The blog.

27
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 27, 2020

Waylon Washington Wilkes Humane Shelter

Waylon is a young male Cattle Dog mix who is available for adoption from the Washington-Wilkes Humane Shelter in Washington, GA.

Waylon is a 1.5 year old Heeler mix. He showed up on someones porch. He is friendly, shy, vaccinated, heartworm negative, good with other dogs. He apparently has never been on a leash, so he is learning to do that.

With a name like Waylon, it’s not wonder he needs to be taught to be on a leash.

Willie Toccoa Stephens Humane

Willie is a male Boxer mix who is available for adoption from the Toccoa-Stephens County Humane Shelter in Toccoa, GA.

What a good natured boy. He has had a prior kennel mate, who was larger than he, and they got along famously. He wants to be loved and play outside.

Mark Humane Terrell County

Mark is a young male English Pointer who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Terrell County in Dawson, GA.

Mark was surrendered to us from a Plantation as he has a mild case of hip dysplasia which means he cannot be bred nor compete long term in field trials. At this time, it does not affect his ability to walk, run or jump -at some point he may need a arthritis medicine but for now, he does not have any mobility issues. Mark has had formal training and does point and know commands. That does not mean he has to go to a home that would like to use him to hunt – he can simply be a companion pet.

Mark is very sweet and has a good temperament. He is good with kids and good with other dogs (he is untested with cats).

Mark is up to date with shots. neutered, negative for heartworms/on prevention and crate trained. If you would like to adopt Mark, please submit an adoption application via our website at www.myhstc.org.

27
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 27, 2020

On May 27, 1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams to let Adams know of the death of a mutual friend.

On May 27, 1863, Chief Justice Roger Taney, sitting as a federal district court judge, issued a decision in Ex parte Merryman, which challenged President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the right of habeas corpus. Lincoln ignored the ruling.

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill in Paulding County, Georgia, where Sherman’s forces attacked Johnston’s Confederates on May 27, 1864. Among the combatants on the Union side was Ambrose Bierce, who would later write The Crime at Pickett’s Mill. Pickett’s Mill is the site of annual reenactments.

On May 27, 1864, the Federal Army, having been stopped in its advance on Atlanta two days earlier by the Battle of New Hope Church, attempted to outflank the Confederate position. Some 14,000 Federal troops were selected for the task, and General Howard was given command. After a five-hour march, Howard’s force reached the vicinity of Pickett’s Mill and prepared to attack. Waiting were 10,000 Confederate troops under the command of General Cleburne.

The Federal assault began at 5 p.m. and continued into the night. Daybreak found the Confederates still in possession of the field. The Federals had lost 1,600 men compared to the Confederate loss of 500. The Confederate victory resulted in a one-week delay of the Federal advance on Atlanta.

Here are some photos of the battlefield and links to additional material.

On May 27, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the United States was in an unlimited national emergency and laid out conditions under which Germany’s expansionism would constitute an attack on the United States.

On May 27, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter blasted the “Stop Carter” movement in a speech in Cincinnati.

Actor Christopher Reeves was thrown from his horse in an equestrian competition in Culpepper, Virginia on May 27, 1995, becoming quadraplegic.

Six years ago, a poll by Rasmussen showed Democrat Michelle Nunn beating both Jack Kingston and David Perdue in a General Election matchup and Democrat Jason Carter beating Gov. Deal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

DeKalb County is scrambling to relocate 19 voting locations ahead of the June 9th elections, according to the AJC.

The precincts had to be relocated due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said, with some venues like retirement communities and churches opting not to host voting on June 9 due to concerns about the virus’ potential spread.

New locations have been identified for 16 of the affected precincts. But new locations are still being sought for three regular voting sites, all in the Decatur area: First Baptist Church of Decatur, Holy Trinity Parish and Oakhurst Baptist Church.

Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) has been cleared of wrongdoing in stock trades, according to the Albany Herald.

The Justice Department has dropped an investigation of stock transactions U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and two Senate colleagues made following a closed-door briefing in January on the looming coronavirus pandemic, Loeffler’s office confirmed Tuesday.

Loeffler, a wealthy Atlanta businesswoman, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., turned over documents to investigators after political opponents and media reports called attention to the buying and selling of millions of dollars in stocks by the three senators shortly after the briefing.

“Today’s clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along – she did nothing wrong,” Loeffler campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said Tuesday. “This was a politically motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents.”

Mark Jones, a candidate for District Attorney in Columbus, has gone full outlaw after shooting a rap video for his campaign. From the Ledger-Enquirer:

Mark Jones, 38, is wanted by Columbus police in a May 17 incident that caused “an extensive amount” of damage to the Columbus Civic Center parking lot, according to a press release from the Columbus Police Department.

According to Lieutenant Lance Deaton, Jones is wanted on felony and misdemeanor warrants. He did not specify what the charges are.

The incident reportedly happened while filming a campaign video last weekend. In the footage, a driver is seen performing doughnuts in the parking lot, which left tire marks on the concrete.

Jones is seeking to unseat current district attorney Julia Slater in the June 9 election.

From WRBL:

The warrants are the result of a May 17 incident that police say caused “an extensive amount of damage” to the Civic Center parking lot and that “placed the general public in serious danger.”

Earlier reports say that Jones had not applied or received a permit to film the video. In a video on Facebook, Jones accused current district attorney Julia Slater, his opponent in the election, of using the charges for “voter suppression.” Jones says Slater could get the two men out of jail “with a pen stroke” in the video.

Now, police are searching for Jones. Anyone with information on Jones’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Columbus Police Department at 706-641-5993 or 911.

From the AJC:

[Incumbent District Attorney Julia] Slater and police have denied that she was a part of the investigation against the two men.

“The only decision I have made in this case is that my office has a conflict and will not be prosecuting the case,” Slater said. “I was not consulted about the arrests or the bonds in this matter.”

The Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit serves Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor Counties.

Here’s the video in question:

And a later video by the suspect candidate:

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested 15 individuals for allegations related to images of children since Georgia schools shut down, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Some of those arrested were also charged with the associated crime of child molestation. Consequently, the GBI CEACC Unit has rescued eight children from situations in which they were being sexually abused. Other previous child victims were also identified but the offender no longer had access to the child. Some of the offenders subsequently indicated they had numerous undetected victims. It is possible additional victims will be discovered as more interviews are conducted and digital forensic analysis of digital devices occurs. Additional charges and arrests may be forthcoming.

During the unprecedented COVID-19 quarantine, there has been an understandable concern that abused children will be at home more often with their abusers and without contact with mandatory reporters such as teachers who may normally notice abuse indicators or be available to hear and report an outcry by a child. Additionally, as a result of the COVID-19 quarantine, children have been online using various social media applications, chat rooms and various gaming platforms more often than they were before. Each of these are prime online locations where sexual predators will attempt to solicit conversation with children for the purpose of enticing them for sexual purposes.

Governor Brian Kemp wants to bring the Republican National Convention to Georgia, according to Twitter.

Gov Brian Kemp Twitter RNC

From CBS46:

A day after President Donald Trump called into question whether the Republican National Committee would be held in Charlotte; Georgia Governor Brian Kemp let the president know his state is open for business.

President Trump backed away from the threat later Monday, but that didn’t stop speculation on where the convention could go if the president’s team ultimately decided to change the venue. Trump made the threat against North Carolina’s Democratic governor because the president wants a guarantee that all restrictions on gatherings will be lifted by August 24.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued the following statement:

“Like North Carolina, the City of Atlanta is following a phased, data-driven approach to reopening. That plan does not contemplate hosting a large gathering event in August. In fact, several long-standing City-supported and sponsored events have already been canceled in order to comply with CDC guidelines.”

From the AJC:

The RNC is scheduled for scheduled Aug. 24-27. The Democratic National Convention has already been postponed to Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said the president “is right to ask for assurances from North Carolina” about the convention.

“We want to have it in North Carolina, the president wants to have it in North Carolina,” she told Fox News on Tuesday morning. “It’s just the governor. He has to work with us. Every state we talk to says we want to nominate the president here, but this governor is up for reelection and hasn’t given us the reassurances we need. We need to be able to move forward in a concrete way. We are going to have those discussions.”

David Shafer, chairman of Georgia’s state Republican Party, said in a text message that he spoke to Kemp on Tuesday morning. “We have reached out to Republican National Committee Chairman Ronna Romney to let her know that, if North Carolina falls through, Georgia is ready to help,” Shafer told The Associated Press.

Governor Kemp today visits Navicent Health in Macon, where temporary COVID medical pods are deployed, according to WGXA.

During his visit, Gov. Kemp will also stop by Irving Consumer Products. From there, he will depart Macon for Columbus to visit Global Payments and tour High Performance Product Engineering.

Gov. Kemp spoke to 92.9 The Game about reopening sports venues:

“I’m certainly ready for pro sports,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve talked to all the sports franchises in the metro Atlanta area. They know that we are ready to work with them. How that looks I don’t really know.”

“I don’t want to say ‘Yeah, we’re open for sports,’ not knowing what their plan is,” Kemp told Dukes & Bell. “We’re open to talking to those folks about figuring out how we can get open, not how we stop it, but how we work with them to make it happen.”

“I know the Falcons have got limited operations that have opened back up,” Kemp said. “I’ve continued to be hopeful for the Braves and Major League Baseball, I personally think there’s a way we can make that happen.”

“If we have ample testing, contact tracing, and if people continue to use these good practices, we may not have a second wave,” according to Kemp. “If we don’t have that, we could start looking at ways to put some people in the stands and playing some live sporting events.”

Former Governor Nathan Deal is chairing a committee discussing federal criminal justice reform, according to the AJC.

A criminal justice task force chaired by former Gov. Nathan Deal is recommending sweeping changes to the federal system.

The most notable is a call for the elimination of mandatory-minimum sentences for drug crimes. The task force also asks for the establishment of a “second look” provision that allows people serving lengthy sentences — many of whom are elderly and infirm — to seek sentencing reductions from a federal judge.

The “Next Steps” report, released Wednesday by the Council on Criminal Justice, was submitted by a task force chaired by Deal since June 2019. The bipartisan group’s members include former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates; Mark Holden, retired general counsel of Koch Industries; former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; and David Safavian of the American Conservative Union.

“As the task force wraps up its work, I am filled with optimism,” Deal wrote in an introductory letter. “The harsh political rhetoric of the past has softened, replaced by possibilities for progress on an issue that once was so divisive. Reform won’t be easy, but we can and must use this pivotal moment in time to work for a more fair and effective federal system that provides safety and justice for all.”

The Georgia Senate Appropriations Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee meets today at 11 AM at the State Capitol and the Economic Development Subcommittee meets Thursday at 10 AM at the Capitol.

The AJC reports that some members of the Senate Appropriations Committee suggested state employees might be willing to work more hours for less pay.

Georgia Senate Republican budget-writers raised the possibility that instead of furloughing state employees to meet planned spending cuts they might require staffers to work the same number of hours for less pay.

The issue came up Tuesday during the first live committee hearings at the Capitol — conducted by an education subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee — since mid-March. The 2020 session was suspended then because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, a member of the subcommittee, raised the idea of pay cuts for teachers rather than furloughing them after the head of the agency that provides pre-kindergarten classes to more than 80,000 4-year-olds said budget reductions would mean fewer slots for children and fewer days of instructions.

