Metro Atlanta Health Care Systems address rapid spread of COVID-19

Press Release



ATLANTA — Six major health systems that serve metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia have unified to address the public regarding the latest COVID-19 impacts and the result of the rapid spread of the Delta and Omicron variants.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Healthcare, Grady Health System, Northeast Georgia Health System, Piedmont Healthcare and Wellstar Health System are once again experiencing a staggering surge in adults and children with COVID-19 symptoms and diagnoses.

Collectively, the health care systems have experienced 100 to 200 percent increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past eight days and the vast majority of inpatients are unvaccinated. This comes at a time when the health systems are preparing for an influx of patients with seasonal flu.

Emergency room activity has also increased significantly for both emergent and non-emergent situations, including those seeking COVID-19 testing without the need for further care or treatment. To keep emergency rooms available to individuals who have the most critical health needs, individuals should obtain care at the most appropriate medical facility for their condition and seek COVID-19 testing at primary care locations, public health and mass testing sites or use at-home testing kits.

While hospitals in metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia have best practices in place to actively manage capacity and provide high-quality patient care, we need the public’s help and support.

Doing the following will help us all navigate this significant wave, minimize serious illness and hospitalizations from COVID, and better manage Emergency Room diversions and wait times at our facilities:

  • Get fully vaccinated for COVID-19, obtain the COVID-19 booster when eligible and get the seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Go to the most appropriate medical facility for your condition when you require care – and do not delay care if you are in need of immediate medical attention.

Please remember that Emergency Rooms are for those seeking examination and treatment for medical emergencies, not for routine COVID-19 testing or mild symptoms.

  • Please only call 911 with a true emergency. Local 911 operators and EMTs are overwhelmed with calls, so if there is not a real emergency, please call your medical provider for guidance.
  • Use at-home testing kits, public health testing locations or independent testing facilities if you need to be tested for COVID-19 unless you are ill and need medical care.
  • For routine COVID-19 tests, you can find a location near you on the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) website at:
  • Consult your provider for appropriate treatment options if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Continue to actively follow CDC and DPH guidelines, and practice the “3 Ws” safety easures – wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.
  • Anticipate increased wait times for medical services. Due to the influx of patients and increased demands placed on our health care workforce, we ask everyone who enters our facilities to practice patience and kindness with each other and with our care team members who are providing expert, compassionate care.

The health and safety of our patients and communities remains our top priority. The six metro Atlanta health care systems will continue to work together to educate and inform the public regarding COVID-19 and address the most critical health needs impacting our area. We also would like to express our appreciation to the Governor for his support of our workforce and the newly announced funding to address staffing shortages at hospitals across the state due to COVID-19, and to the Georgia Department of Public Health for continued outreach to the public regarding issues affecting our patients, care team members and community.

City council discusses COVID-19 vaccine incentive

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawsonville City Council met Monday evening, Sept. 20, and discussed several topics on the agenda, including a possible vaccine incentive for city employees.

Dawsonville City Manager, Bob Bolz, spoke on the proposed vaccine incentive for city employees to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

He said that they already have approved for workers to be able to get vaccinated during a workday without penalty.

This means that employees are allowed to leave to get vaccinated and would still be paid for the hours missed.

“Each week I sit in with the GMA virtual conference about COVID. They are pushing herd immunity, herd immunity and the quickest way to get there is encouraging vaccinations,” Bolz said.

Currently, the city doesn’t ask for proof of vaccination but that ideally, the proposed incentive would incentivize individuals who are vaccinated to show documentation and those who are not to go get vaccinated.

The incentive would pay individuals $250 for receiving the vaccine and would pay those who have already received the vaccine if they are willing to show proof.

“If you look, Canton is doing a $500 per employee, Hall County is doing $500 per employee. If all 21 people [for Dawson County] got vaccinated, it would be a $5,250 expense of which $2,100 would be reimbursed from ARPA money. They are willing to pay $100 of incentive money so, it would be $3,150 to the city,” Bolz said.

He continued that he thought it was something that could be easily covered by the city and that this is simply an effort to get people vaccinated.

