also began this week for those visiting the facility.

American Property Restoration crew in front of the courthouse

According to the CDC, the virus spreads “mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.” By wearing a mask in public areas, employees limit the spread of those droplets.

Helton wanted people to feel safe to visit the courthouse once it reopened.

 

 

Dr. William Whaley and Dr. Raymond Tidman discussed the effectiveness of closing to perform extensive cleanings on courthouses. Both agreed that cases will occur, but spending exorbitant amounts of money isn’t necessary.

“You can teach your own housekeeping staff what they need to know if there has been this virus [case],” explained Dr. Whaley. “If you just shut your doors for 24-hours, the virus is going to die because it doesn’t stick around on surfaces for terribly long.”

Afterward, if someone cleaned the surfaces and highly handled areas, the virus should be removed for that day. However, the practice must occur every day at the end of the day. The county and schools can go over cleaning protocols with their janitorial staff to begin COVID-19 recommended sanitization measures.

CDC guidance about disinfecting cites that coronaviruses die on surfaces in a matter of hours or days. To safely remove COVID-19 from a surface, first clean the area with soap and water, then an EPA-approved spray on the surface. If an EPA-approved disinfectant is unavailable, 1/3 cup of bleach added to one gallon of water, or a 70% alcohol solution will disinfect a surface. Bleach can’t be mixed with other cleaning and disinfection products together. The effectiveness of bleach solutions lasts for up to 24 hours.

Janitorial staff must wear the proper PPE to protect them from harmful chemicals and the virus.

Disinfection plans can adapt as more information becomes available about the spread of COVID-19.

“A COVID virus here or there is going to happen, and you do your cleaning, and that person goes home for a day or two and gets over it,” added Dr. Tidman. “The hair on fire stuff needs to quit.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRTCPcqoVg4&feature=youtu.be

North Carolina requires face coverings and social distancing for schools

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RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen were joined by education and health leaders to announce health and safety plans for K-12 public schools for the new school year. Schools will open for in-person instruction under an updated Plan B that requires face coverings for all K-12 students, fewer children in the classroom, measures to ensure social distancing for everyone in the building, and other safety protocols.

“The most important opening is that of our classroom doors. Our schools provide more than academics; they are vital to our children’s’ health, safety and emotional development,” said Governor Cooper. “This is a difficult time for families with hard choices on every side. I am committed to working together to ensure our students and educators are as safe as possible and that children have opportunities to learn in the way that is best for them and their families.”

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit outlines the updated requirements for Plan B. Districts may choose to operate under Plan C, which calls for remote learning only, and health leaders recommend schools allow families to opt in to all-remote learning. Modifications have been made to Plan B since it was released in June to make it more protective of public health.

“After looking at the current scientific evidence and weighing the risks and benefits, we have decided to move forward with today’s balanced, flexible approach which allows for in-person instruction as long as key safety requirements are in place in addition to remote learning options,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. “We will continue to follow the science and data and update recommendations as needed. We ask every North Carolinian to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering when in public, Wait 6 feet apart, Wash your hands.”

Governor Cooper also announced that the state will provide at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher and school staff member in public schools. In June, the state provided packs of personal protective equipment to schools that included a two-month supply of thermometers, surgical masks, face shields, and gowns for school nurses and delegated staff who provide health care to students.

“Educators and stakeholders across our state have worked tirelessly to reopen our school buildings safely for our students, teachers, and staff. Today, we take another critical step towards that goal. We also know families need to choose the option that is best for their children, so all school districts will provide remote learning options,” said Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education.

“In-person education is important for children, and it happens in the context of a community. This plan strikes the right balance between health and safety and the benefits of having children learn in the classroom. We must all continue with proven measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission like wearing a face covering, keeping distance between people, and frequent hand and surface cleanings so we can move closer to safely re-opening public schools,” said Dr. Theresa Flynn, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, a practicing pediatrician who serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Pediatric Society and joined today’s announcement.