By cutting pay rather than furloughing teachers, Stone said, “You are just not penalizing the public. The reduction in compensation is the same regardless of whether it’s furlough days or a temporary reduction in the pay scale.”

Sen. Ellis Black, R-Valdosta, who heads the education subcommittee, suggested a “special deduction” from the salary of pre-kindergarten teachers rather than having them take days off without pay.

“If we follow through on this, they (teachers) are going to get less money and children are going to get less education,” Black said. “The question is, how dedicated are these teachers? Are they willing to make that much of a sacrifice so these kids can get an education?”

I wouldn’t want to be on the record as questioning teachers’ commitment to the education of their students.

State Mental Health officials expressed anxiety over budget cuts, according to Georgia Health News.

“The safety net is stretched to the max.’’

Judy Fitzgerald, commissioner of the agency that oversees mental health and substance abuse services, gave that stark assessment in January to state legislators who were considering budget cuts to her department.

Now, even deeper cuts are on the table.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found more than half of Americans — 56 percent — reported that worry or stress related to the outbreak has led to at least one negative mental health effect. Another report, from the Well Being Trust, said the pandemic could lead to 75,000 additional “deaths of despair” from drug and alcohol misuse and suicide due to unemployment, social isolation and fears about the virus. (Here’s a recent GHN article on increased anxiety.)

For people in substance abuse recovery, a range of services will be pared, including residential beds for people in treatment.

“They are Death Star-like blows to the Georgia recovery community which will cost lives, increase crime, hurt families, weaken the workforce and threaten jobs,’’ said Neil Campbell, executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse.

Isolation is the No. 1 factor that hampers recovery from addiction and mental illness, Campbell said.

“Combined with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, it is essential Georgia address the inevitable mental illness and [addiction] recovery issues which will grow exponentially as a result of the current pandemic,’’ she added.

“There are over 800,000 people across Georgia in recovery from addiction who can attest to the benefits of the types of services and supports that are apparently on the chopping block.’’

The Athens Banner Herald looks at what the University of Georgia might look like when in-person classes resume.

Single occupancy in dorm rooms. Big inventories of face masks and other “protective personal equipment.” Staggered work shifts. A blend of online and in-person classes, with no classes larger than 30 students and each assigned a seat. Quarantine rooms for students who inevitably contract COVID-19. No magazines in waiting rooms.

And lots and lots of hand sanitzer, social distancing, hand-washing and infection-control education.

Those are some of the college reopening recommendations of a task force of the American College Health Association published earlier this month.

The task force, chaired by Jean Chin, former director of the University of Georgia’s University Health Center, is purposely couched in uncertainty about reopening U.S. college campuses in August or September, given the “highly unlikely existence of a recognized treatment or vaccine by then, and the uncertainty of widespread testing, surveillance and tracking capacity.”

A Poll Worker shortage in Valdosta is creating concerns for the elections office, according to the Valdosta Daily News.

On May 12, Deb Cox, Lowndes County supervisor of elections, described her office as being in desperate need of poll workers to the local board of elections. With only 48 of the necessary 185 people to assist precincts on Election Day June 9, it simply wasn’t enough, but a sudden change in poll worker turnout has provided some optimism.

After contacting both Lowndes and Valdosta high schools, an influx of junior ROTC members and Lowndes baseball players has helped buoy numbers.

“Well I know the (baseball) coach sent it out and we had a bunch of them come in all at once,” Cox said.

Additionally, military veterans and law-enforcement Explorer scouts with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office have joined the ranks, but her office remained 50 poll workers short Tuesday morning.

“I think we’re looking good. We’ll know more by the end of this week,” she said.

The Lowndes County elections office normally needs 185 poll workers to open all the precincts and staff them, but an additional 15 workers will probably needed, according to Cox, to help with COVID-19 sanitation and enforce social distancing for lines. That would mean approximately 200 poll workers in total.

 

 

 

COVID-19 testing is available with faster results in the South Health District, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A second round of Remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients is being distributed by the Georgia Department of Public Health, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Bulloch County Sheriff candidates appeared in an online forum, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The City of Statesboro is considering a storm water fee hike and is preparing for a revenue decline due to COVID-19, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Columbus City Council will grant comp time for harzardous duty, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus Council approved a resolution Tuesday that will provide 24 hours of “hazardous duty time off” to employees identified by their supervisor as having duties that required ongoing contact with the public daily or direct ongoing supervision of inmates during the period of March 14 to May 17.

That includes law enforcement, public safety and other Columbus Consolidated Government employees, as well as public works and parks and recreation, who continued their duties uninterrupted.

METRA Transit bus operators and 911 responders in the police and fire departments will also receive an additional 16 hours time off. The time off will be granted by the director of public safety or the city manager as applicable, the resolution states.

The time off must be used within 12 months.

“We spoke with the public safety chiefs, we spoke with some department heads and we spoke with a few of the employees on the front line, and it became clear in those discussions that because of taxes and other items that are pulled out of bonuses or short term pay, that time off held the greatest value for them,” [Mayor Skip] Henderson said.

Savannah tourism was up in 2019, according to a report in the Savannah Morning News.

From fine dining to shopping on Broughton Street to visiting Savannah’s many museums and cultural sites, visitors to the city spent a record-breaking $3.1 billion in 2019, up from $3 billion in 2018, according to the annual Visit Savannah Visitor Study compiled by Longwoods International.

“Our number of visitors, our demographics, the average length of stay, all of that stuff has not changed dramatically. You know, little bump-ups here and there, but the story continues to be about spending,” said Visit Savannah President Joseph Marinelli. “The retail segment and the food and beverage segment were both up 6% in their respective categories in spending.”

Just in time for the economic downturn of 2020.

Gwinnett County will meet with local municipalities to discuss transit planning, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at the Gwinnett Justice & Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

“The State Legislature established a new transit sales tax in the 2018 Session that is available to counties in the Atlanta region,” Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “Among the requirements for this new transit tax is that the County hold a meeting with the cities in Gwinnett to discuss potential projects that can be considered.”

“The meeting we have scheduled with the cities on Thursday, May 28 is intended to meet this requirement so that the BOC has the ability to decide to call a referendum related to the new transit sales tax.”

“As we have noted before, BOC has not made a decision regarding whether a referendum on transit will be called this year,” Nash said. “However, we are taking the steps necessary to keep that option open if a majority of the BOC chooses to do so.”

The Gainesville Times hosted a Zoom forum for Hall County Sheriff candidates, and will hold one for Hall Commission Chair candidates tonight.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree is back on the beat after testing positive for COVID-19 and subsequently quarantining himself, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Dougherty County Commission is seeking applicants for several boards and commissions, according to the Albany Herald.

Rome and Floyd County boards of education are considering how to budget with 14% less in state funding, according to the Rome News Tribune.

One thing that is certain is both Rome City and Floyd County schools are going to have to work with significantly less money — the governor has told all departments within state government to plan for a 14% budget cut.

The Georgia General Assembly will not reconvene until mid-June and is not expected to pass a state budget until sometime in July. That will leave precious little time for the local systems to finalize a budget for the 2020-2021 term that starts the first week of August.

“We’re hoping to get some ideas when (lawmakers) come back. Once we start seeing what they are talking about, then we’ll get a better feel,” Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars said. “All of the districts are having to make some assumptions.”

“It’s a huge challenge right now,” said Jeff Wilson, superintendent of Floyd County Schools.

A Facebook beef turned into a gunfight, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Gunner William Fulton, 21, and William Adam Fulton, 44, both of a Lem Lanier Road, Pembroke address, were booked into the Bulloch County Jail late Wednesday on charges stemming from a fight spawned by “Facebook drama,” said Bulloch County Sheriff’s Capt. Todd Hutchens. The fight took place May 6 in the middle of the highway, between 2395 and 2400 Old Groveland Road, he said.

Three people involved in a fight among about a dozen people were hospitalized after the fight, during which gunshots were fired. Two men who suffered “non-life threatening” gunshot wounds were airlifted to Savannah, while another man was taken to East Georgia Regional Medical Center in Statesboro for possibly broken bones and other serious but noncritical injuries, Hutchens said.

Pro-tip: don’t start beef with someone named “Gunner.”

26
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 26, 2020

Half Pint PAWS Humane

Half Pint is a male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from PAWS Humane in Columbus, GA.

Barkowitz PAWS Humane

Barkowitz is a young male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from PAWS Humane in Columbus, GA.

Scarlett 2 PAWS Humane

Scarlett (above and below) is a female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from PAWS Humane in Columbus, GA. Those are the shortest little low rider legs I’ve ever seen on a dog.

Scarlett 1 PAWS Humane

26
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 26, 2020

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787.

With George Washington presiding, the Constitutional Convention formally convenes on this day in 1787. The convention faced a daunting task: the peaceful overthrow of the new American government as it had been defined by the Article of Confederation.

The process began with the proposal of James Madison’s Virginia Plan. Madison had dedicated the winter of 1787 to the study of confederacies throughout history and arrived in Philadelphia with a wealth of knowledge and an idea for a new American government. It featured a bicameral legislature, with representation in both houses apportioned to states based upon population; this was seen immediately as giving more power to large states, like Virginia. The two houses would in turn elect the executive and the judiciary and would possess veto power over the state legislatures.

William Patterson soon countered with a plan more attractive to the new nation’s smaller states. It too bore the imprint of America’s British experience. Under the New Jersey Plan, as it became known, each state would have a single vote in Congress as it had been under the Articles of Confederation, to even out power between large and small states.

Alexander Hamilton then put forward to the delegates a third plan, a perfect copy of the British Constitution including an upper house and legislature that would serve on good behavior.

Confronted by three counter-revolutionary options, the representatives of Connecticut finally came up with a workable compromise: a government with an upper house made up of equal numbers of delegates from each state and a lower house with proportional representation based upon population. This idea formed the basis of the new U.S. Constitution, which became the law of the land in 1789.

Georgia Militia under General John Floyd began rounding up Cherokee Indians on May 26, 1838.

General Robert E. Lee wrote a letter dated May 26, 1861 to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown asking the state to send any weapons available for Georgia volunteers who arrived in Virginia unarmed.

The Battle of New Hope Church was fought near Dallas, Georgia May 25-26, 1864 between Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston and Federal troops under General William T. Sherman.

On May 25, 1907, an equine statue of John B. Gordon was unveiled on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.

President Calvin Coolidge signed the “Comprehensive Immigration Act” on May 26, 1924.

Many Americans saw the enormous influx of largely unskilled, uneducated immigrants during the early 1900s as causing unfair competition for jobs and land. Under the new law, immigration remained open to those with a college education and/or special skills, but entry was denied to Mexicans, and disproportionately to Eastern and Southern Europeans and Japanese. At the same time, the legislation allowed for more immigration from Northern European nations such as Britain, Ireland and Scandinavian countries. A quota was set that limited immigration to two percent of any given nation’s residents already in the U.S. as of 1890, a provision designed to maintain America’s largely Northern European racial composition. In 1927, the “two percent rule” was eliminated and a cap of 150,000 total immigrants annually was established.