The council opted to vote on this matter at the upcoming meeting on Oct. 4.

Pickens BOE receives digital learning and COVID-19 updates

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Elementary school principals speak to BOE about digital learning

PICKENS, Ga. — The Pickens County Board of Education focused on COVID-19 and digital learning updates during their September meeting. Six Pickens County principals and the Director of Health Services gave presentations to the board, bringing them up to date with the district’s current COVID-19 related procedures.  

Digital Learning in Pickens County

Itslearning, an online education service, has been used in Pickens to assist with digital learning since the beginning of the pandemic. Now that most students are back in school, teachers and administrators have faced new challenges with online learning. However, school faculty members are tackling the task head on. 

Jennifer Halko, principal of Hill City Elementary, began by emphasizing their success with itslearning to the board. “I think we are really on the right track with it now,” she noted, “it is just part of our daily use in the classroom.” Halko went on to detail the three scenarios in which itslearning is utilized in the elementary schools: in-person classes, small quarantines and full school closures. Use during completely in-person classes helps the students get accustomed to the program. This often daily practice prepares students for use at home, ensuring they can properly navigate the service. “In that situation, the students are very familiar with itslearning. They have been using it everyday, all year,” Halko ensured the board. She also addressed possible concerns with teacher support, bringing up communication options and live video meets supported through the service. 

Board members also raised concern about student accountability and participation while using itslearning. The principals addressed these questions, noting that the program automatically logs the amount of time a student spends actively working. Halko clarified, “We send out those expectations beforehand … we are monitoring their progress toward the standards.” Marla Callahan, principal of Harmony Elementary, also pointed out that students have an opportunity to complete their online work when they return to school. 

During his presentation Dr. Chad Flatt, the Pickens Junior High principal, explained how PJHS uses itslearning and reiterated its importance. He told the board, “You have to have something, ‘cause we can’t operate anymore without that sort of necessity.” Principal Chris Wallace of Pickens High School also addressed the BOE. He emphasized teacher feedback during his presentation, sharing the teachers’ opinions of the service. Wallace ended the superintendent report on digital learning by thanking the board for providing itslearning to the schools.

COVID-19 Status Report

District Health Director Gail Smith also addressed the Board of Education during the September meeting. She began her COVID-19 status report saying, “We’ve been in this school year now well over a month, and so it’s time to reevaluate our Covid practices and see if we need to adjust anything.” She pointed out the recent quadrupling of COVID-19 cases among children across the state of Georgia. She then shared that from July 26 through Sept. 2 a total of 1646 individuals in the district either tested positive, were exposed, or were suspected of being COVID-19 positive. Out of the 1646 cases, 316 were confirmed positive through rapid, PCR, or at-home tests.

She then stressed the effectiveness of the district’s mitigation strategies. Out of the 316 confirmed cases, only 57 were determined to be school transmissions. Smith explained, “If we, as a school district, were not doing contact tracing and quarantine, [those confirmed cases] would have been spreading that virus.” Citing the increased infectiousness of the Delta Variant, she told the board those 57 individuals would have infected an additional 342 people at minimum. “We’re saving lives,” Smith said. 

Smith then brought up the “attack rate”, or the severity threshold, of COVID-19. She explained that when 3% of a given population tests positive for the flu, mitigation strategies need to be put in place. Comparing the flu to COVID-19, she noted that all Pickens County elementary schools are below the 3% threshold. Smith specifically pointed out Tate Elementary’s 0.61% attack rate. She then noted that during the 2021-2022 school year only two students and one staff member have been hospitalized, and there are no recorded deaths. 

At the end of her presentation, Smith highlighted again the importance of community action—vaccinations, masks and mitigation strategies. She concluded the meeting by turning to the community. Smith urged, “If there are any parents listening: the biggest thing we can do to reduce the numbers at these campuses is for the children 12 and up to be vaccinated.”

Mask requirement extended at Clay County Schools

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HAYESVILLE, NC: At the called meeting on September 7, the Clay County Board of Education decided to continue the mask mandate until the COVID-19 numbers decrease.

The decision was unanimous.