Under Plan B, schools are required to follow key safety measures that include:

  • Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12
  • Limit the total number of students, staff and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary
  • Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks
  • Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly
  • Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom
  • Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
  • Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups
  • Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution

In addition, schools are strongly recommended to follow additional safety measures that include:

  • Designate hallways and entrance/exit doors as one-way
  • Keep students and teachers in small groups that stay together as much as possible
  • Have meals delivered to the classroom or have students bring food back to the classroom if social distancing is not possible in the cafeteria
  • Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
  • Place physical barriers such as plexiglass at reception desks and similar areas

More details can be found in the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit. Read the Screening Reference Guide for schools and the Infection Control and PPE Guidance.

In addition to the announcement about school plans, Governor Cooper shared that North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 after the current Executive Order expires on Friday, July 17.

“As we continue to see rising case numbers and hospitalizations, we will stay in Safer At Home Phase 2 for three more weeks,” said Governor Cooper. “Our re-opening priority is the school building doors, and in order for that to happen we have to work to stabilize our virus trends.”

School Groups on Today’s Public School Announcement

“While all school re-entry plans have their challenges during this pandemic, our superintendents, principals, and other school leaders will continue to prioritize student and staff safety in reopening schools under the cautious parameters outlined today by the Governor,” said North Carolina Association of School Administrators Executive Director Katherine Joyce. “We look forward to continuing work with the Governor, the General Assembly, and other state leaders to ensure our schools have the support needed to get student learning back on track in the safest manner possible in each local district.”

“I recognize Governor Cooper faced a very difficult decision. The good news is that local school boards can now begin to officially put their school reopening plans in motion,” said Brenda Stephens, President of the North Carolina School Board Association. “While the current situation may not be ideal for all, I’m confident North Carolina’s educators will continue to provide students with the best education possible.

To see the press briefing click here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=591404655097644


Health Department Responds to positive test in Courthouse

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GIlmer Health Department

ELLIJAY, Ga – Gilmer’s Health Department and Courthouse are working closely together this week after a confirmed positive test was reported by the county Probate Judge, Scott Chastain.

FYN reached out to the Health Department and spoke with Gilmer Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris about the Health Department’s involvement. Both entities noted that the Georgia Department of Public Health already has guidelines and directions in the case of positive exposure and the Courthouse is already taking measures in its own way.

Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator for the North Georgia Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Jennifer King said, “COVID-19 is still transmitting in Gilmer County… and while we don’t refer to any specific cases or locations unless we have reason to believe the public is at a higher level of risk, we do share the latest Governor’s Executive Orders relating to COVID-19 protocols with the public, businesses, organizations, and agencies to follow, including information that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and how to respond if cases occur.”

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Gilmer County Courthouse

King asserted that Gilmer’s local Health Department is working closely with the community in every way possible. Paris also noted that he had been in contact with the Health Department as the courthouse was responding to the exposure.

Continuing communication reaches far beyond just the courthouse, though, as King said, “Our local health department and environmental health office work very closely with community partners, including EMA, Family Connections, government agencies, businesses, churches and schools to remind residents of measures they can take to prevent the spread of the virus and protect against COVID-19.”

King said that public health is urging people to get tested for COVID-19. She went on to note that the department is also attempting to provide that opportunity to do so for free. She said, “We are attempting to prevent further spread of the transmission through contact tracing and repeatedly reminding residents of the critical need to always wear a mask in public, wash their hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer, avoid large crowds, social distance away from others by at least 6 feet, avoid physical contact with others by not shaking hands or giving hugs, and stay home and call their doctor if they feel they may have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive over the past 14 days.”

Public Health is urging people to get tested for COVID-19 through options like Drive-Thru Testing sites providing free testing for citizens.

The Health Department is reaching out across all platforms of media to spread the information of options like the drive-thru testing sites and schedule postings

Citizens who feel they have been in contact or may have been in the courthouse recently are also encouraged to visit the Testings Website. Gilmer has their own testing site times, on Mondays and Fridays, but there are other sites in our nearby counties in case some residents find it more convenient to register for an appointment at one of those.