The law particularly angered Japan, which in 1907 had forged with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt a “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” which included more liberal immigration quotas for Japan. By 1924, strong U.S. agricultural and labor interests–particularly from California, which had already passed its own exclusionary laws against Japanese immigrants–favored the more restrictive legislation signed by Coolidge. The Japanese government viewed the American law as an insult, and protested by declaring May 26 a national day of humiliation in Japan.

Fort Frederica National Monument was established on St Simons Island, Georgia on May 26, 1936.

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

May 26, 1949 was named Clay Day in Marietta, Georgia in honor of General Lucius Clay, who spoke at the courthouse square.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia held on May 25, 1962 that the Georgia General Assembly was malapportioned and ordered the reapportionment of the State House and Senate.

Star Wars opened on May 25, 1977.

The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Pooler reopened on Memorial Day, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The museum was operating at 25% capacity — only about 75 people at a time — but folks were still wandering through on Monday, May 25, most of them wearing masks.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, interior doors were kept open to minimize touching of handles and push plates, and hand-sanitizing stations were placed throughout the museum.

The museum will be operating on its normal schedule now, and will be open every day except for Monday. The Mighty Eighth will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence lauded Governor Brian Kemp’s reopening of Georgia, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday praised Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia restaurant owners who have reopened their establishments in recent weeks, lending a high-level dose of support to state leaders who have been criticized for ending pandemic restrictions too soon.

Pence said Georgia is setting “an example to the nation” by being among the first and most aggressive to restart its economy while staying mindful of public health guidelines.

“In a very real sense, I think history will record that Georgia helped lead the way back to a prosperous American economy,” Pence told reporters after a barbecue lunch with the governor and first lady Marty Kemp at Star Cafe near Atlanta’s Westside.

After dining on meatloaf, pulled pork and sweet tea with the Kemps, Pence spoke with local restaurant owners at a socially distanced roundtable at Waffle House’s corporate headquarters in Norcross.

“This isn’t really a choice between the health of our citizens and a growing economy,” said Pence. “It’s a choice between health and health, because a growing economy, which you’re beginning to see come back here in Georgia, contributes to the physical and emotional well-being of the American people.”

Governor Brian Kemp announced he is appointing Newton County District Attorney Layla Zon to a seat on the Superior Court for the Alcovy Circuit, according to the Rockdale-Newton Citizen.

The appointment, announced Thursday, makes Zon the first female to serve as a Superior Court judge in the Alcovy Circuit.

“I am honored to appoint Layla to serve as a Superior Court judge of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit. As a judge, she will prioritize the business of the court and uphold justice, fairness and decorum,” said Kemp.

The Alcovy Judicial Circuit serves Newton and Walton Counties.

NPR reports that the pandemic is slowing voter registration efforts.

No door to door canvassing. Public gatherings are canceled. Motor vehicle offices are closed. Naturalization ceremonies are on hiatus.

Almost every place where Americans usually register to vote has been out of reach since March and it’s led to a big drop in new registrations right before a presidential election that was expected to see record turnout.

The consequences of that decline could reshape the electorate ahead of the November election, although it’s not yet clear how.

Until the pandemic struck, the 2020 presidential election had been on track to see a huge surge in new voters. According to data from the Democratic voter targeting firm TargetSmart, voter registrations in January and February of this year far outpaced those in 2016.

But since the virus hit, new registrations are falling around the country. After a record increase in January, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams was disappointed that registrations in his state almost flat-lined.

Virginia saw 73% fewer registrations last month than it did four years ago. Officials said one reason is the shutdown of Department of Motor Vehicle offices, where voters routinely register. North Carolina had a similar decline and has expanded online registration to pick up some of the slack.

The New York Times looks at whether mail-in voting helps Republicans or Democrats.

Republican opposition seemed driven by the conviction that an increase in mail voting would benefit Democrats, who have tended to use mail ballots less compared with Republicans. But, like a lot of assumptions about voting, the reality is far less clear.

Conventional wisdom in both parties is that a surge of mail ballots, such as what we are likely to see in November, benefits Democrats more than Republicans.

The logic goes like this: Traditionally, most absentee ballots were cast by Republicans, so a big increase would disproportionately help Democratic turnout. And because turnout had always been higher among wealthier, better-educated voters who tilted Republican, anything that made voting easier was bound to benefit Democrats.

But recent demographic shifts in the electorate cast doubt on that: Since Mr. Trump’s election, more educated and wealthier voters have trended Democratic, while Republicans have gained among lower-income voters, especially white people. So conventional wisdom may no longer apply.

A new working paper by the Institute for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University concluded that mail balloting modestly increased voter turnout but that both parties benefited more or less equally from the surge. Other academic studies have reached largely similar conclusions.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is asking citizens to return their mail-in ballots, according to AccessWDUN.

“We want to get it off of people’s kitchen tables and back to your county election office,” the Republican said. The June 9 primary is two weeks from Tuesday.

So far, nearly 510,000 people had returned their ballots as of early Friday, while another 61,000 had voted in person during early voting. Voters can still request mail-in ballots through June 5, but are unlikely to have enough time to receive them by mail and return them by mail if they wait that long. Ballots must be returned to county election offices by 7 p.m. on June 9.

Raffensperger warned Monday that voters could face long waits if they attempt to vote in person either early or on election day because of precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory disease and a shortage of poll workers.

Election officials in Fulton County, Georgia’s most populous, agreed last week to open polls earlier and expand voting sites after lines formed on the first day of early voting.

Fulton County is still running behind on getting absentee ballots mailed. That’s in part because the county is struggling to process more than 27,000 emailed requests.

Two smaller counties saw their in-person voting sites shut last week because of coronavirus infections. Appling County will reopen Tuesday after its office was closed Friday for cleaning after a voter tested positive for COVID-19. Several election workers in McDuffie County tested positive. Raffensperger said Richmond County is sending workers to help McDuffie.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urged more absentee voting Monday in response to coronavirus infections in Appling and McDuffie counties related to voting sites.

“We would really highly encourage people to vote absentee, just because you don’t know what the situation could be,” Raffensperger said during a teleconference. “If this happened in the larger counties, shut down a couple precincts, it could create a much larger disruption.”

From the AJC:

Meanwhile, Fulton County reported Monday that it had nearly cleared a large backlog of absentee ballot requests that had piled up in election office inboxes, including some requests made more than seven weeks ago.

The last 3,500 ballot requests will be completed Tuesday morning, said Elections Director Richard Barron.

Then Fulton voters should receive their absentee ballots in the mail several days later.

“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Barron said. “We thank everyone for their patience. I don’t ever want to see us get behind like this again.”

Those voters might not have much time to return their ballots by the state’s election day deadline. A federal lawsuit is asking a judge to rule that ballots should be counted as long as they’re postmarked by election day.

From GPB News:

Nearly an equal number of Republicans and Democrats have requested mail-in ballots for the partisan primary that features the presidential race, a competitive primary for the Democratic nomination for one of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats and every state and federal lawmaker.

According to voting data from the secretary of state’s office, slightly more Republican absentee ballots have been returned than Democratic ballots, and about 60% of in-person voters requested a Republican ballot last week.

Georgia unemployment claims hit a record high in April, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia set a new all-time high for unemployment in April, with the jobless rate rising to 11.9% as waves of workers lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

The state only in February hit an all-time low of 3.1% unemployment and now has surpassed its previous all-time high of 10.6% set in December 2010. The jobless rate had begun to climb in March as the first effects of coronavirus related shutdowns showed up, rising to 4.2%.

The number of Georgians in the labor force fell from almost 5.2 million in March to less than 4.9 million in April, as many people gave up looking for work. The U.S. Department of Labor has said the actual unemployment rate may be higher because some people who have been furloughed are answering survey questions as if they’re still getting a regular paycheck.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, an elected Republican, expressed hope that Georgia’s rebound would be rapid.

“I have no doubt that we will recover just as quickly and get back to our record lows once again,” Butler said in a statement.

Another 176,000 Georgians filed seeking unemployment benefits last week. That brings the number of Georgians who have sought jobless benefits since the crisis began to more than 2 million. About 786,000 Georgians were getting payments, federal figures show, down by about 27,000 from the week before. The reason behind that drop wasn’t immediately clear.

Some Georgians are not wearing masks in public, according to the Macon Telegraph.

A spot check by a reporter in recent days at stores and restaurants around Macon to see if locals were heeding the advice revealed the many were. At the Bibb County Courthouse, a deputy stationed out front said “it’s about 50-50” whether visitors donned masks.

The general consensus now among health experts is that while a mask may not prevent a wearer from contracting COVID-19, a mask may reduce chances of an infected and possibly asymptomatic wearer spreading the disease.

A Valdosta agency that helps victims of domestic violence says its workload has increased as shelter-in-place is lifted, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Now that people are able to move freely, Yawn confirmed The Haven’s call volume has started to rise slightly. The number of clients being served at its shelter has grown, as well.

“I think that this pandemic is something most all of us have never been through before in our lifetime,” she said. “Domestic violence is very strongly about power and control and the fear around that power and control, and I think the fear of the pandemic may have just added on to that.”

“But I think the number of women or victims that would have called did decrease there for a while because I think they just didn’t have access or feel like they were in a safe position to contact us,” [Executive Director Michelle Girtman] said.

Much to his surprise, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said the shelter-in-place order has had no affect on domestic violence cases in the county.

A mobile COVID-19 unit is set up at Gainesville’s Northeast Georgia Medical Center, according to the Gainesville Times.

The unit designated for COVID-19 patients will remain near the center’s north tower for up to the next two years.

It is one of four in the state of Georgia funded by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and will serve as a place for NGHS Gainesville to house COVID-19 patients. Matthew Crumpton, emergency preparedness manager for NGHS, said that although the COVID-19 patient count at the facility has decreased from 138 a couple weeks ago to 40 as of Friday afternoon, the mobile unit is still an essential safety net.

“It’s never been a decision to not have it, because of the secondary wave that is still projected by the government,” Crumpton said. “We know that once we open up more elective surgeries and return to normal with our normal volume, we need a release valve for the COVID patients to have a place to keep part of our facility clean from COVID, and then have a place that we can segregate the COVID patients to keep the rest of the patients safe.”

The unit will be used to house COVID-19 patients at some point though — even if NGHS Gainesville does not hit its capacity — in an effort to keep COVID-19 patients segregated from other patients as much as possible.

Coastal Health District officials appeared pessimistic last week about COVID-19, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dr. Lawton Davis appeared downbeat while providing his assessment of Chatham’s infection rates since Georgia’s “soft reopening about a month ago,” which was ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp days before his own statewide stay-at-home mandate expired April 30. While Davis noted that some increase in COVID-19 case reports can be attributed to increased testing, he emphasized that the overall threat is clearly not abating.

“I would love to be able to tell you that this thing is going away, but a picture paints a thousand words,” Davis said, while presenting the commissioners with charts showing an increasingly steep climb of local COVID-19 cases over the past month. “You can see [in mid-April] we were kind of flat, and if anything, the charts are creeping up in this area.”

“Yesterday [May 21, 2020] was the single largest number of reported positive cases in the district since this thing began. Not in Chatham County, but in the district as a whole,” Davis said. “This most likely reflects the fact that we’ve been taking some pop-up [testing locations] out to some of the other counties that have not had a fixed location, so we’ve probably gotten to some people who’ve not had access to testing.”

