Dec. 1 Update: 424,929 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 367,395 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 December 1 at 8:15 p.m.

Georgia Data

On December 1, DPH reported 23 new deaths, 239 new hospitalizations, and 2,892 new confirmed cases. 

DPH confirmed 424,929 cases, 35,063 hospitalized, 6,536 patients in ICU, and 8,798 deaths. The 3 p.m. reported  4,314,448 tests have been completed. Total tests included 363,107 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, 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

Map reports cases per 100,000 people last 14 days. The deeper oranges and reds indicate higher.

 

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 December 1, 2020, NCDHHS reported 367,395 cases statewide, 315,979 presumed recovered, 5,284 deaths, and 2,033 hospitalized. The highest concentration is now in Mecklenburg with 43,983 cases and 456 deaths. Avery County had the highest 14-day case increase. NCDHHS reported 5,322,548 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.

CDC guide to safely celebrating Thanksgiving

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ATLANTA, Ga – Thanksgiving is next week and to help those concerned with coronavirus safely take part in the holiday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued the following guidelines.

First, the organization recommends to only celebrate with people who live in your household. However, Thanksgiving is a time when many gather together with their extended families. The CDC posed that families could host a virtual Thanksgiving where everyone shares a meal digitally. People could also watch television and play games with people who live in their household or write down everything they are grateful for and share those items with family and friends.

Individuals could also prepare traditional dishes and leave them outside a loved one’s home.

Individuals could leave dishes outside to protect family members.

CDC asks that visitors bring their own utensils, food, drinks, plates, and cups. Also, people are advised to avoid going in and out of areas where food is being prepared or handled. Single-use options such as ranch dressing packets and disposable items are encouraged.

Hosting Thanksgiving

Those hosting the Thanksgiving meal are urged to have the event outside, limit the number of guests, frequently disinfect touched surfaces, and set expectations. If they choose to have an indoor meal, the CDC recommends opening windows, limiting the number of people in the kitchen, asking people to bring their own food and drink, and if sharing food, only one person should serve with plastic utensils.

People should follow the 3 W’s of wearing a mask, washing your hands, and waiting for social distancing aka maintaining six feet of separation.

The mask needs to be two or more layers and securely fitted over your mouth and nose. Also when eating Thanksgiving dinner, the CDC recommends that the mask is stored in a safe place.

When washing hands, people should take 20 seconds to scrub clean with soap and water. Also, everyone is encouraged to keep hand sanitizer on their person. The sanitizer should be at least 60 percent alcohol.

Thanksgiving Travel

For those who are traveling to visit loved ones, the CDC strongly recommends that everyone stay home to limit potential spread of COVID-19. However, those who are traveling should check travel restrictions, get their flu shot, always wear a mask while on public transportation, maintain six feet separation, wash their hands, bring extra masks and hand sanitizer, and avoid touching their face.

A virtual meal between households is urged by the CDC.

Thanksgiving Shopping

As for Black Friday, many stores began their sales at the beginning of November. CDC recommends that people participate in online sales and use contactless pick-up methods. If shopping in person, visit open-air markets and maintain social distance.

Images are courtesy of the CDC.

Public safety hazard pay motion dies on the table

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – After a heated discussion concerning hazard pay for first responders, sheriff’s office, and EMS, the motion to approve $500 in funds failed to receive a vote.

Chairman Stan Helton didn’t accept the motion made by Post One Earl Johnson. The Chairman preferred to wait until a new board took office and let them handle the hazard pay matter.

“Nobody was going to be completely happy…and you’re this close to the end of the year. If someone gets bonus pay now, in a few months, they’ll have to pay taxes on it. After the first of the year, you’ll have a new board, you can sit down…Nobody is disputing the danger and dedication to this stuff,” Helton stated. “I’m through with the hazard pay thing.”

Previously, the Fannin Board of Commissioners had tabled the issue until more information became available or until the new administration took office in January 2021. In a last-minute move, Post Two Glenn Patterson asked for hazard pay and the White Path building to be included in the November meeting.

“They run toward the COVID while we try to stay away from it as much as they can, but when they took that job, they didn’t realize all the extra danger,” Patterson said. “I can’t believe we can’t find an extra $100 a month to give to these guys and ladies.”

