Department of Public Health began to administer COVID-19 vaccine Monday

Featured News, Featured Stories, News

HALL COUNTY, Ga. – Georgia received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. On Monday Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) District 2 began to administer the vaccine to first responders in the community.

DPH Public Information Officer Dave Palmer said 35 firefighters, EMTs and other first responders were signed up to be among the first to receive the vaccine.

Nicholas Gallo who works with Georgia MedPort Ambulance Service said he was a little concerned about being among the first to get the vaccine. “New things are scary,” he said. “But I would rather not get sick.”

Palmer said, “Healthcare workers will be the next to receive the vaccine. We will administer those at the District Office at 1290 Athens Street.”

Most said the shots did not hurt and expressed confidence they would have a beneficial impact on the community. The vaccine comes in two doses. Those who received the vaccine today will have a second dose in about three weeks.

(Photo courtesy of Dave Palmer, Department of Public Health) Nicholas Gallo, and EMT with Georgia MedPort Ambulance Service was among the first to receive the vaccine on Monday.


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Whitfield commissioners see red over mask mandate

Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories

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


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.


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.”


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.


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 or below:

Whitfield County Commissioners discuss mask mandate



Georgia DPH adjusts COVID-19 models to include asymptomatic transmission

News, Police & Government, State & National

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – As of April 1, Georgia had 4,748 cases and 20,328 completed COVID-19 tests, but Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has only tested symptomatic and high-risk patients. As a result, some cases have gone undiagnosed across Georgia.

Currently, DPH is following CDC guidelines, which still states online that not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Most people who contract the virus will recover and can care for themselves at home. CDC gave healthcare workers four priority categories to help decide who receives tests.

Asymptomatic individuals were ranked last, and those exhibiting mild symptoms or subjected to potential community spread should only be tested if resources are available.

White County Public Safety Director David Murphy went on record about the issue.

“Some people take care of themselves at home and never go to a doctor, especially those who have minor symptoms,” he explained. Murphy added that White County first responders have encountered a dozen or more patients with coronavirus symptoms in the last two weeks.

DPH guidance for healthcare facilities when it comes to testing lower priority potential cases is as follows:

Patients with mild illness who do not require medical care or who are not a DIRECT contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case (meaning the person has NOT been within 6 feet of a confirmed case for greater than 10 minutes, will not meet criteria to be tested at GPHL but can be tested at commercial labs—see below:

These patients should self-isolate at home until symptoms resolve. If respiratory symptoms worsen, they may need to be re-evaluated. Guidance for safe home care can be found at

If you want to test these patients for COVID-19, commercial laboratory testing is the best option. Commercial laboratories are expected to conduct a substantial number of COVID-19 tests going forward. Currently, the primary source of testing is LabCorp, but we expect other laboratories will be testing in the near future as well, including Quest and ARUP. Neither LabCorp nor Quest will collect specimens at their facilities. Providers should contact LabCorp or Quest regarding supplies needed for testing.

DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey addressed that asymptomatic individuals in Georgia aren’t being tested but could be transmitting the virus to numerous Georgians. The state and DPH now believe the time is now appropriate to take “very aggressive measures.”

“We have not been testing everybody. We have only been testing those who have symptoms and those who are the most ill. And now, we recognize a game-changer, in how our strategy to fight COVID has unfolded. We realize now that individuals may be spreading the virus and not even realize they have an infection. As many as 1 in 4 people with coronavirus don’t realize they have the infection because they have no symptoms whatsoever,” explained Toomey.

“Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before they see signs,” remarked Gov. Brian Kemp. “Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad.”

Kemp is expected to sign a shelter in place order on Thursday, April 2 to prevent people from ignoring self-quarantine recommendations. The details on the order are yet to be released.

Toomey further voiced that they knew asymptomatic community spread was possible due to the cruise ship cases. As of March 4, the CDC website also stated that asymptomatic spread is possible, but not as common as among individuals who are visibly sick.

Until the past 24-hours, all the DPH models relied on data solely from patients with symptoms.

“I think it’s a combination of recognizing not only that there are probably a large number of people out there who are infected who are asymptomatic, who never would have been recognized under our old models, but also seeing the community transmission that we’re seeing and now is the time to stop that transmission before the hospitals are overrun,” said Toomey.

How can Georgians prevent exposure/slow the spread?

Follow the CDC guidelines:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds – wash often
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces
  • Avoid social contact and stay home
  • Social distance if in public – stay six feet apart from each other
  • Avoid touching the face – mouth, nose, eyes
  • If sick, stay home
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it away
  • Wear a facemask if sick

By following these guidelines and Kemp’s shelter-in-place order, Georgian’s should be able to flatten the curve and hopefully protect themselves and loved ones.

Widespread Flu in Georgia – Protect Yourself and Prevent the Spread of Flu

Department of public health


Widespread flu in Georgia

Press Release

ATLANTA – If you have not gotten a flu shot yet, do not wait any longer! Flu is widespread in Georgia, and more than 300 individuals have been hospitalized with flu-related illness. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed four flu-related deaths so far, but that number is expected to increase.

