Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 19, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 19, 2020

Button Gwinnett died on May 19, 1777 of a gunshot wound received in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh.

On May 19-20, 1791, George Washington spent his second and third days in Augusta, where he visited Richmond Academy. Washington left Georgia on May 21, 1791 to go to Columbia, South Carolina.

Georgia ratified the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which governs voting for President and Vice President on May 19, 1804.

The Battle of Spotsylvania ended on May 19, 1864. In Georgia, the Affair at Cassville occurred on May 19, 1864.

On May 19, 1933, the Atlanta City Council voted to allow beer sales in the city.

The Rubik’s Cube is 46 years old today.

On May 19, 1977, “Smokey and the Bandit” was released.

President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013.

Six years ago today, Georgia voters went to the polls in the earliest Primary elections in modern history. In the Republican Primary, 605,355 ballots were cast in the Senate contest, while the Democratic Primary for Senate saw 328,710 ballots.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In-person Advance Voting is underway. From The Brunswick News:

The turnout was no surprise to Doll Gale, McIntosh County’s supervisor of elections.

“I’ve had a lot of people say they’d rather vote in person,” she said.

As of early afternoon Monday, Gale said more than 40 people had come to the polling place in Darien to cast their votes for the primary election.

When voters entered the polling place, they were asked to attach their identification to a short pole with a clip at the end so it could be scanned without staff touching it.

In Glynn County, three polling places were open Monday — the Office Park Building, St. Simons Island Fire Station No. 2 and Ballard Community Center. Traffic was slow at the main office at Office Park. Elections supervisor Chris Channell did not return a call Monday afternoon for an update on turnout.

Shannon Nettles, Camden County’s elections supervisor, said more than 55 people cast votes in the annex building on North Gross Road in Kingsland, the only early voting location in the county.

Christine Turner, elections supervisor in Brantley County, said she had more than 80 early voters by mid afternoon. She said there was a steady flow of people coming into the elections office in Nahunta but there were never any lines.

In-person early voting ends June 5.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Eighty-one… people visited the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds in Lawrenceville over a period of 10 hours, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Monday to cast their ballots early for the June 9 primary election. It was one of two early voting sites that opened Monday — the other being the county’s elections office in Lawrenceville — and it was chosen because it’s large indoor space provided plenty of room for social distancing during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I think the interesting thing to note is that there is no line at the fairgrounds, and there hasn’t been one all day,” county spokesman Joe Sorenson said.

Shortly before the fairgrounds early voting location closed at 7 p.m., county officials said 92 people had voted there. The elections office polling location, which closed at 5 p.m., had a line of about 20 voters when it opened and saw a total of 327 voters come by on Monday.

“We’ve been steadier than I thought we would be for the first day of it so it will be interesting to see where we go from here,” Gwinnett Elections Supervisor Kristi Royston said.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Last week, the Augusta Commission approved drafting an ordinance requiring the public and city employees to wear masks or face coverings at all government facilities.

Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said by around 3 p.m. Monday, 76 people had voted in person at the downtown early voting site.

Monday was the first day of advance voting in the June 9 general and presidential primary and nonpartisan election. State and local elections officials have encouraged people to vote by mail, but Bailey said some prefer to visit a polling place.

“I guess there are people who prefer to cast ballots in person, despite the warnings,” she said.

Bailey said most voters arrived in masks, but those who did not were provided one.

“They all agreed to wear one,” she said.

The last day to request a paper absentee ballot is June 5. About 135 voters have returned ballots to the locked ballot drop box in front of the Municipal Building, she said.

Some paper Absentee Ballots will be partially processed before election day, according to the AJC.

Election officials can begin opening absentee ballots eight days before Georgia’s June 9 primary, according to a State Election Board rule approved Monday to deal with a deluge of mailed-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

The board voted unanimously to pass the emergency rule, which will help election officials handle record numbers of absentee ballots. In previous elections, absentee ballots couldn’t be processed until election day.

Even though ballots can be opened in advance, election results in some races might not be known for several days after the primary because of the time needed to count absentee ballots.

So far, over 1.4 million voters have requested absentee ballots. Polls opened Monday for three weeks of in-person early voting.

Georgia’s unemployment filing numbers lead the nation, according to a WalletHub analysis cited by the Athens Banner Herald.

According to the WalletHub study, Georgia posted a higher percentage increase in unemployment claims than any other state between March 16 and May 4 — a whopping 4,933 percent. Kentucky was a close second at 4,542 percent.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, Georgia’s unemployment rate was 20.2 percent, sixth-highest in the country, the week ending April 25. California had the highest unemployment rate at 27.7 percent.