“Memorial Day might increase the potential of those being exposed to coronavirus,” [Chatham County Commission Chair Al] Scott said, adding that he sees dangerous trends in local infection rates. “Looking at this information every day, multiple times a day, I really expect the death rate to go up in Chatham County.”

Hall County saw steady turnout for in-person advance voting last week, according to the Gainesville Times.

About 600 people cast their ballots at Gainesville Exploration Academy in the first four days of early voting for the June primary.

The county has about 200 poll workers, less than the usual target of 350 poll workers but above the minimum of 124. Workers are sanitizing machines between voters, and hand sanitizer is provided at the entrance and exit of the polling place. People are required to stay six feet apart.

As of 7 p.m. Thursday, 591 people had voted at Gainesville Exploration Academy in the first four days of early voting. That number is similar to turnout in the first week of early voting in past primaries. In the 2016 primary’s first five days of early voting, 655 people voted, and in 2018, 516 voted in that year’s primary during the first week of early voting.

The Augusta Chronicle looks at fundraising totals in the race for Senate District 23, an open-seat being vacated by Sen. Jesse Stone.

The Hall County School District will continue its meal program for students in June, according to AccessWDUN.

The Floyd County Commission will hold an online meeting at 6 PM today, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The AJC writes that local governments are required to hold some meetings in-person.

Many local governments have moved meetings online since March or encouraged remote public comment or other access to reduce the number of people coming in to the same room throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But public hearings — like the one required to rezone Cagle’s land — must be conducted in person, according to state law. So those have largely been on hold.

But as many of Gov. Brian Kemp’s restrictions have expired, governments are taking steps to return to normal. Some are reopening city halls that were closed or bringing more people back to work. And for the first time since March, many are beginning to schedule public hearings for land-use decisions or budget discussions, potentially bringing residents back into government buildings en masse.

Michael Rich, a political science professor at Emory University, said other states have changed their laws to make public hearings more accessible through the pandemic. In North Carolina, written comments are now allowed for 24 hours after a public hearing is held. Votes are delayed until the comment period is over. In Vermont, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns put out guidance for taking public comment during remote meetings.

Gwinnett zoning meetings often draw crowds, and though commissioners said they would defer some contentious proposals, they still worried that there would be some high-interest cases they didn’t know about in advance, that someone would come to the meeting sick or that someone who falls under Kemp’s order and determined they could not attend would challenge the result.

Federal funds totaling $128 million will be disbursed to Georgia nursing homes for COVID relief, according to the AJC.

Nursing homes across Georgia are getting $128 million in federal dollars to help them fight coronavirus, which has taken a devastating toll on long-term care residents across the nation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday.

All certified skilled nursing facilities with six or more beds will get a base payment of $50,000 each, plus $2,500 per bed. Marshall said the typical 100-bed nursing home in Georgia will receive about $300,000 through the relief program.

While many Georgia nursing homes have previously gotten federal financial relief through earlier waves of funding for health care providers, Marshall said those dollars were tied to their amount of Medicare revenues and went mostly to larger facilities in metro areas. The payments announced Friday, he said, represent some of the first significant relief for all nursing homes and will provide a big boost to those that primarily serve residents covered by Medicaid, many of them in rural areas. Medicaid is the health care program for low-income people that covers long stays in nursing facilities.

Columbus police arrested two men for the most bizarre thing I’ve heard of in campaign-related mischief. From the Ledger-Enquirer:

Columbus police have arrested two men allegedly recorded spinning their car wheels while cutting doughnuts in the Civic Center parking lot for an online campaign ad for district attorney candidate Mark Jones.

Each is charged with felony interference with government property and first-degree criminal damage to property, plus the misdemeanors of reckless conduct, reckless driving and laying drag, according to records at the Muscogee County Jail, where they were booked Friday night.

[The two men] had a bond hearing Saturday morning in Columbus Recorder’s Court, where they were ordered held without bond for interfering with government property, $200,000 bond for criminal damage, $500 each for reckless driving and reckless conduct, and $100 for laying drag, records show.

The chief Recorder’s Court judge, Julius Hunter, reviewed the bonds later Saturday and reduced them so both suspects could be released. Otherwise they could have remained jailed over Memorial Day weekend, until Hunter returned to work Tuesday.

The “Get Out And Vote” hip hop video ad published on Monday to the “Mark Jones for District Attorney” Facebook page features Jones with a rapper identified as JawGaBoi. It’s about a minute long and ends with an overhead drone shot of a car burning rubber in circles around Jones in the Civic Center parking lot off Veterans Parkway.

Police confirmed the video is what led to the arrests, and said more are anticipated. Slater was not informed of the investigation, they said. The department, which issues permits for public events such as parades and protests, said no permit exists for what’s depicted in the ad.

22
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 22, 2020

Chief Moultrie-Colquitt Humane

Chief is a young male Hound and Beagle mix who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

Baloo Moultrie-Colquitt Humane

Baloo is a male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

Peaches Moultrie-Colquitt Humane

Peaches is a young female Pit Bull Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

22
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 22, 2020

John Hancock was elected President of the Second Continental Congress on May 24, 1775.

On May 22, 1819, the steamship Savannah left the port of Savannah for Liverpool, England. After 29 days, it became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. On May 22, 1944, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the voyage of the Savannah.

On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with his cane. Brooks used the cane as the result of injury sustained in a previous duel, and found Sumner at his desk in the Senate Chamber. In the course of a two-day Senate speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have nullified the Missouri Compromise on the expansion of slavery, Sumner had criticized three legislators, including a cousin of Rep. Brooks, Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.

The Brooklyn Bridge opened on May 24, 1883.

On May 22, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the commencement address for Oglethorpe University at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

Serial bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death near Sailes, Louisiana by a group of LA and Texas state police on May 23, 1934.

On May 23, 1954, the NAACP petitioned the Fulton County Board of Education to desegregate after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Then-Lt. Governor Marvin Griffin announced his candidacy for Governor on May 24, 1954.

Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Virginia Caucus on May 23, 1976, gaining 24 delegates.

On May 23, 1990, the NFL announced that Atlanta would host the 1994 Super Bowl.

John Smoltz tied the record for most strikeouts by a Braves pitcher, throwing 15 Ks against Montreal Expos on May 24, 1992.

Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan, who was born on May 24, 1941.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Air Force Two will land in Georgia today with Vice President Mike Pence, according to the AJC.

The Republican plans to have lunch with Kemp before a roundtable discussion with restaurant executives at Waffle House’s headquarters in Norcross. He’ll then return to Dobbins Air Reserve Base for his flight back to Washington.

It will be Kemp’s first in-person meeting with Pence since a public spat with the White House erupted when President Donald Trump strongly criticized Kemp for rolling back coronavirus restrictions in late April.

The stop at Waffle House’s headquarters is also noteworthy. The company’s chairman, Joe Rogers Jr., forcefully urged state officials not to ban dine-in services, arguing that the economic damage would outweigh the public health benefits.

Kemp’s executive order allowed restaurants to reopen dining rooms starting in late April as long as they follow dozens of safety regulations, and many Waffle House locations in Georgia soon took that step.

Pence will be joined on Air Force Two by U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who has aligned herself with the White House as she faces Republican congressman Doug Collins – a close Trump ally – and 19 other challengers in November’s special election.

Governor Brian Kemp held a press conference yesterday to update Georgians on COVID-19, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Kemp and Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey told reporters that the state would own up to any errors it makes in the reporting of coronavirus data and asked for the public to be patient.

“I have said from the very beginning that we are making decisions based on data, science, and the advice of public health officials like Dr. Toomey,” Kemp said. “We are also committed to full transparency and honesty as we weather this healthcare crisis. Georgia families, businesses, local leaders, and the press deserve accurate data.”

“I want people to know they can be confident in the data,” Kemp said Thursday. “But also, look we’re not perfect. We’ve made mistakes. When we do that, we’ll own that, change it and make sure people are aware of that.”

Kemp also told reporters Thursday that CVS Health is opening 23 new drive-thru testing sites across Georgia to expand the state’s testing capacity.

As of 1 p.m. Thursday, Georgia reported 407,731 tests, but the state website now includes a disclaimer that antibody tests are included in the count. State health officials reported 40,405 coronavirus cases and 1,754 deaths.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized for coronavirus has fallen sharply over the past several weeks to below 1,000 patients this week, marking a promising sign the virus may be slowing.

That trend comes as state officials are sending out more personal protective equipment to hospitals, creating a training program for disinfecting elderly care facilities and boosting staff for Georgia’s new contact-tracing program.

Mass testing to confirm whether a person has contracted coronavirus is critical for health officials to pinpoint where new outbreaks may be cropping up, as many people begin resuming aspects of their normal lives following Kemp’s May 1 decision to end the state’s mandatory shelter-in-place order.

Toomey said about 500 contact tracers have been hired so far, with another 500 tracers on track to be hired by mid-June. To date, those tracers have conducted interviews with more than 3,300 coronavirus-infected persons and identified more than 9,000 people with whom they interacted.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday he has ordered a review of how the state is reporting coronavirus figures, and he asked the public to have patience with health officials after a string of missteps raised questions about the accuracy of the latest data about the outbreak.

“We’re not perfect. We make mistakes,” said Kemp of the criticism over mistakes in reporting data on COVID-19 in the state public health data website. He said increased pressure to more quickly update the data has likely contributed to the errors.

“We’re continuing to work and improve all of our reporting systems,” [Dr. Toomey] said. “That’s what’s going to give us the ability to respond accurately.”

The Georgia Supreme Court will begin re-opening under a new operating order, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton is restarting cases and reinstating filing deadlines in the state in an order designed to keep the court operating to the fullest extent possible during and after the statewide judicial emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the court said in a press release.

The new orders, which were scheduled to be filed Thursday, May 21, recognized that most of the deadlines imposed by the court’s rules pertain to the e-filing of written documents rather than proceedings requiring in-person contact, the court said.

“We have cases that are ready to move,” Melton said. “We have the capacity to move them safely. So we will. This is what the latest extension of the declaration is trying to accomplish across the state.”

Effective May 28, parties in pending cases will have the same amount of time to submit their filings as they had remaining at the time the March 14 emergency order went into effect. Parties will be required to submit a “Certificate of Timeliness” with each filing to show the calculation of the new filing deadline.

Parties may file a motion for reconsideration or seek extensions of time for good cause related to the COVID-19 pandemic or otherwise.

Georgia hospitals are realizing financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated stoppages of elective procedures, according to the Albany Herald.

Hospitals have lost surgical, diagnostic and outpatient revenue during the pandemic, and industry leaders say recent federal grant funding has not been enough to offset those losses.

Emory Healthcare on Thursday became the latest hospital system to announce staff furloughs.

Emory cited a projected revenue shortfall of about $660 million through August as it announced that it will implement schedule changes and furlough up to 1,500 of its employees. Executives and senior managers will take a pay cut of up to 25 percent.

‘While never more proud of our team’s response, COVID-19 has had a significant negative impact on our normal revenue and operating expenses,’’ said Dr. Jonathan Lewin, president and CEO of Emory Healthcare, which has 11 hospitals.