The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is influenza A (H3N2). This strain can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions. H3N2 is one of the strains contained in this year’s flu vaccine along with two or three others, depending on the vaccine.

“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” says J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications.”

Flu symptoms and their intensity can vary from person to person, and can include fever, cough,
sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you think you have
the flu, call or visit your doctor.

In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend the use of antivirals such as Tamiflu or Relenza. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder or an intravenous solution) that fight against the flu in your body. Antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick. Antivirals are used to treat those at high-risk for flu complications – young children, the elderly, individuals with underlying medical conditions and women who are pregnant. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.

There are other things you can do to help prevent the spread of flu – tried and true measures your mother taught you:

• Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and warm water.
Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if you don’t have access
to soap and water;

• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help
prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the
crook of your elbow or arm;

• Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through
mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes; and

• If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should
be free of a fever, without the use of a fever reducer, for at least 24
hours before returning to school or work.

If you are caring for a sick individual at home, keep them away from common areas of the house and other people as much as possible. If you have more than one bathroom, have the sick person use one and well people use the other. Clean the sick room and the bathroom once a day with household disinfectant. Thoroughly clean linens, eating utensils, and dishes used by the sick person before re-using. To learn more about influenza, log on to

About the Georgia Department of Public Health:

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency in preventing disease, injury and disability, promoting health and well-being, and preparing for and responding to disasters. DPH’s main functions include: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records, and the State Public Health Laboratory.

For more information about DPH, visit


Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

You can QUIT during the Great American Smokeout(R), Nov. 16th


North Georgia – Ready to quit? You can do it for at least one day this Thursday, November 16th during the Great American Smokeout®! Every year on the third Thursday of November, many Georgians join tobacco users across the nation in giving up using tobacco and electronic cigarettes for the entire day during this Great American Smokeout® event, initiated by the American Cancer Society[1]. Quitting for just one day is an important step toward a healthier you, especially if that one day can lead to many more.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and in Georgia. Over 11,500 Georgians die each year from tobacco-related diseases, including cancer and heart disease[2]. Quitting tobacco and eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke are two proven ways to decrease the risk of tobacco related death and disability.

The Georgia Smokefree Air Act[3], passed in 2005, has reduced exposure to secondhand smoke by prohibiting smoking in all enclosed facilities, including buildings owned, leased, or operated by the State or local governing authorities.

Now, it’s your turn to reduce tobacco-related health hazards by quitting the use of tobacco and electronic cigarettes during the Great American Smokeout®.

Here in Georgia, we can help. The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line[4] is a free resource that can help tobacco users reach their goal of quitting. The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line (1-877-270-STOP; Spanish speakers call 1-877-2NO-FUME; TTY: 1-877-777-6534 for the hearing impaired) provides counseling for Georgia tobacco users ages 13 and older. Callers speak with tobacco cessation counselors who help to develop a unique quitting plan for each person.

North Georgia Health District 1-2 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counites, Drug Free Cherokee, Cherokee Focus, and the Cherokee Youth Council encourage Georgians to go tobacco-free during the Great American Smokeout®, and beyond!

Georgia Department of Public Health encourages “eclipse glasses” for 2017 total eclipse – Press Release


Don’t Let The Flu Catch Up To You


Don’t Let The Flu Catch Up To You:

Georgia Dept. of Public Health Encourages Yearly Flu Shot

North Georgia – The holidays are almost here, and that means family gatherings and holiday parties where people tend to be in close personal contact. Don’t bring flu to the festivities. National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 3-9, and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) encourages all Georgians to get their flu vaccine. The flu shot is the best protection against the flu.

“Flu season is here until possibly as late as May, and we anticipate an active flu season this year,” said Sherry Gregory, RN, Infectious Disease Supervisor of the North Georgia Health District, based in Dalton. “It’s important that North Georgians understand the best way to protect against influenza is to receive an annual flu vaccine. As long as the virus is circulating, it’s never too late to vaccinate.”

Influenza can be a serious disease that leads to hospitalization and sometimes death. On average, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for illnesses associated with seasonal influenza virus infections.[1] Regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity, anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk are adults 65 years of age and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other long-term medical conditions. Preventive actions such as simply washing hands and covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing can guard against the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine. Getting a flu vaccine is more convenient than ever. Public health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties have flu vaccine for people of all ages, including pediatric and quadrivalent vaccine as well as Fluzone High Dose for people 65 years old and older. Log onto to find these North Georgia Health District county health departments’ contact information by clicking the LOCATIONS tab at top of the home page. Many physicians, pharmacies, employers, schools, colleges and universities also offer flu vaccines. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the “nasal spray” flu vaccine, should not be used during the 2017-2018 flu season.

National Influenza Vaccination Week emphasizes the importance of receiving an annual flu vaccination. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu. So be wise and get immunized against the flu. For more information on immunization, visit

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