King also stated, “Because the number of cases in our Hispanic/Latino population in Gilmer County is disproportionally high, local public health works with community leaders, partners, churches and schools to increase outreach to this community by sharing translated information, encouraging free COVID-19 testing, and providing education about the need to prevent the spread of the virus and how to protect against it.”

The Public Health website offers information in both English and Spanish as well as several flyers in both English and Spanish.

County responds as Probate Judge tests positive for COVID-19 after revival

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain has confirmed that he has tested positive for COVID-19, commonly called the Coronavirus.

While sources have spoken recently about employees in the Gilmer County Courthouse having been exposed, Chastain himself has reached out to inform the public that he has tested positive. There are still indications of others in the courthouse having been exposed, but with an official confirmation, responses will be increased and sanitization orders are already in effect from yesterday’s Judicial Emergency Order.

Offices are shut down, however, FYN’s understanding is that the general courthouse is still open and the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to remain open in service to the public in the face of the positive test.

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Gilmer County Courthouse

Speaking with Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris, the Gilmer Courthouse is continuing as ordered under the Judicial Order to close offices and courts. He stated that certain employees are still in offices in an isolated area answering phone calls and doing work that cannot be performed from home, but the offices are closed to physical access by the public.

Paris stated that he has notified employees within the Board of Commissioners office and has also notified department heads who are notifying their employees about exposures within the courthouse. Utilizing a rotation style operation in some departments, employees are still able to access their offices for filings or needs and operate phones and services while minimizing contact and risk in the building.

Other Elected Officials are operating and notifying employees in their areas as they see fit under their own jurisdictions.

While this operation is continuing for this week, Paris said that the entire courthouse building will shut down this Friday, July 10, 2020, in order for Restoration 1, a company out of Dawsonville certified for this type of cleaning, to operate, clean, and release a sanitizing mist within the building. Shutting down Friday will allow the mist to settle over the weekend before anyone returns to the courthouse.

Additionally, Monday, July 13, 2020, officials will reconvene after the cleaning and time has allowed additional testing to return on certain employees. Paris said that they will have to make a decision at that time about the continued operations or closures as needed with the information available then.

Paris did say that the Board of Commissioners are making every attempt to spread awareness of the possibility of exposure through news outlets, their websites, and phone calls. He stated that he has already received calls from citizens inquiring about the courthouse and a positive test. Paris suggested that citizens who may have visited the courthouse in recent days speak with their doctors about their situation and possible exposure and to follow testing as they order. He stated that as he is not a medical professional, he can only suggest this course of action for people.

Paris did say he has been in contact with the Health Department, informing them of the situation and the current steps being taken. Working in conjunction with them as well as local and state guidelines, he gave thanks and commended Judge Weaver on her quick response and action to the situation saying that he believes they have mitigated as much of the risk and exposure as they possibly could.

He went on to add that his hope is for people to take the situation and the virus seriously and be considerate of others and their capability to spread the virus even if they are not at risk from it.

Currently, sources say that Chastain’s contraction of the virus came from a Revival meeting at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Cartecay last week. FYN has reached out to the church for more information and is currently awaiting responses from church leaders. The church did cancel remaining services on July 4, 2020, as soon as first notice of someone running a fever and exhibiting symptoms was brought to them.

Our current understanding is church members are being contacted via the church line and suggestions to be tested have been issued in conjunction with guidelines from Health Departments. As with Revival Services of this type, it can be hard to keep up with numbers, but reports indicate that church officials are working diligently to contact and spread information so that any who may have attended services might be made aware.

FYN is attempting to contact Pastor Jamie Smith, but with large groups, it may not be possible to tell exactly who could have been the initial case or where it was contracted from before.

Additionally, FYN is now reaching out to officials in the and the Gilmer County Health Department about the positive test and their plans on sanitizing, quarantining, and contact tracing those who may have come into or worked in the courthouse. Jennifer King, North Georgia Health District Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator, said she is in contact with the Gilmer Branch and FYN is currently awaiting information from her as it becomes available.