“We take any action that affects our employees extremely seriously; however, the magnitude of the revenue loss due to cancellation and postponement of the majority of our surgery, procedural and diagnostic cases far exceeds the $142 million in federal grant receipts,’’ Lewin said.

Earlier this week, Wellstar Health System, which also has 11 hospitals, said it will furlough 1,070 employees and reduce the hours of another 1,800 workers. Wellstar is also cutting executive and physician pay. The Marietta-based system cited lower surgery revenue, ER visits and hospital admissions.

Gov. Kemp addressed hospitals’ financial plight at a news conference at the state Capitol on Thursday, urging patients to get the medical and dental care they need.

“I want to strongly encourage everyone to get important check-ups on their calendar,’’ he said. “Please go to your doctor for a check-up if you are due for one.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a five-phase plan for reopening the city government, according to the AJC.

The plan does not feature dates for when certain phases will be triggered. Instead, the city will progress from phase to phase “based on milestone metrics and recent data,” according to a press release from the city.

As of Thursday night, Atlanta remains in phase one: Stay at home.

Bottoms is continuing to urge residents to stay home except for essential trips, to wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and wear face masks in public. Nonessential city facilities also remain closed during this phase.

Based on her plan, city data would need to show a consistent decrease in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and the percent of positive COVID-19 test results over a 14-day period before phase two is enacted. In addition, hospital and critical care facilities’ capacity must remain above 50%.

The University of Georgia may see higher enrollment for summer online courses but lower fall enrollment in graduate programs, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Indications for freshman class enrollment this fall also look “strong,” according to a lengthy memo UGA president Jere Morehead and other top administrators sent to UGA faculty and staff Thursday.

Forecasts for graduate student enrollment this fall, particularly of international students, are not so good, they wrote.

Some programs may be cut, and some layoffs are likely, they also warned.

“We are pleased to report that summer enrollment is going well,” the administrators wrote. “In fact, enrollment appears to be slightly higher than this time last year.”

“Resuming normal operations also is of critical importance to our financial stability. We need to enroll a full class of first-year students and maintain our current enrollment of returning students in the fall in order to manage the fiscal impact created by the pandemic,” according to the administrators’ message.

The Georgia High School Association has set conditions for the return of high school sports practice, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

During a live-streamed digital meeting by its Board of Trustees, the members debated but agreed that June 8 was the best date for schools to return to restrictive conditioning.

The return follows phase one of a three-phrase process the NFSA released earlier in the week that allows programs to begin workouts through social distancing means. Screenings for symptoms of COVID-19, limited gatherings and sanitation guidelines are at the forefront of its plans.

GPB News writes about COVID-19 related problems for Georgia’s peanut and cotton agricultural industries.

[Agricultural businessman Michael] Brooks said the cotton industry was already in a financial bind before the pandemic. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on China in 2018 that included investment restrictions and tariffs on Chinese imported goods. Some of those goods included cotton products.

“Because of sanctions on China, the cotton prices are already coming down and actually, they’ve been below cost of production,” he said. “So we’re losing money to grow it.”

The farming company received a Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment last year from the United States Department of Agriculture while simultaneously adjusting to low profits. The government gave them a small percentage of the taxes collected on imported goods.

Cotton demands worldwide have also dropped dramatically because of the coronavirus pandemic. Retail sales plummeted and apparel stores were forced to shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, and with unemployment rising in the US, there’s reduced need for cotton goods because of a lack of disposable income.

“The higher the economy goes, more people will buy cotton and cotton products, but peanuts are reversed,” Brooks said.

Brooks said peanuts have been overproduced worldwide for the past three years, and the demand underwhelmed the peanut supply.

“As the economy does good, people can afford to buy chicken and steak,” Brooks said. “You’re not eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

WABE looks at COVID-19 risks for agriculture workers.

Tens of thousands of people travel to Georgia every year to work in farm fields and in packing plants. Many of them live in close quarters and get to work in crowded buses, and that’s raised concerns about the coronavirus spreading in a community with limited access to health care.

“Many of these farm workers, including my parents, they don’t make enough money to get health insurance, or their employer doesn’t provide them health insurance,” Erick Martinez Juarez said.

“Twenty people could use the same bathroom,” said Roxana Chicas, a nurse who is getting a Ph.D. at Emory, studying farmworker health. “If one worker were to get COVID-19 in one of those barracks, I mean, it’ll be like a wildfire.”

Transportation to and from the farms – often in crowded buses – is a concern. And even in the fields, workers can’t always social distance either.

Dr. Jodie Guest, an epidemiologist at Emory, who volunteers in South Georgia farmworker health clinics and has also done coronavirus testing at poultry plants in North Georgia, said it all adds up to make farmworkers an at-risk population.

“I think we see in these poultry plants, and prison systems, and nursing home living facilities, this rapid spread once someone tests positive, and that’s the situation we’re looking at here as well,” she said.

Statesboro City Council will tweak amendments to the alcohol ordinance to allow public drinking in part of downtown before introducing the amendments, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Rome City Commission is also considering an ordinance amendment to allow public consumption outside in the downtown area, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Commissioner Craig McDaniel expressed his concern over the way the ordinance was put forward to the board this time. Neither the ACC nor the Downtown Development Authority held a meeting, either in-person or through web-based conferencing, to discuss and vote on recommending it.

ACC Chair Monica Sheppard told the city commission through Zoom on Monday her citizen board wrote their thoughts about it in emails. The majority, she said, approved sending it to the commission to try and provide economic help to the downtown restaurants as soon as possible.

“That’s not how we do business on the city commission,” McDaniel said. “We have committees. And just about every thing we vote on is brought to us out of a committee. I don’t know how each of the members of the ACC feel about it. I respect the thoughts of all of them. They are a good committee. But just to blindside the city commission and bring this back without a proper meeting is not how the city does business.”

Commissioner Wendy Davis, who chaired the ACC at the time, made a motion to adopt the ordinance at the full city commission meeting on Oct. 9, 2017. The motion died for lack of a second.

A separate motion to oppose the ordinance was made by then-commissioner Evie McNiece and seconded by McDaniel. It passed 7-1, with Davis the lone no vote.

The Statesboro Herald surveys the Republican candidates for Senate District 4, vacated by the death of Sen. Jack Hill, on hemp as a cash crop.

The four Republican candidates for the Georgia Senate seat previously held by the late Sen. Jack Hill expressed a range of opinions Tuesday evening about expansion of hemp cultivation and production of cannabis products. But all approved of at least “medical marijuana.”

Two candidates stated that they personally use hemp-derived products for health or wellness purposes, and a third indicated he has patients who have used medical cannabis with excellent results.

The Savannah Bananas baseball team will play this season with reduced crowds and live-streaming games, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Bananas pushed back Opening Day from May 18 to July 1 and plan to implement social distancing at Grayson, which normally as a seating capacity of 4,100. About 2,000 fans will be allowed into games under the plan this season.

“A lot of teams live stream games, but we’re trying to re-imagine what a game could look like online,” Cole said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Our games are like a circus and we want the experience to be unique with our livestream. We’re looking at showing the action with drone shots, cameras on players when they’re on the field and in the dugout and live microphones on players and coaches.”

“We’re thinking of how we could have fans making decisions like baseball has never seen before – those are the questions we are asking. Could fans make choices about what uniforms we’re wearing, who will be in the starting lineup and what kind of walk-up music players have? We want to have unique camera angles and coaches could explain game decisions while they are miked up. We’re looking at all the possibilities.”

The streaming service will cost $4.99 per month and is set to start June 23. Fans who sign up will have first access to giveaways, merchandise and other benefits. Fans can sign up at this link — https://thesavannahbananas.com/bananasinsider/.

The Gainesville Times will host online forums featuring the Republican candidates for Hall County Sheriff and Commission Chair.

Brunswick City Council has approved a COVID-19 micro loan program, according to The Brunswick News.

Downtown Development Authority Director Mathew Hill said there are 419 licensed city businesses with 20 or fewer employees who he said could be eligible for loans up to $1,000. Recipients will have two years to repay the loan, with no requirement to make a payment for the first year.

Businesses failing to repay the loans within two years will be charged a late fee on the interest-free loan, and they will not be allowed to renew their business licenses until the loan is repaid.

Hill said the demand might be greater than the money available.

“There are more businesses eligible than we have funds for,” he said. “We anticipate quite a few will apply.”

Brunswick City Council also voted to accept $1.7 million in federal aid for the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

ince the COVID-19 outbreak began, the airport has seen traffic shrink to as low as 5 percent of normal air travel. It has since begun to rebound, but the airport will need help to offset the major losses, Glynn County Airport Commission Executive Director Robert Burr told The News in a recent interview.

The money will come from the CARES Act, a $2 trillion relief package passed in March to help citizens, small and large businesses, local governments and healthcare facilities get through the COVID-19 pandemic. The St. Simons Island airport was awarded $69,000, Burr said.

The Valdosta Memorial Day observance has been canceled, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Valdosta’s American Legion post normally organizes the event. Monday, the post’s executive committee voted, via teleconference, to cancel the ceremony and all of the usual Memorial Day activities, including placing flags on veterans’ graves, said Rod Pedersen, the post’s commander.

“The committee voted to follow (Gov. Brian Kemp)’s latest proclamation and follow the guidelines he established for the pandemic,” Pedersen said.

The post was established in 1923, and the commander said he believes some sort of Memorial Day observance has been held ever since.

Work to remove the M/V Golden Ray from where it capsized in St Simons Sound continues, according to The Brunswick News.

21
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 21, 2020

Apparently, yesterday was National Rescue Dog Day and my canine co-workers neglected to tell me. Luckily, First Lady of Georgia Marty Kemp had this reminder:

Marty Kemp Rescue Dog Day

University of Georgia graduate student Kim Wolf is working to bring virtual pet visits to shut-ins and front-line healthcare workers, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

During her more than 15 years working with older adults and caregivers, Wolf had seen how residents lit up when she brought therapy dogs. So she decided to pilot the project with her grandmother’s facility, where residents were used to seeing in-house therapy pets weekly.

Wolf recruited friends from the Animal Farm Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit dog rescue that trains shelter dogs to be free service dogs for people in need. With them came dogs, cats, horses, goats and cows.

“You could see the excitement in the eyes of our residents,” said Roya Najafali-Brooks, the activities director at Genesis Multi-Medical, where Wolf’s grandmother lives. “Pets seem to bring them much joy when in the building, so with the current situation, it is a great opportunity for them to be able to still have this pet interaction.”

Pairing with Animal Farm Foundation, Wolf established Pets Together, with the goal of providing visits on a bigger scale. Using video chat services, Pets Together has held more than 100 virtual visits since its launch in March. Another 100 appointments are already scheduled for the next month. Currently, Pets Together offers appointments only to people living in group settings or working on the front lines of the pandemic, but Wolf said she anticipates expanding in the future to provide visits to people who are living in their own homes but unable to get out much due to health reasons.

“There’s some really powerful research that shows that experiencing chronic social isolation and loneliness is just as bad for premature mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes,” Wolf said. “As a public health student, I’m always trying to think about new and innovative ways that we can reduce social isolation and loneliness, especially in older adults where consequences are more dire. This was a way to try and do that and buffer the effects of isolation.”