The board will review the policy every month. NC General Assembly issued two policy options for school systems regarding masks, but one must be approved every month. Option A is a mask mandate, and option B is guidelines for mask optional protocols.

Superintendent Dale Cole recommended the mask requirement continue for the time due to COVID-19 numbers.

The original mandate was initiated on August 18. 

The first three weeks of classes indicated COVID-19 quarantines have almost every week. Children’s positive cases grew significantly week over week, with 17 positive students on week one, 26 week two, and 45 week three. Staff positive cases have remained constant for the time being at three total.

graph of COVID-19 data at Clay County Schools

Superintendent Cole explains the cumulative COVID-19 numbers.

The schools did rework their lunchroom protocol and seating to prevent possible exposures during lunchtime. As of week three, 74 students were exposed during lunch.

In the high school, 77 students (over 20 percent) were in quarantine. The middle school has 60 in quarantine.

Teachers have expressed the difficulty of teaching students remotely and in person, and some feel that masks are necessary right now. However, all enjoy being back in the classroom with students and instructing face to face.

Additionally, the board approved the recommendation to let the superintendent shut down a school or make it virtual without calling a board of education meeting. The measure deals specifically with a public health emergency.

“As long as we have staff available…we can have school for 10 kids if that’s all we have. The problem is when we don’t have the staff to monitor the safety of the students,” Superintendent Cole explained.

Cole feels like having school virtual is better than not having school at all. Virtual might be the best option for specific situations if a teacher can work while in quarantine.

The majority of substitutes are older and are unsure about entering a school system during the pandemic. Additionally, each school typically needs a certain amount of substitutes each day on a typical day.

Masks again required in Towns and Union Courthouses

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Enotah Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Raymond George issued a mask requirement for all visiting the courthouses in Union, Towns, White, and Lumpkin Counties.

The mandate will be in place at least until the Delta Variant wave of COVID-19 abates in the area. The order begins on Monday, August 23, 2021.

All who enter the courthouses will be required to wear backs and have their temperature checked.

In the last two weeks, the Department of Public Health has reported 72 cases in Towns, 146 cases in Union, 253 cases in Lumpkin, and 266 in White. Each county is listed as a high transmission area.

Local hospitals continue to report that their hospitals and ICUs are filled with COVID-19 patients.

Last week, Governor Brian Kemp issued an executive order preventing local governments from imposing COVID-19 restrictions on businesses. However, school districts have the power to determine what measures work best for them.

Towns Elementary and Union Primary had to close their buildings for a week after experiencing significant spread throughout the staff and some students.

Anyone experiencing a COVID-19 related system, such as fever, cough, fatigue, should consider being tested for the virus. The Pfizer vaccine received full FDA approval for 16 and older on Monday, August 23. The vaccine is not yet approved for children younger than 12 even for emergency use.

Currently, Towns and Union County have higher vaccination rates than Lumpkin and White. 50 percent of Towns County has received at least one dose of the vaccine with 46 percent fully vaccinated. Union County is 42 percent fully vaccinated.

White and Lumpkin are 31 and 30 percent fully vaccinated.

Some breakthrough cases have occurred with the vaccine, but most of those patients are reporting less severe symptoms and not requiring hospitalization. Around 90 percent of hospitalized cases are individuals who weren’t vaccinated.

The health department, CVS, and Ingles are all offering COVID-19 vaccines. At some locations, an appointment isn’t necessary to get the vaccine.

Union County Primary must close due to Covid-19 outbreak

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Union County Primary

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Union County Primary School will close its building for a week beginning August 23 due to a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases.

A letter from Principal Shane Womack outlined the current situation among staff and students.

“We currently have 20.18 percent (22) staff absent, 3.18 percent (24) student positives, and 11.85 percent (85) students quarantines.”

The positive case rate and quarantine situations resulted in a struggle to keep the school open. There aren’t enough teachers and substitutes available.

For the week of August 23 through 27, Union County Primary will use online learning and classroom packets depending on the grade level. First and second graders will be online using Google Classrooms. If the student doesn’t have access to the internet, parents and guardians can stop by the Primary’s front office on Monday, August 23, to pick up a hot spot.