Stay with us as more details become available on this story.

Gilmer and Fannin Extend Judicial Emergency under order of Chief Judge

Featured, Featured Stories, News
order

NORTH GEORGIA – Both Gilmer and Fannin have received a new order entitled “Amended Third Order Extending Declaration of Judicial Emergency” closing and requiring deep cleaning for offices in the courthouses of both counties.

The order, sign by Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, states that a number of courthouse employees are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting testing results. Due to this the Chief Judge conferred with Board of Commissioner (BOC) Chairmen from each county and has declared the situation beyond the ability to continue with regular work.

The court has ordered that the counties deep clean and keep closed the following offices:

  • Fannin County Superior Court Judge
  • Fannin County Juvenile Court Judge
  • Fannin County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
  • Fannin County Probate Court
  • Fannin County Magistrate Court
  • Fannin County District Attorney
  • Fannin County CASA
  • Gilmer County Superior Court Judge
  • Gilmer County Juvenile Court Judge
  • Gilmer County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
  • Gilmer County Probate Court
  • Gilmer County Magistrate Court
  • Gilmer County District Attorney
  • Gilmer County Misdemeanor Probation
  • Gilmer County CASA

Additionally, Gilmer County has also closed the offices of the Gilmer County Tax Assessor and the Gilmer County Tax Commissioner. These offices are also ordered to perform a deep cleaning and remain closed until further orders are given.

Just as with the previous Judicial Emergency Orders, Remote Videoconference hearings are being utilized and scheduled. The order states that all other provisions of the previous order are still in effect.

This all comes after the announcements of some of Gilmer and Fannin Elected Officials and Courts closing earlier today due to COVID-19 exposures.

order order

Union County Canning Plant to open July 7

Announcements, Community, Featured, Featured Stories
Canning

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – The Union County Canning Plant will open on July 7 by appointment only. Also, the cannery will be limited to 11 groups per time slot.

The cannery will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and no walkups will be accepted.

Those interested in canning must call (706) 439-6043 in advance.  Appointments will be scheduled in two different time slots: 6 a.m.-8:45 a.m. and 9 a.m.-11:45 a.m. The cannery asks that no one brings extra product to be canned at one time. The timed appointments will have set limits and can’t be extended to accommodate overages.

Upon first visiting the cannery, visitors must sign a 2020 Registration Form/Waiver to receive their canning number for the year. If forgotten, the numbers will be posted. Each individual will be assigned a table and asked to remain at their for most of the canning process. After washing the food, they should notify a cannery worker if the food needs to be cooked or steamed. Staff will also sterilize jars, but canners should write their registration number on can lids with Sharpie and immerse them in hot water. Also, canners must fill their jars with the hot product and put lids on jars. A staff member will take it from there and give canners a designated time to return and pick up the finished cans.

See the cannery guidelines below:

COVID-19 Guidelines:

  1. Use of the Canning Plant will be by appointment only.  No walkups will be accepted.  Appointments will be limited to 11 groups per time slot.  No children under 13 will be permitted in the Canning Plant under any circumstances.

  2. All persons entering the Canning Plant shall be screened for cough, fever, and recent exposure to COVID-19. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be permitted to enter the Union County Canning Plant.

  3. Face masks or face covering are required to enter the Union County Canning Plant. An appropriate face mask or face covering is one that covers the wearer’s nose and mouth with fabric or filter material.  Gloves are also required inside the Canning Plant.

  4. Maintain proper social distancing while inside the Canning Plant.

What to bring: Jars, lids (Ball or Kerr), bands, product to be canned, your recipe, and all ingredients.

Cost:  25₵ per pint  •  35₵ per quart

Brief History of Canning

The practice of preserving food by hermetically sealing it inside containers began in 1809 in France. Nicolas Appert started the process as a response to the call from government to preserve food for army and navy use. 50 years later, Louis Paster discovered that the heat killed microorganisms in food, and sealing it prevented other microorganisms from entering. In 1810, Peter Durand patented the use of tin-coated iron cans instead of bottles. Soon after the canning process crossed the pond and the United States quickly became the largest producer of canned goods in the world. 