Post One Earl Johnson expressed that he wasn’t for or against hazard pay and how he knew it would be a can-of-worms when first discussed months earlier. He wanted to know what the county could do legally before passing a measure.

“I asked Mrs. Doss what we can legally get,” Johnson said, “I don’t want people to misconstrue the fact and think that I don’t want people to get hazard pay. I wanted to find out what we can do legally.”

County Attorney Lynn Doss said, “There are certain categories that we know can be paid, which are first responders, the people that fall under sheriff’s office and emergency management services.”

She felt comfortable with offering hazard pay to that group of people.

County Attorney Lynn Doss

“The only decision I’m going to make is one that she feels confident is not going to come back in the future,” Johnson added. He wanted to ensure that the state doesn’t deny the county’s expense.

These individuals can receive hazard pay for their service during COVID-19, and Fannin County can apply to be reimbursed for this expense through the CARES Act. Department heads and elected officials are not eligible.

The earlier amount discussed for the public safety employees was $500 in hazard pay.

“I’m fine with the $500, and I’m fine with paying it to whoever we can legally pay with no future ramifications to this board,” Johnson stated.

Patterson then put the ball in Johnson’s court, saying he would second the motion if Johnson put it forth. Patterson was the commissioner who wanted to discuss the topic. However, Helton never asked for a motion.

“My concern on this hazard pay thing…is I don’t think you’re going to do anything other than create dissension with people. However, if you two gentlemen feel that we need to do $500 for whatever group that you want to make a motion,” Helton asserted. “It’s not an issue of what disserve is, but I feel at this point, I don’t want to make any decisions that don’t have to be made right now. I’m not going to do anything that hurts the new administration.”

Fannin received $1.3 million in CARES Act Funding. According to CFO Robin Gazaway, if the county included hazard pay and the other COVID-19 expenses, it would leave approximately $600,000.

Around 100 people would receive the intended hazard pay.

At a previous meeting, EMA Director Robert Graham and Fire Chief Larry Thomas presented a breakdown of the amount of hazard pay per call for volunteers. The county could choose to include or exclude volunteers.

After another five minutes of discussion, Patterson backed down from making a motion, but Johnson decided to go ahead with the measure.

“I make a motion that we pay $500 to every first responder that the county attorney Lynn Doss outlines are eligible to receive it,” Johnson said.

“With the numbers that have been thrown out here, the kind of expense that is, no. The only motion I want to ask for is one to adjourn this meeting,” Helton finalized

According to the document on the ACCG website, published on August 17, 2020, hazard pay is 100 percent reimbursable for public health and public safety employees. However, hazard pay can’t be retroactively awarded. Therefore, if a county paid a few months of hazardous duty pay to public safety and then discontinued it because of lack of funds or never paid hazardous duty pay because of lack of funds, they can’t retroactively pay it for part or all of the time period.

The document also outlines that “Treasury guidance allows state and local governments to presume that 100 percent of public safety payroll costs are dedicated to COVID-19 response during the eligible spending period to streamline the administrative burden of accounting for expenses.”

Public safety employees include EMS, first responders, firefighters, or locally paid emergency medical personnel.

As for detention center or jailers, ACCG lists: “Yes, Treasury guidance provides that jail and detention center staff performing a substantially different role due to social distancing enforcement or additional sanitizing requirements would be eligible for CRF funding.”

County employees not eligible are administrative staff unless job duties are substantially different. Teleworking isn’t a reimbursable expense.

UPDATE: Pickens Schools closed beginning Monday

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Pickens County Schools announced they will close all schools starting Monday, Oct. 26 through Nov. 6. Traditional students will transition to distance learning on Monday.

The decision comes after the district had 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 584 students, teachers, and staff in quarantined.

According to a press release from the system, the buildings will be deep cleaned during the closure as well as all buses.

“We are making this decision with a heavy heart but with the best interest of everyone in mind,” said Destini Shope, Director of Community Engagement and Public Relations.

The decision was based on recommendations from the Department of Public Health.

Staff members are encouraged to avoid entering the buildings unless absolutely necessary and should contact the building administrator.

Tate, Hill City, and PJHS will continue to serve as polling locations on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. Those locations will be cleaned before and after Election Day.