Pre-K and kindergarten will use the printed learning packet given to parents in the communication folder.
Parents are asked to monitor their children for COVID-19 symptoms.

See Principal Womack’s entire letter below:

Union County Schools (UCS) returned for the 2021-2022 year last week. Union County has been experiencing a significant spike in cases since the beginning of August.

School systems across North Georgia are feeling the effects of the Delta Variant. Gilmer County issued a mask mandate on Thursday, August 19, and Towns County Elementary closed for a week because of an outbreak.

Governor Brian Kemp stated earlier this week that he’s letting local school systems make their own decisions regarding masks and COVID-19 prevention.

Department of Public Health will be releasing new school-age data numbers today, indicating spread within children. In the August 13 report, the Union County cases in the 5-17 age range were marked as high transmission and increasing. Over a 14-day period, DPH recorded nine new cases for the age group. They gathered the data before children returned to school.

Union County Schools COVID-19 Protocols

The COVID-19 protocol as of Friday, August 20 highly encourages masks for students and staff to mitigate spread.

Positive students must quarantine for ten days and may return to school after symptoms end or 24 hours without a fever or fever-reducing medicine. Any student within a 6-foot radius of a positive case will receive a courtesy call and asked to self-monitor.

Potentially exposed employees can still work under the essential worker status. If they exhibit any COVID-19 related symptoms, they must inform their supervisor, and essential worker status will be revoked. These individuals must quarantine for ten days from the onset of symptoms.

These employees must wear a medical or N95 mask at all times aside from eating, drinking. They must also visit the school nurse for morning and midday symptom screenings. Meals will be eaten in an isolated setting.

UCS is making use of seating charts in classrooms to help identify potential exposures and quarantines. Teachers will sanitize their classrooms at least twice a week during mid-day. However, they can clean as much as they see fit. The custodial staff is disinfecting the buildings after school.

FYN will update this story as more information becomes available.

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.

Clay board of education enacts mask requirement for students

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HAYESVILLE, Ga – Clay County Board of Education issued a mask mandate just a few days before the start of the school year.

The policy will revisit the decision on September 7 to determine if the mask requirement needs to continue. On July 26, the board decided masks could be a parent option. At that time, Clay County reported only 10 active cases.

As of August 18, Clay County recorded 64 active cases, 2 positive school staff, 1 quarantined, 13 positive students, and 21 quarantined students.

Federal regulation already mandates masks to always be worn on buses. Disposable masks will be available on every bus. Additionally, the school system will provide five cloth masks to students.

Towns County Elementary closed this week because of staff and student cases within the school. Towns County began the 2021-2022 year just two weeks ago.

Several factors went into the decision including NCDHHS and Strong Schools quarantine guidelines and learning habits of Clay County Schools (CCS) students.

“The goal is to have face-to-face instruction at least five days per week as close to normal as possible,” Superintendent Dale Cole explained. “Our second graders have never had a full year of school.”

NCDHHS policy states that students within close contact with a positive case while wearing a mask do not need to quarantine. However, both students the positive case and potentially exposed child need to be properly wearing a mask at the time. The quarantine exemption does not include extracurricular activities or athletics, just the classroom setting.

“Optional masking will likely lead to multiple quarantines among students and staff creating default remote instruction for much of the time the next few months,” Cole stated. “So as the situation changes, we have to make decisions.”

Board Chairperson Jason Shook explained that a majority of students struggled to adjust to online education and forcing a child to juggle between in-person and online isn’t beneficial to them.

Data from last year showcased the learning hurdles, especially in math. For the majority of 2020-2021, students were either online or only in person two to three days a week.

The health department has final authority on who needs to quarantine or not. The school can’t override a decision made by the health department.

Online Learning Option

The virtual option will continue to be available for parents who requested it. As of August 18, 44 requests had been made. Superintendent Cole explained the number could drop with a mask mandate in place.

The cost of virtual learning per student is between $1,500 – $2,000 for K-8 and $3,000 for high schoolers. CCS has federal funding to cover these costs. The board will revisit the necessity of the online option for the second semester.