Lee grants mayors in 89 counties authority to issue mask requirements

News
mask

NASHVILLETenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 54 to grant county mayors in 89 counties the authority to issue local mask requirements in the event of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases.

“While our densely populated urban areas continue to have the highest COVID-19 case rates, our local governments expressed a need for greater flexibility in addressing a rise in cases, and that includes setting stronger expectations around masks,” said Gov. Lee. “This targeted approach ensures we protect both lives and livelihoods and safely keep our economy open in Tennessee. We encourage every Tennessean across the state to use a face covering or mask, make sure to socially distance and wash hands frequently.”

The six counties with locally run health departments including Sullivan, Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, Madison, and Shelby counties retain the existing authority to issue mask requirements as needed.

The full text of the order is listed below:

AN ORDER PROVIDING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WITH AUTHORITY CONCERNING FACE COVERINGS

WHEREAS, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) remains a threat to our citizens, our healthcare systems, and our economy, and each Tennessean should continue to protect themselves and others by following applicable health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading medical experts to slow the spread of this virus, including practicing social distancing, effective personal hygiene practices, and “wear[ing] cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”; and

WHEREAS, importantly, wearing a cloth face covering is a simple step that each Tennessean can take to slow the spread of the virus, which prevents having to take more drastic and disruptive measures for our economy and job market, like requiring the closure of businesses; and

WHEREAS, whether to require or recommend wearing a face covering may depend on the spread of COVID-19 or lack thereof in a particular community, which varies widely across the State, and local governments are therefore better positioned to make this decision based on the conditions in their communities; and

WHEREAS, in addition to the other powers granted by law, Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 58-2-107, provides, among other things, that during a state of emergency, the Governor is authorized to suspend laws and rules regarding the conduct of state business if necessary to cope with an emergency, utilize all available state and local resources needed to combat an emergency, and take measures concerning the conduct of civilians and the calling of public meetings and gatherings, among other things, as well as delegate such powers as the governor may deem prudent; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to this authority and the general emergency management powers of the Governor under law, the temporary suspension of selected state laws and rules and the other measures contained herein are necessary to facilitate the response to the ongoing effects of the emergency resulting from COVID-19.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Bill Lee, Governor of the State of Tennessee, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Tennessee Constitution and other applicable law, do hereby declare a continuing state of emergency and major disaster in order to facilitate the response to COVID-19 and accordingly order the following:

Persons are urged to wear face coverings in public places.  To reiterate Paragraph 5 of Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50), in accordance with CDC guidance, persons, including employees or customers of businesses, are strongly urged to wear cloth face coverings or other similar coverings in public settings where being in close proximity to others is anticipated, and particularly where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain at all times.  Such cloth face coverings can be created from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost.  Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.  Surgical masks and N-95 respirators should be reserved for health care workers and first responders.

Specific delegation of authority to issue orders concerning face coverings.  Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in Paragraph 13.b. of Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50, and as may be subsequently extended), county mayors in the 89 counties that do not have a locally run county health department shall have the authority to issue orders or measures requiring or recommending the wearing of face coverings within their jurisdictions, consistent with Paragraph 3 of this order.

Contents of local orders.  Orders or measures issued by county mayors pursuant to this Order should be consistent with CDC guidance and may have such exemptions as deemed advisable, provided that, at a minimum, there shall be no requirement that a face covering be worn:

  1. Within one’s residence or automobile, unless transporting others for hire;
  2. By a child twelve (12) years of age or younger;

iii.       By someone who has trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition or another bona fide medical or health-related reason for not wearing a face covering;

  1. By someone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance;
  2. While eating or drinking;
  3. While outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household;

vii.      While working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household is substantially maintained;

viii.     In situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk;

ix.      While in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged; or

x.      While in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged.

Suspension of laws that would limit application of this Order.  Any law, order, rule, or regulation that would otherwise limit the enforceability of this Order is hereby suspended, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 58-2-107.