Continue to check back for updates.

ALL STAR PANEL EXPOSES JOE BIDEN

COVID task force encourages residents not to be complacent

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Contributed Photo
Construction has begun in earnest on the new addition to the Gordon County Court House annex.

COVID task force: Not the time to be complacent

The Gordon County COVID-19 task force is encouraging people to continue following safety guidelines. COVID-19 cases in Gordon County rose to 240 over the last two weeks, compared to 170 in the two weeks prior.

The task force released the following statement:

“Over the last couple of weeks cases in Gordon County, the State of Georgia and the country have increased after multiple weeks of declines in case numbers. As these numbers declined people may have become more relaxed on precautions such as social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, washing hands, staying home if you are sick and the wearing of masks. As these numbers  continue to trend upward this is not the time to become complacent and lose the gains we have made. We are asking each citizen and family to please remain diligent to keeping yourself and your family as safe as possible by continuing to observe recommendations from public health officials.

We will continue to monitor situations daily and do all that we can to keep our citizens safe. Since the beginning of this pandemic we have worked diligently to try and stay ahead of this virus as a team here in Gordon County. We ask that our citizens continue to do the things that can be done during this time to help our community as a whole. If you do feel you need to be tested the Gordon County Health Department continues testing at the Gordon County Senior Center which is currently closed to normal operations. The Senior Center is located at 150 Cambridge Court in Calhoun and free testing will be conducted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30-4:30. No appointment is needed for this testing.”

The COVID-19 task force meets every two weeks and communicates daily. It includes members of emergency management, the hospital, and other government officials.

Gordon Central High School and Sonoraville High School go to hybrid schedule as COVID rates increase

Early voting sees record numbers

The Gordon County Elections Office received a verbal pat-on-the-back after Commissioner Bud Owens commended them.

“I’ve had so many people tell me what a great experience it was, that it ran smoothly, the staff was nice,” Owens told the commissioners.

County Administrator James Ledbetter said more than 6,000 people have voted early in Gordon County and the poll workers have worked to keep everything safe.

“They have one who opens the doors for people so voters won’t have to touch the doors,” he said, adding that the voting cards and machines are sanitized after each use.

Alcohol license suspended

The commissioners voted to suspend the alcohol license for Rainbow Corner, 4594 Dews Pond Road, after several violations. The violations include selling alcohol and tobacco to people under the age of 21 and allowing a convicted felon to be the holder of the license. The suspension will remain in effect until at least the November 3 meeting, when the board will decide to reinstate the license or continue the suspension.

Janitorial services

The commissioners awarded a contract for janitorial services at the Agriculture Center to ICS Cleaning Service for $9,000. Although it was not the lowest of the seven bids, it was under the $12,000 maximum amount. The lowest bid was Hammi Building Services at $6,771.96 but they did not receive the recommendation because while they currently hold the contract, the county has received complaints about their performance.

“They just weren’t getting the job done, that’s why we put it out to bid,” said Ledbetter.

In other news:

  • The board appointed Jim Bradley, the ordinance officer, as the agent responsible for deciding if abandoned mobile homes are derelict, giving landowners another level of due process to get rid of unwanted trailers left on their property.
  • Tax bills are mailed.
  • Work is underway at the courthouse annex, which will become the main courthouse upon completion. Plans include extending it and adding a level to it.
  • The county is interviewing the most qualified candidates for the position of financial director.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Special Events Canceled for City of Blue Ridge

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Blue Ridge, Ga. – In an unanimous vote the Blue Ridge City Council decided that any special events within the city limits will be canceled until further notice. This includes the cancelation of Blue Ridge’s Halloween SafeZone and Light Up Blue Ridge.

Discussion of canceling future events for the remainder of the year had previously taken place among council but no official vote had been made on the matter.

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Blue Ridge Halloween SafeZone 2019

“We need to make it official,” Council member Rhonda Haight spoke, referencing that since their previous discussion special events had been permitted to take place: “I felt like we should have voted last time.”

Mayor Donna Whitener expressed that she didn’t fully agree with the idea of canceling all events with no exceptions and pointed out that the recent prayer vigil held for Blue Ridge Chief of Police Johnny Scearce would technically fall under the special event category.

Haight made the motion of  “no more events allowed until further notice”, which carried without opposition.