Deryn Athens Canine Rescue

Deryn is a young female Labrador Retriever and Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Welcome Deryn! Deryn is an 11-month-old yellow beauty currently weighing in at just 33 pounds. Because she’s so young, she’ll likely get bigger yet – likely to around 40 pounds (give or take). She needs a home with another dog because, as you’ll see, she does best when she’s got a canine friend around!

Deryn is crate-trained and housebroken! Since Deryn has moved in with another dog, she has learned those skills very quickly, and she’s been learning new tricks on top of that! Deryn can now respond to “sit,” “down,” “off,” and she is working on learning to “roll over.” Deryn will go into her crate for food, but she’d much rather hang out in the open with her human and dog pals! Who can blame her?

Deryn, or “Little Bit” as foster mom calls her because she’s half the size of her favorite playmate, lives with other dogs in her foster home and is doing great with them! She was a tad shy with larger male dogs when she first met them, but once the initial bashfulness wore off, she was as good as gold and happy to play! Deryn is a much happier dog now that she has a foster sibling, so she needs a family who has another dog so she won’t feel so lonely when her humans aren’t home.

Sprout Athens Canine Rescue

Sprout is a male Chihuahua and Shih-Tzu mix who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Welcome Sprout! This 4-year-old boy weighs in at just 12 pounds. Sprout is already housebroken and crate trained! He sleeps through the night and keeps his crate clean when he’s at home alone. When he has to go outside, he signals by whining at the door or giving a little nudge with his paw to make sure you know it’s time to go outside. He will walk right in his crate with a little bait, and he stays quiet all night long, but if you sleep in too long, he’ll let you know it’s time to get out of bed and get your day started.

With other dogs, Sprout is playful, kissy, cuddly, and happy. He loves to cuddle with his foster siblings, and he will even share toys with them. He’ll even go for toys that are nearly his size!

Sophie Athens Canine Rescue

Sophie is a young female Australian Shepher and Doberman Pinscher mix who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Welcome Sophie! This Doberman mix beauty is around 2-years-old and had four puppies in February. Once she loses the baby weight, Sophie should weigh around 50 pounds. All of her babies have been adopted, so she’s an empty-nester who is ready to thrive in her new kid-free life!

Sophie is working on her housetraining. She knows when to go outside and hasn’t had any recent accidents, but she doesn’t spend much time loose in the house. Sophie is crate trained and will go in her crate with just a point — no treat needed! She has learned to “sit,” and she will probably get a few more tricks up her sleeve with more training.

Sophie lives with dogs in her foster home, and they are all doing well together. Sophie is a bit shy at first but will wrestle and bounce around with her foster siblings. She is wonderful at adjusting her play style based on the situation — she’s gentle with smaller dogs but can play rough and hold her own with the big boys.

21
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 21, 2020

Georgia Colonists signed the Treaty of Savannah with the Lower Creeks on May 21, 1733.

George Washington left Georgia on May 21, 1791, crossing a bridge over the Savannah River at Augusta.

American Charles Lindbergh landed at Paris on May 21, 1927 in The Spirit of St. Louis, completing both the first nonstop transatlantic flight and the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris.

On May 21, 1942, German authorities removed 4300 Polish Jews from Chelm to an extermination camp at Sobibor and killed them by poison gas. The Sobibor camp’s five gas chambers would kill 250,000 Jews during 1942 and 1943.

On May 21, 2011, Herman Cain announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence comes to Atlanta on Friday, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence is set to visit Atlanta on Friday to meet with Gov. Brian Kemp to discuss Georgia’s aggressive approach to reopening Georgia’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

He also plans to gather with restaurant executives to highlight their plans to resume dine-in operations, as well as talk about safety precautions they’re taking to bring their employees back to work.

Governor Brian Kemp will give a COVID-19 update today at the Georgia State Capitol.

Governor Brian P. Kemp; Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health; Homer Bryson, Director, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency; Adjutant General Tom Carden, Georgia National Guard; Colonel Gary Vowell, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Safety; Mark Williams, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Gary Black, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Agriculture

WHEN: Thursday, May 21 at 4:30 PM

WHERE: North Wing, Georgia State Capitol

The briefing will be live streamed at facebook.com/GovKemp or gpb.org/coronavirus.

From the AJC:

Kemp plans a Thursday press conference to detail efforts to prepare for increased crowds at parks and beaches over Memorial Day weekend. He also could issue more guidelines to allow shuttered bars, nightclubs and live music venues to reopen.

Kemp said fans can expect a “new norm” when they return to sports stadiums.

“I’m reserving judgment now, but believe me: I’m an optimist, and I want to see that happen if it’s at all possible. We’ll try to be working with folks to do that if it makes sense from a public health standpoint.”

New guidance for businesses may be discussed during that update. From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

In an interview with WSB-TV, Kemp said that state officials are aiming to make public new guidelines regarding businesses “over the next several days.”

“They’re wanting to open back those businesses, and people want to go participate in those activities, and I get that. We just got to make sure we do it in a way that’s safe for Georgians,” Kemp said.

Voting precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19 are slowing down voting, according to the Albany Herald.

The demands of social distancing and other COVID-19 related health precautions has lowered the capacity polling locations around the state have for in-person voting, and has increased wait times for Georgians looking to cast their ballots in person.

Additionally, many absentee ballots are still on the way to Georgia voters who requested them. When these Georgians opt to vote in person, their absentee ballot must be cancelled at the polling site, an extra step that further slows down the voting process.

Almost 1.5 million Georgians have submitted a request for absentee ballots for the upcoming election with more than 1 million absentee ballots already sent out to Georgia voters. Each absentee ballot mailing has a bar code allowing the Secretary of State’s office to track it as it moves through the state’s postal system and to the voter’s mailbox. This allows the secretary’s office to ensure that the ballots get where they are supposed to go.

Georgia voters have already returned 400,000 absentee ballots with three weeks to go until Election Day.

Long waits to vote are being seen at polling locations, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

Polls opened Monday across the state for the three-week early voting period ahead of the primary election, which was delayed from March 24 and May 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Precincts have already seen long lines despite relatively small turnout with voters forced to keep their distance from each other and spend time canceling absentee ballots they requested since they are voting in person.

McDuffie County voting may be impacted by COVID-19 as elections staff is down to two people, according to the AJC.

Two McDuffie County elections employees tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday, and six temporary employees were also sent home, said Elections Director Phyllis Wheeler. Their departures leave just two staff members and 13 poll workers left as early voting is underway.

“We’re very short-handed,” Wheeler said Wednesday. “We’re going to try. We’re not completely down. It might take a little longer, but we’ll get it done.”

Wheeler and her assistant elections supervisor are awaiting results of their coronavirus tests, but they’re not showing symptoms. If they have the illness, Wheeler said she doesn’t know what she would do.

While there are enough poll workers at early voting sites, the county lacks staff needed to manage the election.

From the Cherokee Tribune-Ledger News:

Early voting began Monday at both the Elections and Voter Registration office in Canton and the South Cherokee Annex in Woodstock, and the number of early votes cast has been fairly steady. According to information from the elections office, a grand total of 590 early ballots had been cast during the first two days of early voting in the county, of which 387 came from the Canton office and 203 were tallied at the South Cherokee Annex. Stancil said, while the Woodstock location was not seeing as much traffic as Canton due to it being a fairly new location for early voting, it was doing just fine.

Of the 43,134 ballots mailed out to Cherokee County voters so far, 16,687 have been returned and tallied as of the end of the day Tuesday. Along with this, another 273 mailed out and returned were labeled as canceled, rejected or spoiled. However, Stancil said a large majority of those in this classification were considered canceled, due to people who received them and filled them out, but then brought them in and asked to have them canceled so they would be able to vote in person.

This election cycle marks the first use of the new voting machines approved by the state, which have not presented any problems for early voters in Cherokee County.

“The new machines have been working great,” Stancil said.

From a press release by Emory University:

[Political Science Professor Andra Gillespie] adds that according to the website Georgia Votes, African Americans are underrepresented in the number of requested absentee ballots. “And the question I would ask is whether or not we’re going to have problems with people’s absentee ballots getting rejected because of allegations of signature non-matches.”

Whatever the public health situation is in November, “vote by mail looks like something we’re going to have to plan,” says Gillespie, adding that election officials need ask the right questions now. In addition to whether the process works well, she says, local election officials need to determine “whether they’re ready and have the staff to handle a large number of absentee ballots that must be counted quickly.”

Governor Kemp discussed something near and dear to his heart: college football. From the Athens Banner Herald:

In an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC Network, Kemp spoke about Georgia’s scheduled football season-opener against Virginia on Labor Day in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I believe it’s a little too early to tell whether we’re going to open on Labor Day with a packed house or a sparse crowd or no crowd at all,” Kemp said. “I know everybody wants to have a crowd there. I would urge people to continue to follow the guidance so we can drive these numbers down so that we can do that, but we stand ready to work with them.”

UGA has worked on models for reduced crowds in Sanford Stadium to account for fans being able to socially distance, but has not revealed any plans yet.

The NCAA Division I Council Wednesday voted to allow football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players to return to campus starting June 1 for voluntary workouts. SEC presidents are expected to have a similar vote on Friday and then the University System of Georgia would need to give the go-ahead for the campus to open for such activities.

“It’s going to be a new norm on the practices when people do go back to our sports stadiums,” Kemp said. “But there’s also a lot of really smart people that are working on new technologies and new ways of doing business to protect people so we can do that. I’m reserving judgment now, but believe me I’m an optimist and I want to see that happen if it’s at all possible. We’ll try to be working with folks to do that if it makes sense from a public health standpoint.”

Georgia unemployment was over 11 percent in April, the highest rate on record, according to AccessWDUN.

As the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses across the state, Georgia’s unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 11.9% in April, according to State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

The jobless rate increased by 7.3 percentage points over March. In April 2019, the rate was 3.6%.

“This is the highest unemployment rate on record, eclipsing the previous high of 10.6 percent that occurred in December 2010,” said Butler in a Thursday-morning press statement. “However, the cause of this high unemployment rate differs greatly from that of the previous record, and I have no doubt that we will recover just as quickly and get back to our record lows once again.”

Domestic violence calls were also up in at least a couple jurisdictions, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Police Department filed 430 domestic violence incident reports in April, compared to 380 reports in April 2019.

However, April 2020 saw a decrease in fight reports from last year, dropping from 239 to 206.

“The difference between a fight and a domestic are two people fighting on the side of a road and somebody sees that and calls that in,” said FCPD Sgt. Chris Fincher. “A domestic would be two partners living together in a home.”

Rome Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett found there was only a slight increase in domestic violence calls in April 2020 compared with the same time last year. The Rome Police Department received 231 calls for the month, only 12 more than in April 2019.

Dougherty County is encouraging mask-wearing, and Albany will consider a similar measure, according to the Albany Herald.

Dougherty County commissioners unanimously approved the mask resolution during their Monday meeting. Governments cannot require that people wear masks, but the resolution encourages them to do so during the health crisis.

On Tuesday, Albany City Commission members also indicated their approval. Commissioners could not vote during their Tuesday work session, but gave the proposal overwhelming support during an unofficial “straw vote” held during the meeting.

The commission is scheduled to take a vote during a regular meeting on Tuesday.