Nothing preempts or supersedes any authority of bodies in six counties with a locally run county health department.  Nothing herein or in Paragraphs 5 or 13 of Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50, and as may be subsequently extended) preempts or supersedes any existing authority, as provided by executive order, statute, charter, or otherwise, of a locally run county health department, board of health, official, or local legislative body, located in a county with a locally run county health department, to issue or enact orders, ordinances, rules, or law regarding face coverings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50, and as may be subsequently extended) is hereby amended to the extent necessary to effectuate this Paragraph 5, which amendment shall survive expiration or termination of this Order.

The order will remain in effect until August 3.

Lee grants mayors in 89 counties authority to issue mask requirements

News
mask

NASHVILLETenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 54 to grant county mayors in 89 counties the authority to issue local mask requirements in the event of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases.

“While our densely populated urban areas continue to have the highest COVID-19 case rates, our local governments expressed a need for greater flexibility in addressing a rise in cases, and that includes setting stronger expectations around masks,” said Gov. Lee. “This targeted approach ensures we protect both lives and livelihoods and safely keep our economy open in Tennessee. We encourage every Tennessean across the state to use a face covering or mask, make sure to socially distance and wash hands frequently.”

The six counties with locally run health departments including Sullivan, Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, Madison, and Shelby counties retain the existing authority to issue mask requirements as needed.

The full text of the order is listed below:

AN ORDER PROVIDING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WITH AUTHORITY CONCERNING FACE COVERINGS

WHEREAS, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) remains a threat to our citizens, our healthcare systems, and our economy, and each Tennessean should continue to protect themselves and others by following applicable health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading medical experts to slow the spread of this virus, including practicing social distancing, effective personal hygiene practices, and “wear[ing] cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”; and

WHEREAS, importantly, wearing a cloth face covering is a simple step that each Tennessean can take to slow the spread of the virus, which prevents having to take more drastic and disruptive measures for our economy and job market, like requiring the closure of businesses; and

WHEREAS, whether to require or recommend wearing a face covering may depend on the spread of COVID-19 or lack thereof in a particular community, which varies widely across the State, and local governments are therefore better positioned to make this decision based on the conditions in their communities; and

WHEREAS, in addition to the other powers granted by law, Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 58-2-107, provides, among other things, that during a state of emergency, the Governor is authorized to suspend laws and rules regarding the conduct of state business if necessary to cope with an emergency, utilize all available state and local resources needed to combat an emergency, and take measures concerning the conduct of civilians and the calling of public meetings and gatherings, among other things, as well as delegate such powers as the governor may deem prudent; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to this authority and the general emergency management powers of the Governor under law, the temporary suspension of selected state laws and rules and the other measures contained herein are necessary to facilitate the response to the ongoing effects of the emergency resulting from COVID-19.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Bill Lee, Governor of the State of Tennessee, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Tennessee Constitution and other applicable law, do hereby declare a continuing state of emergency and major disaster in order to facilitate the response to COVID-19 and accordingly order the following:

Persons are urged to wear face coverings in public places.  To reiterate Paragraph 5 of Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50), in accordance with CDC guidance, persons, including employees or customers of businesses, are strongly urged to wear cloth face coverings or other similar coverings in public settings where being in close proximity to others is anticipated, and particularly where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain at all times.  Such cloth face coverings can be created from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost.  Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.  Surgical masks and N-95 respirators should be reserved for health care workers and first responders.

Specific delegation of authority to issue orders concerning face coverings.  Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in Paragraph 13.b. of Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50, and as may be subsequently extended), county mayors in the 89 counties that do not have a locally run county health department shall have the authority to issue orders or measures requiring or recommending the wearing of face coverings within their jurisdictions, consistent with Paragraph 3 of this order.