Although the Halloween SafeZone has been canceled an alternative has been set up according to Cesar Martinez, President of the Blue Ridge Business Association (BRBA).

“We get 5,000 or 6,000 people downtown and we just can’t do it this year,” Martinez said and noted that state guidelines would just not make it feasible for the city to accommodate.

The BRBA will be partnering with Blue Ridge United Methodist Church to offer a drive thru option for families to enjoy. Booths will be set up along this route, where participants can hand out candy.

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Lighting of the Tree – Photo courtesy of Light Up Blue Ridge Facebook Page

Other locations that are offering Halloween festivities include Dairy Queen, Home Depot, and Kevin Panter Insurance Agency.

Light Up Blue Ridge will also not take place in an official manner. Festivities of the weekend that draw a large crowd in close proximity have been called off. This includes the annual parade and the lighting of the tree.

Even with these changes, Blue Ridge plans to make the city Christmas ready for those visiting the weekend following Thanksgiving. 

The tree will be lit in the park but without the lighting ceremony and Santa can still be found at the park’s gazebo but with safety precautions made due to the ongoing Covid-19 risk.

“We are suggesting that the city close East Main Street for the two days after Thanksgiving,” Martinez recommended to the council stating that this would give more room for the large crowds to social distance that weekend.

No official plans were made on how to handle the influx of visitors for the weekend following Thanksgiving, but discussions are expected to continue in future meetings.

GC High School and Sonoraville High move to hybrid amid spike in COVID cases

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Gordon County Schools has found it necessary to move to hybrid instructional model, as outlined in the district’s Back to School guidance in August, for both Gordon Central High School and Sonoraville High School beginning Monday, October 19.  The tentative return date to full-time, in-person instruction will be Monday, November 30, 2020.

The decision to temporarily move to a hybrid schedule for both Gordon County high schools is a precautionary measure and comes following an increase in active COVID cases, resulting in a higher number of precautionary quarantines. Currently, there are seven (7) positive student cases at Gordon Central and eleven (11) students who are under quarantine from Sonoraville High School because they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Gordon County Schools continues to carefully monitor the active cases that impact schools.  According to the Department of Public Health, the seven-day average of new cases reported increased 4.3% statewide; however, the seven-day average is down 66% state-wide from the peak on July 24.  Gordon County is not labeled by the DPH as having high-transmission indicators at this time.

During this change in the instructional delivery model, all high school students will continue to receive instruction from their assigned classroom teachers utilizing Schoology but will only attend school in-person every other week, based upon the student’s last name.  Having only half of the students in class at one time will allow for additional distancing among students within the classroom. Faculty and staff will work to prepare for this transition on Friday, October 16, and school will be closed to students.  From Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 23, all high school students will have one week of online learning through Schoology.  This will allow adequate time for facilities to receive extra disinfecting and sanitation and for teachers to plan for hybrid instruction.

Beginning Monday, October 26, students whose last names begin with the letters A-K will attend school for in-person instruction for one week, and students whose last names begin with the letters L-Z will complete lessons online through Schoology.  The week of Monday, November 2, students whose last names begin with the letters L-Z will attend school in person, and those with last names beginning with A-K will complete lessons online.  This pattern will continue until Thanksgiving break.  For a complete schedule, visit our webpage.

If a family has children in the same household who would be on a different schedule, please contact the school to make any necessary accommodations for children to attend together.  Additional details will be sent from the schools in the coming days.

Extracurricular activities will continue, unless otherwise notified by the school.  This closure does not impact any other Gordon County school, and all elementary and middle schools will operate as normal.

Check back for updates.

Preparing for a safe and spooky Halloween

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – As families and businesses navigate Halloween during a pandemic, Union County is preparing a socially distanced October 31 for the local children.

Halloween at the Market will transform the farmer’s market into trick-or-treat central from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event is replacing Halloween on the Square in order to keep everyone safe and limit the potential spreading of COVID-19.

Local businesses and organizations that want to participate are encouraged to sign up on the Downtown Blairsville website. It’s free to contribute to Halloween at the Market.

The Chamber of Commerce has announced theatrical performances, drive in movie, Trunk or Treat, free candy, and games as part of the drive-thru event.