To try and limit community spread, the schools will be disinfected on Wednesdays and weekends. Field trips will be canceled or postponed for the next month.

Visitors will be allowed in the office area only and must wear masks.

As far as sporting events, masks must be worn on the sidelines and on activity buses. Spectators aren’t expected to wear masks at this time. Gyms will be disinfected after every game. CCS policy for athletics mirrors the procedures in place with the rest of the conference.

Towns Elementary School is closed to in-person due to outbreak

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Towns Schools outbreak

HIAWASSEE, Ga: Towns County Elementary is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak with ten positive staff members and six positive students. The building is closed for the week with students moving online.

In an online statement, Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong explained that the virus is rapidly moving through the elementary school staff.

“This is not passing currently through our students, and it wasn’t passing through our students last year as well. The majority of these students are isolated cases. They are not attached to one another. The staff members obviously are attached to one another, not all ten. These are three or four isolated events where one staff member passed it to the next,” Berrong stated.  

Towns County Elementary is virtual this week for thorough cleaning of the building and to stop any future spread. The 2021-2022 school year began for students on August 4.

Towns County School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong

The option for virtual learning is available due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the area. Parents and guardians have until Wednesday, August 18, to sign their child up for online learning for the entire semester. The virtual learning option will start on Monday, August 23. The curriculum for online education will be through Calvert learning for elementary, Edgenuity for middle, and Gradpoint for the high school.

“You need to look closely if you had a child online last year whether or not they were successful and whether that is the right choice for them,” Berrong added.

All parents are encouraged to research the curriculum to inform their decision.

They will reassess the need for online learning before the second semester begins. Berrong hopes the Delta Variant spikes quickly and cases drop just as quickly. However, they will continue to monitor the situation.

Towns County Middle School and Towns County High School each have one positive student at this time. Classes are still in person for the week at the middle and high schools. 

The FDA and CDC approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 and older. The vaccine trials are still ongoing for younger children.

New COVID-19 policies are in place. Masks are again encouraged to wear a face-covering to school. Face coverings aren’t mandated. Berrong explained he would be wearing a mask. No visitors will be allowed at Towns County Schools.

Positive cases must quarantine for ten days, and after the ten days with no symptoms for 24 hours with no fever-reducing medicine, they may return to school.

If a student is in close contact with a positive case, they will quarantine for seven calendar days and can return on day eight.

Students who had close contact with a positive case but wore a face covering may continue to attend in-person class while wearing a mask.

“It’s not because we’re seeing the transmission between students, and if it is transmitting, the students are not getting sick, but they very well could be transmitting to the adults,” Berrong added.

Local hospitals are reporting full ICUs and seeing more patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases or with COVID-like symptoms. Union General Hospital stated that 90 percent of the hospitalized cases are unvaccinated.

Some of the Towns County Elementary staff were vaccinated and still experienced breakthrough cases. Currently, none of the elementary team are hospitalized with COVID-19.

In Towns County, the Department of Public Health reports that 45 percent are fully vaccinated, and 49 percent have received at least one dose.

Over the last two weeks, Towns County confirmed 23 new cases over three days. It’s a significant increase from the previous lows maintained in the area.

Still, Towns transmission is seemingly lower than counties with lower vaccination rates. Fannin County’s only 35 percent fully vaccinated, and it reported 89 new cases over two weeks. The numbers are likely to continue to grow.

Fannin experiencing “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases

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COVID-19 cases

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Georgia’s currently ninth in the nation for rising COVID-19 cases and Fannin’s verified 89 new cases as of August 10 over two weeks.

In the previous 14-day report the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) recorded 59 cases in Fannin County. On July 26, only 48 cases were documented over 14 days. If the trend continues, it’s likely August numbers will double from July.

Fannin Regional Hospital has seen a “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases.

“The number of tests that are coming back positive are now exceeding the number of positive tests from last winter,” EMA Director Robert Graham commented on the hospital’s case rates.

Additionally, Fannin Regional is finding more cases in younger individuals, but they appear to be milder.