Nearly 1.9 million Georgia workers have filed initial unemployment claims through May 11, close to 40 percent of the state’s workforce. Nationwide, some 36.5 million workers have filed for unemployment benefits, wiping out all the job gains and more since the Great Recession of years ago.

One of Clarke County’s most important economic sectors has been hit hardest during the pandemic. The unemployment rate for people working in leisure and hospitality businesses was 39.3 percent as of April 25.

The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show the number of unemployed in Georgia declining, however – the number of Georgians insured for benefits was 809,405 the week ending May 9, down from 885,769 a week earlier.

Yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia’s COVID-19 testing capacity has improved dramatically, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that Georgia now ranks twenty-first out of fifty-four states and territories on the current percentage of total population tested, up from forty-sixth one month ago. Among states with more than five million residents, Georgia ranks eighth out of twenty-three states.

“Our focus on increased testing is yielding strong results as the Georgia National Guard, Georgia Department of Public Health, and various public and private-sector partners continue to work non-stop to improve access to COVID-19 testing for Georgians,” said Governor Kemp. “We are working tirelessly to move the needle on testing as we take measured steps to safely reopen the Peach State.”

Georgia has tested 3.3% of its total population for COVID-19 with 364,289 tests completed. On Friday, May 15, the state announced that it surpassed 300,000 tests, increasing the number of reported tests by more than 64,000 over the weekend.

Any Georgian can now be tested for COVID-19. As the state continues to ramp up testing, the number of positive cases may rise. However, the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is now at 10.5%, down from 16% two weeks ago.

For more information on testing sites and scheduling an appointment, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website here.

The Georgia Department of Public Health is distributing remdesivir to treat COVID-19 cases, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

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

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

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

Georgia has received a second, much larger allotment of remdesivir. The department is surveying hospitals statewide to determine need.

The Richmond County Clerk of Courts office is closing with a tentative re-opening date of June 1 after two employees tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Columbus area public facilities are reopening, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus facilities are starting to open up after two months of coronavirus-related closures, starting with city buildings like the government center and parks and recreation amenities like Lake Oliver Marina off River Road.

The city opened the marina Monday for a soft opening, ending several weeks of citizens being unable to purchase bait at the clubhouse or pay to launch their boats.

People have still been able to access the water, but starting Monday citizens are once again asked to stop by the clubhouse and pay the $4 fee.

Other parks and facilities that are open as of Monday include Cooper Creek Tennis Center, The Ma Rainey House and all Columbus parks, except for Jonathan Hatcher Skateboard Park. Bull Creek Golf Course, disc golf, park restrooms and trails are also open.

Athens-Clarke County will begin reopening some parks, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Four Athens-Clarke parks will open next week, with social distancing guidelines in place, to give cooped-up Athenians a respite from sheltering in place.

Memorial Park, Virginia Walker Park (formerly Trail Creek Park) and Ben Burton will open Monday.

Sandy Creek Park, which is normally closed on Mondays, will re-open on Tuesday, said Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Director Kent Kilpatrick.

Each of the four parks has trails and ample space for social distancing, he said. Park staff will enforce social distancing – through persuasion, but could call in police if conversation doesn’t work.

“We’re going to be politely asking people to cooperate with us. We’re not getting into any verbal confrontations,” he said. “We’re hoping there’s enough education going around in the public.”

Dougherty County‘s judicial building will remain closed until at least June 17, according to the Albany Herald.

Judge Willie E. Lockette’s order, issued on Friday, extended through June 17 a previous directive closing the Judicial Building that expired Sunday. Lockette issued the first emergency order on March 13, and the Judicial Building was closed to the general public on March 30. Lockette has extended the original emergency declaration twice.

“Three of the circuit’s judges contracted and were treated for the virus, and one judge unfortunately passed away from COVID-19. Five or more courthouse employees and/or their family members have tested positive, experienced symptoms and either been quarantined and/or treated for the virus within the past two weeks.”

Meanwhile, Phoebe Putney Health System has seen a recent uptick in the number of admissions of COVID-19 patients.

That increase was due to the hospital running out of rapid tests that gave results in about an hour. On Monday, there were 40 patients at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital who have tested positive and an additional 27 hospitalized while awaiting test results.

Another 24 patients were at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, 12 of whom have tested positive and an equal number awaiting test results.