Halloween

Images from 2019 Halloween on the Square

More details are expected to be announced as the event approaches.

First Baptist Church has also announced a drive-thru Fall Festival on October 31 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Currently, the CDC cites that many traditional Halloween activities are high risk for spreading the virus and encourages safer alternatives. Low risk activities include pumpkin carving outside with neighbors, home decorating, Halloween ISpy, virtual costume contest, scavenger trick-or-treat inside the home, and movie night with family members.

Moderate risk activities are one-way trick-or-treating with individually wrapped bags at the end of the driveway, a small, socially distanced, open-air costume parade, an outdoor Halloween party with cloth masks and physical distance, an open-air, outdoor haunted attraction, visiting pumpkin patches with hand sanitizer and distancing, and Halloween movie night with friends spread six feet apart.

Also, costume masks aren’t substitutes for cloth masks. The CDC warns against costume masks unless “it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.” A costume mask shouldn’t be worn over a cloth mask because it can result in breathing difficulty.

Ask The Doc! Fighting Off Covid-19

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Ask The Doc! Recovery Process Of Covid-19

This morning, The doctors address a comment left on one of the Ask The Doc Segments. What drugs are good for fighting off Covid-19 or do we just wait on a vaccine? The Doctors also address the President and first lady testing positive for Covid-19. What do the Doctors have to say about testing positive with no symptoms? When could he have contracted the virus? How long has he had it? All this and more on Ask The Doc!

 

Ask The Doc! College And Covid-19

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Ask The Doc! Recovery Process Of Covid-19

This morning, the doctors discuss how colleges are dealing with Covid-19. When a Student tests positive, the colleges continue classes and give the infected student their own quarantined dorm. Is this the approach we should be taking with everything? Should we worry over the numbers? Hear Doctor Whaley and Doctor Tidman’s point of view on this right here on Ask the Doc!

 

North Georgia Technical College President dies of COVID-19

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North Georgia Technical College

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.

Dawson County Schools encourage COVID precautions

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Dawson COVID precautions

DAWSON COUNTY, Ga.- With the school year for Dawson County already well underway, several precautions have been taken in the “best interest” of the students in the county for a safe school year, amid COVID-19.

“This time of the year, there are all kinds of changes [in the first few weeks of school],” Tiffany Davis, executive assistant to superintendent of Dawson County Schools, said.

The first couple weeks of the school year is when students are deciding on a school, as well as making the change from in-person to virtual as well. According to the Dawson County School District’s website, a total of 3,676 are enrolled, with 523 staff members.

There is a total of 14 positive COVID cases and one staff member.

Hershel Bennett, assistant superintendent for human resources and operations, stated this school year has been more involved on the back end of things to prepare for the arrival of students again in the fall.

“There’s a lot more work [that was] put in [during] the summer,” Bennett said.

Within the schools, there’s constant cleaning, directional arrows – as well as encouragement of masks – and social distancing with each portion to the day including lunch. Bennett explained that the schools are dispersing students to sit in classrooms, while socially distancing, and in cafeteria or lunch spaces.

Bennett claimed approximately 15% of families in the Dawson County School District are attending school online, but that will most likely fluctuate throughout the school year.

Online student login to a classroom similar to the image above.

“Continually having to be flexible and have a plan ready to start school was a key to getting started this year,” Bennett stated.

The school district is taking several steps to keep the students safe, including:

  • Buses have assigned seats; siblings next to one another, being socially distant when possible
  • Social distancing within schools, with directional arrows
  • Use of masks is encouraged
  • Created water refill stations; closed water fountains
  • Lunch schedules are extended

Bennett said the district will continue to keep the students safe and put them first, as they have been, to give the best learning experience. According to Bennett, Dawson County COVID cases have dropped each week.

“Our schools have done an exceptional job with social distancing, contact tracing and making sure that the students are following as many guidelines as they can to keep them safe,” Bennett said.