Local area hospitals’ ICUs are full, and some patients are being kept in the ER for treatment. Statewide hospitals are reaching similar breaking points and transferring patients to other facilities.

Only 34 percent of Fannin County is fully vaccinated which is lower than neighboring counties.

“The sampling of tests statewide and its appearing that the majority of the cases, somewhere in the 80 percent range, they’re seeing the sampling is the Delta Variant,” Graham stated. “There’s also a Lambda Variant that’s starting to show up too. and they’re saying it’s even more contagious than the Delta Variant.”

The Delta Variant has proven to be more contagious than previous iterations of COVID-19. Some data on variant suggests more severe illness can result from infection than the original strain.  According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals who experience a symptomatic breakthrough can transmit the virus to others. At this time, it’s unclear if an asymptomatic breakthrough can transmit it to others. Vaccinated people do appear to be infectious for a shorter amount of time.

Graham recommends people use common sense, follow the CDC guidelines, and when in stores or close contact with a group of people, wear a mask.

“They do say the vaccines are fairly effective against the variants, but they are seeing some breakthrough cases of people that actually get COVID that have had the vaccine. One group reported the vaccine is creating a better antibody than someone had actually had COVID,” Graham said.

Some breakthrough infections of COVID-19 are occurring among the vaccinated, but it’s a small portion. According to DPH, of the 4 million fully vaccinated, 0.12 percent have tested positive and 0.00058 percent have died.

Post One Johnny Scearce, who suffered from a lengthy battle with COVID-19 and related illness, confirmed that the vaccine has helped him.

“I would definitely recommend if somebody doesn’t have any other objections to it, definitely get the vaccine,” Graham commented.

Vaccine boosters are in the process, but no definitive word on the necessity of booster shots has come from the CDC, DPH, of NIH.

DPH is working on setting up a testing site closer to North Georgia again, most likely in Gilmer County.

“I think we all know somebody who has been affected by it,” Chairman Jamie Hensley added. “We know it’s a sickness, how bad it can be. We just have to work diligently.”

The courthouse is being regularly fogged to try and kill the virus. Also, all door handles and frequently touched surfaces are being sanitized throughout the day in all departments.

The recreation department will shut down the recreation center on Wednesdays to deep clean. It will open at 3 p.m.

No masks required at CCS for now

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HAYESVILLE, NC – Clay County students will be returning on August 23, 2021, and this year masks are optional for students and staff for now.

During the July 26, 2021 board meeting, the members voted to not require masks for the upcoming year. However, parents can send their children to school masked if that’s their preference.

83 percent of teachers were in favor of optional masks for this school year. School nurses recommended following NCDHHS and CDC guidance, which requires masks for K-8 for all staff and students. They cited masks’ effectiveness last year.

Only 1 percent of 12–17-year-olds in Clay County have been vaccinated and 34 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

Current CDC guidance asks that everyone, including vaccinated individuals, wear a mask indoors if in an area of substantial or high transmission. Clay County is listed as a high transmission community by the CDC. Case data demonstrated a 22 percent change in 7-day totals in the area. Many southern states are seeing COVID-19 cases rise as the Delta variant works its way across the region.

Since Clay County Schools (CCS) aren’t requiring masks, online learning will remain an option for families who don’t want to potentially expose their children to COVID-19. However, this year, the school system will be using an online academy. CCS teachers won’t be providing in-person and remote learning to students.

Parents who wish to participate in online learning must inform their child’s principal by August 18.

Any student moved to fully remote instruction during Semester 1 must remain on fully remote instruction through December 22, 2021.

The parent must notify the principal that the student will be returning for Semester 2 by December 17th.

Cautionary measures such as quarantine and isolation for students and staff who are exposed, experiencing symptoms, or test positive for COVID-19 will remain in place.

CCS board applied for grant funding for onsite COVID-19 during the board meeting as well. If received, the $100,000 grant would connect them to a vendor for rapid tests, in-depth testing, and the hiring of either a nurse or nurse’s assistant.

Parents still have the option to refuse the testing of their child for COVID-19.

The in-house testing should help CCS isolate COVID-19 cases within the school system and hopefully prevent quarantining of entire classrooms.