“We know for a matter of fact the wearing of masks reduces the transmission of the virus and the receipt of the virus,” Dougherty Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said. “Our recommendations to wear masks are (tied) to what the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends and what we know will reduce the spread of the virus.”

Georgia Senate budget-writers will return to the State Capitol for in-person meetings, according to the AJC.

Senate budget subcommittees will begin meeting Tuesday at the Capitol, starting work on the fiscal 2021 budget that is expected to include more than $3.5 billion in spending cuts because the pandemic shutdown caused tax revenue to plummet.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, said at least the chairmen of the subcommittees and budget staffers would attend live. Other lawmakers could attend, or they could watch it, along with the public, on the statehouse stream.

Lawmakers are still working on details for how they will hold a live legislative session at the Capitol while keeping the General Assembly safe from the coronavirus. At least five senators and one House member caught the virus. They all recovered.

The House and Senate appropriations committees have been holding joint, virtual meetings for a few weeks.

The Gainesville Times looks at the contact tracing process for COVID-19.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s contact tracers step in to help stop the spread.

“When someone tests positive for COVID-19, the contact tracer makes a call to that individual to identify potential contacts and lists them out for follow-up,” Ndubuisi Anyalechi, infectious disease coordinator for District 2 of the Department of Public Health, said.

Anyalechi said contact tracers focus on primary contacts like friends and family members. They reach out to people who came in contact with a COVID-19 positive person by being less than 6 feet away from them for at least 15 minutes.

Contact tracers reach out either by phone or text message to people who may have been affected to inform them that they have come in contact with someone with the virus and to enroll the contact in symptom monitoring. People will be asked to monitor and report any symptoms through a text messaging system, or they can call the Department of Public Health if they are unable to text. They are asked to stay home for 14 days after their last contact with the person who tested positive.

People who develop symptoms will be asked to isolate themselves at home and will be referred for COVID-19 testing, or to seek medical care if necessary. The process is voluntary, and information will be kept confidential under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, according to the Department of Public Health’s guide to contact tracing.

Savannah City Council is working to draft an ethics ordinance, according to the Savannah Morning News.

City Attorney Bates Lovett presented options at the May 14 workshop based on feedback from council members. Lovett’s findings were in response to the mayor’s and aldermen’s goals, as voiced during a January visioning retreat, just weeks after members had been sworn into office.

Bates told the group at the workshop that the goal of the ethics ordinance is to “keep money out of the decision-making process.”

One of those changes involves campaign donations.

Lovett presented two options towards that end: one would prohibit council members or the mayor from receiving campaign donations of $250 or more from anyone that has a contract valued at $25,000 with the city. The second option would allow acceptance of a donation of $250 or more, but prohibit the elected official from discussing or voting on an item involving the donor. State law allows up to $2,800 of donations. .

The removal process presented would include a hearing conducted by a panel chosen by council.

[Mayor Van] Johnson said he had concerns about the voting members being both “judge and jury.” Alderman Nick Palumbo and Linda Wilder-Bryan agreed with Johnson.

Savannah Bar Association members voted on the qualifications of two candidates for an open seat on Superior Court, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Candidates for Floyd County Sheriff discussed mental health issues in an online forum, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar launched a program to support local businesses impacted by the pandemic, according to the Statesboro Herald.

With the help of local businesses and community leaders, the campaign is set to run through June 1, 2020.

“The nation has felt and will continue to feel a significant impact from the COVID-19 pandemic,” McCollar said. “As we’ve started to settle into what may very well be our new normal, I couldn’t help but wonder if our community will ever be what it once was – with small businesses thriving and families reaping the benefits of a robust economy.”

McCollar went on to explain that he thought it was imperative to create a capital campaign to benefit the citizens of Statesboro that have been most affected financially by COVID-19.

The Love Ur City campaign proceeds are set to benefit two funds: the Statesboro COVID-19 Family Relief Fund and the Statesboro COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund. The family fund applications and grants will be managed and administered by local nonprofit United Way of Southeast Georgia while the small business fund will be handled by Georgia Southern’s Business Innovation Group (BIG).

Athens-Clarke County could see higher property taxes offsetting cratered tax revenues due to the pandemic, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Athens-Clarke County will hold its first public hearing on the proposed 2020-21 budget Thursday evening, but it won’t look like such hearings in the past.

The proposed $140 million budget proposal includes a slight reduction in the property tax rate, but property owners would pay more on average because of increases in property values, based on sale prices.

The tax digest — the inventory of all taxable property in the county — is up 7.47 percent this year. Most of the increase, 5.83 percent, is due to rising real estate values in the county; only 1.64 percent of the increase in the digest is because of new construction.

Athens-Clarke planners expect property tax revenues to increase by about 5 percent, according to the proposed budget, but sales tax revenues are expected to decline from this year.

Social distancing will be enforced for those who show up to speak. People who come to speak will be allowed in one door, but must exit through another so that paths will not cross.

The commission has been meeting remotely via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency, with meetings broadcast on the Athens-Clarke government’s YouTube channel and on Charter Spectrum cable channel 180. Thursday’s meeting is no exception, aside from the provision for people to come to City Hall to address the commissioners, who will be listening in via Zoom.

Two more public hearings are scheduled. One is next Tuesday at 6 p.m., with the same arrangements.

The Richmond County school system is considering how to run online classes for the summer and possibly beyond, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

[Summer school] courses will be operated through Canvas, a learning management system that covers a wide range of education facets from posting content and managing due dates to creating personalized learning and providing more detailed feedback to students.

While the district plans to re-open in the fall, any online education will be provided through Canvas.

The school system wants to have enough devices to check out to at least 60 percent of their students by August. It has received $2,564,200 from the Georgia Department of Education to purchase 3,205 additional devices for 20 of its schools. On top of that, 31 grants have been submitted for $10,000 each to purchase additional Smartspot devices and cover other COVID-19 support costs.

Lowndes County Tax Commissioner Rodney Cain has for years been waiving penalties and interest without seeking required approval of the county commission, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Glynn County Commissioner David O’Quinn is calling for the removal of the county police chief after the Ahmaud Arbery slaying, according to The Brunswick News.

In a May 6 email to fellow Glynn County Commissioners, at large commissioner David O’Quinn, calling Powell “incompetents” and “a cancer in the community,” made it known where he stands. He also noted in the email the county had offered Powell a “nice” package to resign, but the police chief rejected it.

“I want to be clear that I support firing John Powell immediately,” began O’Quinn’s email, which he sent to fellow commissioners at 10:17 p.m. Greg McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested by the GBI and charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, on May 7.

Former State Rep. Deborah Gonzalez (D-Athens) is suing the state over a canceled election for District Attorney, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

She is the second Athens candidate to sue state officials this year after an election was canceled.

Gonzalez, a Democrat, announced last July 11 that she would run to succeed former Western Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin, also a Democrat. Mauldin had just announced he would retire effective Feb. 29, 10 months before his term expires at the end of this year.

But under the provisions of a law passed by the Republican-majority legislature in 2018, Kemp was able to effectively cancel that election if he did not appoint a new district attorney by May 3.

Kemp did not make an appointment, delaying an election until 2022. Meanwhile, Brian Patterson, an assistant district attorney under Mauldin, is the acting district attorney. Patterson had also announced that he would run for the job as a Democrat.

Coastal celebrations of Independence Day have been canceled, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County’s fireworks display on St. Simons Island typically draws a big crowd to Neptune Park, but county government plans to forgo the event.

Jekyll Island’s Independence Day event also has been canceled, according to Alexa Orndoff, spokeswoman for the Jekyll Island Authority. She also cited social distancing guidelines as a reason.

While the city of Brunswick hasn’t officially announced its intentions, Mayor Cornell Harvey said the city commission will discuss it and likely come to a decision in line with the county and Jekyll Island.

In Camden County, St. Marys will not celebrate the nation’s birthday for the first time in 51 years. The annual festival, sponsored by the St. Marys Kiwanis Club, typically attracts 20,000 to 25,000 people, many staying for the fireworks display.

20
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 20, 2020

Ranger Homes 4-ever Rescue Org

Ranger is a male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Homes 4-ever Rescue Organization in Rockmart, GA. He has special needs, according to the rescue:

Ranger is a 2 year old male chocolate lab. This guy is super amazing and so laid back. He absolutely is not the typical young lab. He gets along great with other dogs and doesn’t seem to mind cats. He is to lazy to care about much. He will play with the kids as long as they want to play but is also happy to lay around. Ranger is now fully vetted and ready for his new 4-EVER HOME!

Ranger has a seizure disorder and requires medication daily. This will be a life long thing that has to be monitored. Due to this we are requiring he goes to a home with a fenced in yard. This is a must have and for his safety we are not willing to budge on this.

Felicia Homes 4-ever Rescue Org

Felicia is a young female Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Homes 4-ever Rescue Organization in Rockmart, GA.

Fable Homes 4-ever Rescue Org

Fable is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Homes 4-ever Rescue Organization in Rockmart, GA.

Fable is a 1 year old lab mix? This guy is so sweet but has a higher energy level which is why he only had 1 pic. So he needs a active family that will keep him busy.

20
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2020

Blue jeans with copper rivets were patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis on May 20, 1873.

On May 20, 1916, more than 20,000 visited Stone Mountain for the dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of a Confederate memorial on the north face.

On May 20, 1995, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to automotive traffic.

The 400th episode of The Simpsons aired on May 20, 2007.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp spoke to WSB-TV:

“We’ve got two wars we’re fighting now. We’re still fighting the COVID-19 virus, but we’re also fighting a war to get our people back to work and reopen our economy,” Kemp said.

A month ago, we had everybody following all these models, but now the best data we’re getting is real-life experiences our hospital CEOs are reporting each day,” Kemp said.

“What is the most important data point that you look at to help guide your decisions?” Farmer asked Kemp.

“The main thing for me, really, is the rate of new cases, what our fatalities are looking like and then the percent of positives are in addition to how much we’re testing. That is key for us to know where the trends are,” Kemp said.

“When we look at the state’s budget, that’s a problem that’s going to linger,” Farmer said.

“My priorities have not changed. I continue to fight for education for our state. I think that’s going to be very important,” Kemp said. “Even in tough times, we can find a way to do that, and that’s certainly something that I will be urging the legislature to do.”

In-Person Advance Voting is open statewide ahead of the June 9th election. From the Statesboro Herald:

Wait in your car until your group is called. Stand on the painted circle so you don’t get too close to other voters in line. (Please) wear a mask. Everything you touch will be sanitized.

Those are some of the new procedures Georgians were greeted with Monday as they participated in the first day of in-person early voting for the state’s June 9 primaries with the coronavirus pandemic still raging.

In Bulloch County, Elections Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones said about 100 people had voted as of 4 p.m. Monday.

In metro Atlanta’s Cobb County, Election Director Janine Eveler said new procedures and guidelines have “slowed things down considerably, and people are having to wait.” She said that voters faced wait times of over an hour Monday morning.

Eveler said safety procedures implemented in Cobb include having people wait in their car until called up to the line in groups, maintaining 6-foot spacing in line and only allowing a small number of people into the voting room. In addition, an ongoing shortage of poll workers means the county is down to a single early voting location, when normally two are in operation for early voting’s first week.

“We’re still encouraging people to apply for an absentee ballot,” Eveler said. “Voting at the polls is going to mean social distancing and sanitizing, so the process is just going to take a lot longer.”