Whitfield commissioners see red over mask mandate

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The Whitfield commissioners saw red as residents showed up to let them know they opposed a mask mandate. A wave of Whitfield County residents turned out, most wearing red shirts, to tell the county board of commissioners they

red

Lindsey Koetje speaks to a group outside the Whitfield County Commissioner’s work session, thanking them for turning out. The board discussed and in a split decision, was against pursuing a mask mandate. No vote was scheduled for Monday’s meeting as it was a work session.

opposed a mask mandate on Monday. Although, they were told at the beginning of the meeting,  by Chairman Lynn Laughter, they would not be able to comment or question Zachary Taylor, District Health Director for the Georgia Department of Public Health for the North Georgia Region. Those in attendance were also told the board of commissioners would discuss the information. No vote was on the  agenda as Monday’s meeting was a work session.

He stated there are currently 3,861 cases in Gordon and Whitfield and 47 deaths.

“The rate of cases has slowed down, but we are still getting new cases every day. Our strategy now is to continue to slow the rate of cases and flatten the curve to buy us time for treatments and to find a vaccine that works,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he wanted to clear up misinformation regarding the effectiveness of masks. “There is plenty of evidence that wearing them stops the transmission.”

When questioned about where to find these studies, Taylor said he couldn’t recall where the study was, but that 172 studies were compared and analyzed that concluded masks are effective, but he could  not answer when or where it was published.

When Lindsey Koetje asked if it were a recent study that was retracted, he said “no.”

When Laughter called out the people who were asking, one responded by saying “You said he was going to be presenting facts.”

“These are the facts, even if you don’t like them,” said Laughter.

red

Lindsey Koetje used Facebook and Instagram to get the word out that the Whitfield Board of Commissioners were going to discuss a possible mask mandate at Monday’s meeting. She encouraged everyone to wear red to show their unity for personal choice.

He went on to say that masks do not impose breathing impairments on healthy people. “If it did, health care workers would be dropping like flies.”

Greg Jones, commissioner, told the board he felt the public should be heard. “We listened to (Zachary Taylor), we should listen to the public.”

GORDON CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19, READ THE STORY HERE.

Laughter said the work agenda was long and they would run over, cutting into a different meeting that would start at six. The work session began at five o’clock. “I don’t mind scheduling another  meeting to get public input,” she said.

While the crowd murmured in agreement to be heard, Jones told Laughter that they’d gone over in meetings before.

Jones said he would not support a mask mandate. “I didn’t come here to takes away individual rights. I will  not support a mask mandate.”

Roger Crossen, commissioner, agreed. “I took an oath when I enlisted and I’ve taken an oath when I was sworn in as a commissioner, to uphold the Constitution. I won’t take away your rights.” Crossen went on to say “If you see someone out there not wearing a mask and you call the police on them, they have better things to do. Now, if a business wants to require a mask, then that’s between you and them if you want to do business with them.”

Their sentiments were echoed by commissioners Barry Robbins and Harold Booker, who attended via phone conferencing.

Laughter asked those in attendance, 50 were allowed in the work session, who was opposed to a mask mandate. About 48 hands went up. When asked who supported a mask mandate, three, including Laughter’s hand raised.

red

The Whitfield County Commissioners voiced their personal and professional opinions on a mask mandate. Four of the five told the heavily attended meeting they would not infringe on their rights by mandating masks be worn.

Laughter said she wanted to express her views and asked that she not be booed. The crowd remained quiet as she spoke. “To me, it’s such a simple thing. Do unto others as you want done unto you.” Laughter went on to say she’d not seen her 92-year-old mother in five months because the facility where she lives won’t allow visitors. She also cautioned those in attendance that what Whitfield County decided only applied to unincorporated areas in the county. Dalton, Varnell and Cohutta would make decisions regarding a mandate.

“All the red shirts are here for a show of unity and to thank our commissioners for standing up for our freedom,” said Lindsey Koetje, who rallied the residents and encouraged them to wear red shirts. When asked if the color stood for the Republican party, Koetje said no, that she selected a random color but since Dalton school colors were red and Georgia Bulldogs were red, she felt most people would have red in their closet.

Koetje told a group of about a group in the lobby that she appreciated them coming out. “I made sure they looked outside and saw how many people were out there wearing red. It put a smile on their faces. Showing up made a difference.”

She said after the meeting that it was simply a matter of personal choice. “It’s not right to make anyone breathe in their own bodily waste. It should be a choice.”

See video at FetchYourNews.com or below:

Whitfield County Commissioners discuss mask mandate

 

 

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.

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.”

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


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