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! Breast Implant Lymphoma and Throat Cancer

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This morning, the doctors discuss Breast Implant Lymphoma. How common is it? Did the Surgeon make a mistake? The Doctors also touch on Throat Cancer of the Epiglottis. Is the treatment plan correct? The doctors also discuss Covid-19 and the vaccine. What’s True And What’s False? Which of the Vaccines is the most effective?


Ask The Doc! Types Of Breast Cancer And The Flu Season

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This week, the doctors discuss the different types of breast cancer. They also touch on a question from a viewer regarding the treatment of their husband’s heart tumors. Is he getting the right treatment? What happened to Flu Season? What’s the latest on Covid-19? All this and more on Ask The Doc!


Ask The Doc: Long Term Effects of Surviving Cancer

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This week, Dr. Whaley and Dr. Raymond Tidman discuss some questions sent in by viewers. They touch on the long term effects of Cancer and some possible complications of surviving cancer. They also discuss how to know when you’re cured of cancer. Is there anyway to prevent future complications for cancer survivors? The doctors also discuss the current numbers of cancer survivors compared to in the past.


Positive news concerning COVID-19 in Fannin

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COVID-19 positive

BLUE RIDGE, Ga: The status of COVID-19 in Fannin appears to be trending in the right direction as positive cases begin to drop and vaccine providers become more readily available.

According to EMA Director Robert Graham, 11 percent of tests are coming back positive, but the health department is no longer giving COVID-19 tests. As a result, the capacity for administering tests might have decreased. The state still considers Fannin to be a high transmission county.

The health department transitioned to providing vaccines and partnered with the Kiwanis Club to use their fairgrounds as a vaccine location. Five days a week, the health department takes scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the fairgrounds. However, no one can currently sign up for a vaccine reservation because the health department’s waiting on more vaccines.

Vaccine availability depends on national supply. North Georgia Health Department spokesperson stated “We urge residents who are eligible for the vaccine but have not yet registered for an appointment to monitor our website and social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates as additional appointment times become available. All existing appointments are still valid.

“Definitely want to thank the Kiwanis Club for working with us. I think it’s a testament to our community that we were able to reach out to someone like that, and they were more than gracious to help us out. We needed a large facility like that,” Chairman Jamie Hensley stated.

On Tuesday, February 9, Fannin had a total of 18,062 cases, with 133 confirmed over the last 14 days. The COVID-19 variant hasn’t reached the county yet. Health officials claimed the current vaccine protects against the variant as well.

At the Fannin Regional Hospital, 15 percent of total visits are COVID-19 related. ICU capacity is between 80 to 100 percent with extended stays in the unit. The hospital’s experiencing 70 percent capacity on the medical-surgical wing, but bed availability increased over the last 24 hours. On any given day, the pending positive cases for COVID-19 range from 30 percent to 80 percent.

On Tuesday, Fannin Regional issued 404 COVID-19 vaccines.

The state granted Fannin Fire and EMS vaccine provider status, and they’ve administered 522 doses with 600 doses order. However, half of the ordered amount will serve as second vaccinations.

“Whether we get it or not, I don’t know or how long it will be before we get it, but hopefully, we’ll get some of it coming in next week,” Graham said.

Fannin EMS’s list of individuals requesting the vaccine exceeds 270 as of Tuesday. More people call in each day.

Currently, only Phase1A+ Georgians can receive the vaccine, so people who are 65 and older, a caregiver of a senior citizen, healthcare workers, law enforcement, public safety, and first responders.

Once the state opens vaccine distribution to educators, Fannin EMS and schools have created a plan to vaccinate the district’s employees at the schools. To lighten the health department’s load, they’ve offered to vaccinate utility companies like Tri-State Electric.

Georgia’s setting up some mass vaccination sites around the state, but not close to Fannin for the moment, Graham added.

No one in the fire department, EMS, or 911 is currently COVID-19 positive. Graham believes it showcases the care his employees are taking with their health and others.

Georgia Mountains Health Services also offers the vaccine to patients who make an appointment.


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