“For the last seven weeks, we have been able to conduct in-house rapid COVID-19 testing on every patient being admitted to our hospitals,” Phoebe Health System CEO Scott Steiner said. “Knowing right away whether patients are positive has allowed us to admit them to units where they will receive the most appropriate care, cohort COVID-19 patients together, conserve personal protective equipment and best protect our staff. Unfortunately, our supply of rapid tests ran out over the weekend, and we are now forced to wait several days to get lab results back.”

Dalton Municipal Court resumes some in-person hearings Wednesday, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Georgia’s Supreme Court issued a second order extending the judicial state of emergency on May 11 that allows municipal courts to begin holding court sessions provided that the courts develop comprehensive written procedures to protect the health of all involved during the pandemic. On Monday, Dalton Municipal Court Judge Robert Cowan signed an order mandating [] guidelines for court proceedings.

Wednesday’s court session is for defendants who have retained attorneys and who have already been contacted by the court with an appointment.

Coastal Georgia expects an increase in tourism as Memorial Day approaches, according to The Brunswick News.

“Just checking around the area, on Jekyll (Island) and St. Simons Island, a lot of our hotels are sold out or close to sold out for the holiday weekend,” said Scott McQuade, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Over the past several months, lodgings have seen business and revenue plummet even as they tried to adapt to the outbreak, McQuade said. He noted Jekyll Island hotels are limited to 75 percent capacity due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The bed tax — a 5 percent tax tacked onto hotel and motel rentals — was down by more than 45 percent in March compared to last year, and April is looking like an even bigger loss — possibly as much as 85 percent.

“These two months are typically in our top five best performing months for lodging and tourism revenue and have had a significant impact on the community,” McQuade said. “We also anticipate May to be down as much as 55 percent compared to last year.

“The numbers are beginning to improve for June and July, but we are very much in a day-by-day, week-by-week economy at the moment.”

Tybee Island City Council canceled fireworks scheduled for Independence Day, according to the Savannah Morning News.

During the Tybee council’s Thursday meeting, held via video conference as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus, Mayor Shirley Sessions noted that many other municipalities nationwide had already canceled their Fourth of July fireworks displays as part of ongoing efforts to avoid organizing large gatherings that could increase COVID-19 outbreaks.

City Manager Shawn Gillen said that beyond concerns of coronavirus transmission, Tybee Island could see a potentially hazardous increase in Fourth of July visitor numbers if other cities cancel their celebrations, which could cause major traffic congestion after the fireworks show.

“The safety issues, the immediate dangers, are significant,” Gillen said, citing an estimate of up to 50,000 visitors descending on Tybee Island for the Fourth of July. “We could be in a pretty tight spot with the number of people coming out.”

The Atlanta Archdiocese and Savannah Archdiocese are allowing local churches to start re-opening for in-person attendance, according to the AJC and the Savannah Morning News, respectively.

Dalton Public Schools is considering cost-saving measures in light of decreased revenues, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

With school systems around Georgia instructed to expect at least a 14% reduction in funds from the state for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, Dalton Public Schools officials are already examining possibilities to trim expenses.

The board members would also like to vote on a budget for fiscal year 2021 in June, but not knowing exactly how much funding the system will receive from the state makes that a difficult proposition, although that 14% estimate “seems like a pretty honest number we can build our budget off of,” said Theresa Perry, the system’s chief financial officer.

A 14% reduction in state funds would be a $7 million loss for Dalton Public Schools, although the system is receiving nearly $2 million in federal stimulus money, Perry said. Those federal funds can be used for various purposes, from payroll and benefits for employees, to digital learning, to professional development, to curriculum development, to school nutrition, to cleaning.

Fiscal year 2021 budget cuts could include reducing staff work days by 10, she said. That would save the system $3 million.

Having to make painful cuts is “definitely not a place we thought we’d be, but here we are” due to the economic crash caused by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, said Matt Evans, chairman of the school board. “We’re dealing with a tough hand.”

Gainesville City Schools will spend $1.1 million in federal Coronavirus relief funds on 4000 Chromebook laptops for students, according to AccessWDUN.

Floyd County expects a significant reduction in sales tax receipts as April numbers come in, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The AJC profiles the six Democrats and seven Republicans running for Congress in the Seventh District.

Candidates for Bryan County Sheriff will meet voters in an online forum Wednesday, May 20th, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Rome City Commission is considering an ordinance that would allow some public alcohol consumption in the downtown area, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Macon Telegraph lists candidates running in Macon-Bibb County and Middle Georgia primary elections.

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