In Bulloch County, Jones said her office had received 9,350 requests as of Monday from registered Bulloch voters for mail-in ballots to participate in the June 9 primary. She said that 2,975 filled-in ballots have been returned and entered as received. Jones said June 5 is the last day a requested absentee ballot can be mailed to a voter

“This current election, the June 9 election, is shaping up to look very different than elections in Georgia usually look,” Germany said, noting that the number of absentee ballots cast are already “orders of magnitude” greater than had been cast in previous primaries.

Absentee Voting by mail led in-person voting on the first day, according to the AJC.

Turnout was relatively high on the first day of in-person early voting in Georgia’s primary, but even more people voted absentee Monday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Over 15,000 voters, many of them wearing masks, cast their ballots at early voting locations, according to state election data.

That’s a larger turnout than on the first days of in-person voting for primaries in 2016 and 2018, but slightly lower than the start of early voting for this year’s presidential primary on March 2.

Still, most Georgians preferred to vote remotely, with over 26,000 absentee ballots received by county election offices Monday.

A record 1.46 million voters have requested absentee ballots, and many more will cast their ballots during three weeks of early voting and on election day June 9.

Overall, nearly 415,000 people have voted so far, including 400,000 who submitted absentee-by-mail ballots.

Democratic polling shows Democratic candidates leading in some Georgia races, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

The survey, [released by Daily Kos and] conducted by the online polling firm Civiqs, found Democrat Joe Biden holding a narrow lead over incumbent Republican President Donald Trump, 48% to 47%.

Likewise, Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff was slightly ahead of incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. David Perdue, 47% to 45%.

On the other hand, Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins was running well ahead in Georgia’s other Senate election on this year’s ballot. Incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler was fourth in the crowded field.

The online survey of 1,339 registered voters took place from May 16-18, with results weighted by age, race, gender, education and party identification to accurately reflect the population of Georgia registered voters. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 3.1%.

From the AJC Political Insider:

The survey, conducted by Civiqs for the left-leaning DailyKos outlet, showed Ossoff with a 47-45 edge over Perdue, within the poll’s margin of error. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is statistically tied with Perdue, 45-44, and Sarah Riggs Amico is within 3 percentage points (45-42).

It staked Collins to an early lead in Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race, a free-for-all with no party primaries that pits Loeffler against 20 other challengers in a November special election. That contest is almost certain to end in a January runoff.

Collins leads the field with 34%, followed by Democrat Raphael Warnock (18%), Democrat Matt Lieberman (14%) and Loeffler (12%). Other contenders, including former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver, were in single-digits and about 12% of respondents were uncertain.

And it pegged Gov. Brian Kemp’s favorability rating at 41% — and his unfavorable rating at 48% – as he navigates a pandemic crisis that’s upended the lives of Georgians.

The Fourteenth Congressional District in Extreme Northwest Georgia is home to a Republican primary contest to see who can beat their opponents to the far right. From the AJC:

“I think people know by now, whoever they vote for out of our nine candidates, you’re going to get someone who supports the president, who supports the Second Amendment and doesn’t want to vote for these red-flag laws and they’re all going to say they’re pro-life,” Floyd County GOP Chairman Luke Martin said.

The 14th District is about 86% white and is considered a Republican stronghold. It encompasses much of northwest Georgia, including the city of Rome and Gordon, Paulding and Polk counties.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler spoke to a meeting in Glynn County yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

Butler said his offices were staffed to handle 20,000 claims a month before the outbreak. In the last two months, as many claims have been filed as during the past four or five years with the same number of staff, he said.

Social distancing and other health precautions make it impossible to safely hire and train new workers.

One of the “massive changes” is the new eligibility of self-employed business owners to qualify for federal aid through state labor departments. So far, 133,000 self-employed claims have been filed with the Georgia office.

“The majority of (self-employed) people don’t normally qualify for unemployment,” he said.

The state had to create a new computer program for the self employed since the labor department doesn’t keep track of their earnings. The new program, which includes an anti-fraud system, delayed unemployment payouts by more than two weeks.

Federal dollars come with federal strings. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

In their third joint appropriations meeting Monday, policy experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures gave Georgia legislators a breakdown of the billions of dollars already distributed and on the way to help states recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown.

In total, Georgia is receiving about $8.2 billion in federal aid with almost half coming from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, Molly Ramsdell, director of the Washington, D.C., office for the NCSL, said.

“One of the questions we are asked most often is what flexibility do states have in the use of these funds,” she said. “Unfortunately, I’m going to have to say not much.”

Besides some leeway with some transportation funds and the Governor’s Education Relief Fund, states will need to abide by stipulations for spending, she said.

“As time has gone on, we realized that the flexibility wasn’t actually to the degree that we needed it to be for states to really be able to use money as effectively as possible,” Erlinda Doherty, director of the budgets and revenue committee, said. “Mostly for the revenue shortfalls that most states we knew were going to be experiencing.”

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, told CNHI lawmakers don’t have a lot of options and are leaning toward using funds to shore up public health and emergency management expenses.

“It’s certainly going to be very limited because at this point,” he said, “none of the funds can be used to replace lost revenue. So it has to be things above and beyond what you had already budgeted.”

State agencies anticipate furloughs as budget cuts are considered by the state, according to the AJC.

The economic shutdown brought on by the pandemic has led to mass unemployment, and some businesses remain closed. Many of those that have opened are doing limited business.

Because of that, state tax collections have plummeted.

Agencies this week will be turning in plans detailing how they will meet the mandated 14% spending cuts for the upcoming fiscal year — which beings July 1 — and many are expected to require workers to forgo days of pay.

The goal is to cut more than $3.5 billion in spending. State lawmakers will return in June to pass a budget for the new fiscal year. They will have to decide which proposals to accept and which to reject. Agency plans that are being turned in this week are only the starting point.

Much of state government is personnel-heavy. So there is no way to cut $3.5 billion or so without affecting employees. That means furloughs or layoffs.

But the expected drop in state income and sales tax collections is expected to be more severe in fiscal 2021 — which runs through June 30 of next year — than in any single year of the Great Recession.

Tom Rawlings, the director of DFCS, said his plan calls for using unobligated funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program — commonly known as welfare — to plug holes. The division would also eliminate 28 vacant state office positions and rely on furloughs.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating payments from the City of Atlanta to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into $250,000 in payments from the city of Atlanta to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard during Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration.

GBI agents questioned city officials, including Police Chief Erika Shields and former police chief George Turner, this week after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News reported that Reed’s administration overrode financial controls and bypassed the City Council in cutting Howard two checks of $125,000 each in 2014 and 2016.

The Atlanta Police Department’s former business manager, Tracy Woodard, said her signature was forged on a document authorizing one of the payments. She acknowledge signing another, but said she did so because she feared being fired.

Howard has previously called the GBI’s probe an administrative matter and said that he expects to be fully exonerated. Neither he nor Reed responded Tuesday to questions.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson introduced the plan for reopening municipal offices, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The plan will move gradually through five phases as science indicates it is safe to proceed.

Phase one will cover what the city calls “high-priority” services. That includes the return of regular recycling and yard waste collection. Preparation for return to offices by city workers will start. Phase one will begin when COVID-19 data on positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths are stable or declining for 14 days.

Johnson said each new phase will occur at a minimum of every 14 days with increased steps to keep all safe, including social distancing, face covering and temperature checks.

‒ Phase two will include a return to offices by city workers who have been working remotely.

‒ Phase three will include the partial opening of city facilities to the public. All who enter city facilities will have to wear a face covering and have a temperature check.

‒ Phase four will include the reopening of city facilities with regular hours and social distancing requirements.

‒ Phase five will see the reopening city facilities to the public without restrictions.

The Augusta Commission voted to require masks for city properties, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Anyone who refuses to wear a mask or face covering in city government facilities faces jail time or an up to $1,000 fine, according to an ordinance the Augusta commission approved Tuesday.

Through June 13, anyone over age 2 and able to medically tolerate a mask must wear one to enter city buildings.

Commissioner John Clarke, who voted against the ordinance, said it is “stomping on four constitutional amendments” and will likely get the city sued.

A first reading of the ordinance passed 7-2 with Commissioner Marion Williams also opposed. Due to Williams’ objection, the commission did not waive the second reading so it will appear on an upcoming consent agenda for a final vote.

Glynn County estimates government revenues could fall short nearly $2 million dollars, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County government’s fiscal year 2020-2021 budget is anticipated to be short by nearly $2 million, partly as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In total, the county budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is estimated to be $132.3 million, about $400,000 lower than the current year’s budget.

No tax increase is planned.

A $1.08 million increase in expenses combined with an $875,000 decrease in revenue means the county is looking at a shortfall of roughly $1.95 million over the next year, according to interim Glynn County Chief Financial Officer Tamara Munson.

Whitfield County‘s citizen advisory committee on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) created the project list for the June 9 referendum, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“We started in August and ran through the first couple of weeks of December,” said Chris Shiflett, who chaired the citizens advisory committee. Committee members were appointed by members of the county Board of Commissioners as well as the city councils of Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell.

Their efforts shaped the four-year, $66 million SPLOST proposal that is on the June 9 ballot. Advance voting on the SPLOST as well as races on the general primaries ballot is underway at the elections office at the courthouse and continues through June 5.

“I believe that the SPLOST is virtually unchanged from our proposal,” said Shiflett.

A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in a county. The money it generates can be used for capital projects and some other items but not operating expenses.

The Albany City Commission began the budget process for the next fiscal year, according to the Albany Herald.

The Savannah Morning News profiles the Republican candidates for Chatham County Commission Chair.

The Augusta Chronicle profiles the candidates for the Georgia Senate District 23 seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Jesse Stone.

Delta is no longer asking for a federal exemption to stop air service to Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

“The (DOT) issued a new policy statement, and in that docket, it gave all the airlines eligibility to unilaterally reduce all their service by five percent,” said Robert Burr, executive director of the Glynn County Airport Commission. “But also, contained in that, they can’t cease service to an area (where) they are the only carrier.”

Delta is the only commercial airline serving the Brunswick airport so the airline’s request for service suspension is no longer valid, he said.

Effingham County has canceled its Memorial Day observance, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Statesboro Memorial Day ceremony will continue without a live audience, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The City of Sugar Hill will proceed with its Memorial Day observation, according to AccessWDUN.

The ceremony, which will also feature the dedication of the city’s recently-completed Veteran’s Memorial, will be held in the downtown area on May 25th at 11 a.m.

The event can be watched online by visiting the “City of Sugar Hill, Georgia” Facebook page, and will include community members and leaders who participated in the conception and realization of the new memorial.

Officials said in a release sent to local media Tuesday evening that those attending the event in person will be required to adhere to the following guidelines:

•  All attendees must wear a mask.

•  Attendees will maintain a minimum of 6 ft. distance from all other guests and speakers, apart from members of the same household.

•  Attendees will select their own chair from those made available and are required to seat themselves a minimum of 6 ft. from all other guests and speakers, apart from members of the same household.

•  Any individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, had symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, difficulty breathing, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, or new loss of taste or smell) or have been in contact with a person that has or is suspected to have COVID-19 are asked to attend virtually.