Contents of local orders.  Orders or measures issued by county mayors pursuant to this Order should be consistent with CDC guidance and may have such exemptions as deemed advisable, provided that, at a minimum, there shall be no requirement that a face covering be worn:

  1. Within one’s residence or automobile, unless transporting others for hire;
  2. By a child twelve (12) years of age or younger;

iii.       By someone who has trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition or another bona fide medical or health-related reason for not wearing a face covering;

  1. By someone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance;
  2. While eating or drinking;
  3. While outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household;

vii.      While working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household is substantially maintained;

viii.     In situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk;

ix.      While in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged; or

x.      While in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged.

Suspension of laws that would limit application of this Order.  Any law, order, rule, or regulation that would otherwise limit the enforceability of this Order is hereby suspended, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 58-2-107.

Nothing preempts or supersedes any authority of bodies in six counties with a locally run county health department.  Nothing herein or in Paragraphs 5 or 13 of Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50, and as may be subsequently extended) preempts or supersedes any existing authority, as provided by executive order, statute, charter, or otherwise, of a locally run county health department, board of health, official, or local legislative body, located in a county with a locally run county health department, to issue or enact orders, ordinances, rules, or law regarding face coverings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  Executive Order No. 38 (as extended by Executive Order No. 50, and as may be subsequently extended) is hereby amended to the extent necessary to effectuate this Paragraph 5, which amendment shall survive expiration or termination of this Order.

The order will remain in effect until August 3.

Kemp opens bars and renews state of emergency

State & National
bars federal u election lawsuit

ATLANTA, Ga – Gov. Brian Kemp decided to continue the state of emergency and stay at home order for the elderly and at-risk individuals through July 12. However, the governor also announced the reopening of bars, amusement parks, night clubs, professional sports, and overnight summer camps.

Music venues must remain closed.

Kemp issued timelines for the lifting of each restriction.

May 31 Openings

  • Overnight Summer Camps

June 1 Openings

  • Gatherings of 25 people will be allowed – if the area meets space requirements
  • Bars
  • Night Clubs
  • Professional Sports
  • Amateur Sports

June 12 Openings

  • Amusement Parks
  • Water Parks

Georgia will not mandate citizens to wear masks, but Kemp highly encourages everyone to wear masks in crowded areas and public places.

66 percent of nursing home residents have been tested for COVID-19. On June 1, the Department of Public Health will move to once-daily updates of coronavirus numbers.

Georgia DPH distributes Remdesivir to hospitals for treatment of COVID-19

Featured, Featured Stories, Health, Press Release
remdesivir

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is distributing an initial allotment of the drug Remdesivir received from the federal government. Georgia received 30 cases, with 40 vials of the drug per case, enough to treat about 110 patients, depending on the duration of an individual’s treatment. Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine being used to treat hospitalized patients with serious symptoms caused by COVID-19 like low oxygen levels or pneumonia. It has been found to shorten the duration of disease in patients being treated in inpatient hospital settings.

Remdesivir is given intravenously (IV) and decreases the amount of coronavirus in the body, helping patients recover faster.

The distribution plan for Remdesivir in Georgia was developed by DPH leadership, including district health directors and emergency preparedness staff, in accordance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for its use. It is based on the number of patients on ventilators, the most severely ill, and clinical best practices.

Georgia hospitals receiving Remdesivir reported 10 or more COVID-19 positive patients on ventilators, in addition to patients currently being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that takes over the work of the heart and lungs. These criteria are subject to change based on the availability of Remdesivir and
the development of patient care at hospital facilities across the state.

The following hospitals are receiving Remdesivir; Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, and Augusta University Medical Center.

“DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.”

Georgia has received a second, much larger allotment of Remdesivir. DPH is surveying hospitals statewide over the weekend to determine need. This second allotment will be distributed next week.

Gilead Sciences, Inc. committed to supplying approximately 607,000 vials of the experimental drug over the next six weeks to treat an estimated 78,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients under an emergency use agreement (EUA). The donation to the United States is part of 1.5 million vials of Remdesivir the company is donating worldwide.

Remdesivir has not been approved by the FDA for widespread use because it is considered investigational, and it is still being studied. Remdesivir was originally developed for use against Ebola. Clinical trials for Remdesivir were done in Georgia at Emory University Hospital.

For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook

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