The blog.

6
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 6, 2020

Ryder Evelyns Place Rescue

Rambo and Ryder are two of eight Terrier mix puppies who are available for adoption from Evelyn’s Place Rescue in Gainesville, GA.

Rambo Evelyns Place Rescue

Lucy and Dezi Evelyns Place Rescue

Lucy and Dezi are young Chihuahua mix puppies who available for pre-adoption from Evelyn’s Place Rescue in Gainesville, GA.

Max Evelyns Place Rescue

Max is an adult male Labrador Retriever and Basset Hound mix who is available for adoption from Evelyn’s Place Rescue in Gainesville, GA.

6
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 6, 2020

On May 6, 1789, the Constitutional Convention in Augusta, Georgia adopted a new Georgia Constitution.

Jefferson Davis spoke in Savannah, Georgia on May 6, 1866.

Davis … defend[ed] the South’s cause in the Civil War, stating, “In 1776 the colonies acquired State sovereignty. They revolted from the mother country in a desperate struggle. That was the cause for which they fought. Is it a lost cause now? Never. Has Georgia lost the State sovereignty which … she won in 1776? No, a thousand times no.” Davis’s fiery remarks were captured by reporters for the New York Times and other northern newspapers.

Because of the national attention generated over his visit to Alabama and Georgia, Davis took a more conciliatory tone in a speech that evening, noting, “There are some who take it for granted that when I allude to State sovereignty I want to bring on another war. I am too old to fight again, and God knows I don’t want you to have the necessity of fighting again… . The celebration today is a link in the long chain of affection that binds you and the North together. Long may it be true.”

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to break the four-minute barrier for running the mile.

For years, so many athletes had tried and failed to run a mile in less than four minutes that people made it out to be a physical impossibility. The world record for a mile was 4 minutes and 1.3 seconds, set by Gunder Hagg of Sweden in 1945. Despite, or perhaps because of, the psychological mystique surrounding the four-minute barrier, several runners in the early 1950s dedicated themselves to being the first to cross into the three-minute zone.

At 6 p.m., the starting gun was fired. In a carefully planned race, Bannister was aided by Chris Brasher, a former Cambridge runner who acted as a pacemaker. For the first half-mile, Brasher led the field, with Bannister close behind, and then another runner took up the lead and reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 3 minutes 0.4 seconds, with Bannister at 3 minutes 0.7 seconds. Bannister took the lead with about 350 yards to go and passed an unofficial timekeeper at the 1,500-meter mark in 3 minutes 43 seconds, thus equaling the world’s record for that distance. Thereafter, Bannister threw in all his reserves and broke the tape in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. As soon as the first part of his score was announced–”three minutes…”–the crowd erupted in pandemonium.

A “sub-four” is still a notable time, but top international runners now routinely accomplish the feat. Because a mile is not a metric measurement, it is not a regular track event nor featured in the Olympics. It continues, however, to be run by many top runners as a glamour event.

On May 6, 1984, Spinal Tap played a “comeback show” at CBGB’s in New York.

On May 6, 1996, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta was the most dangerous city in America.

Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on May 6, 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gainesville may be the newest COVID-19 hotspot in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The number of new cases in the Gainesville area increased exponentially each week during April, according to state data. By Tuesday, nearly four dozen patients had died in the area’s dominant hospital system.

State officials are setting up a mobile hospital and sending in reinforcements: as many as 100 physicians, nurses and other health care professionals.

“They’re being strained pretty hard up there at the moment,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday. He spoke in Albany, the center of what has been Georgia’s most concentrated outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and said he hopes lessons from that region will help avert catastrophe across the state.

“We’re doing a lot of things that we did here (in Albany) in Gainesville,” Kemp said. “Because of what we learned going through this first, it has really better prepared us.”

On Tuesday, a new model by researchers at the University of Washington contained its starkest projection yet for Georgia: as many as 4,913 COVID-19 deaths by early August. The projection shows deaths continuing to increase at a steady pace well into July.

Hall County, which includes Gainesville, has seen a dramatic increase in confirmed cases in the past five weeks. During the week of March 29, the county recorded 86 new cases, or 12 a day. The daily average increased to 22 the following week, then 47 and then 61. Last week, Hall confirmed 662 new cases, or 95 a day — more than a seven-fold increase in five weeks.

Last week’s numbers could rise further when laboratory tests are completed.

“It’s an investment, for sure,” Kemp said in Albany on Tuesday. “We know that this isn’t going away any time soon. … So whatever happens in the fall, or until we get a vaccine, it will help us continue to be ready.”

From another AJC story:

During his visit [to Albany], Kemp said southwest Georgia has fought the disease “tooth and nail” and talked of hospitals “literally being almost out of protective equipment, people flying things in, the new techniques that the medical team worked through to give the best patient care possible.”

Among the lessons was establishing four mobile hospital sites around the state that provide extra bed capacity and can help relieve the strain if facility is damaged by a storm or devastated by a water main break.

One of those hospital units is now being set up in Gainesville, the heart of Georgia’s prized poultry industry. At least 400 poultry workers have tested positive for the disease, and officials have scrambled to try protect workers while aiming to prevent disruptions to the $41 billion industry.

Gainesville City Council voted to extend their emergency declaration, according to AccessWDUN.

The Gainesville City Council voted on an updated resolution at a regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday, May 5. The resolution calls for the extension of the local state of emergency until 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 19.

Meanwhile, some Gainesville municipal offices are scheduled for reopening, according to the Gainesville Times.

Update, May 5: Gainesville plans to reopen some of its offices on May 18. Hours will be 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at its administration building, the historic City Hall building and the Community and Economic Development building off the downtown square.

State revenues are a billion dollars behind projections for April, according to the AJC.

The coronavirus pandemic took a brutal toll on state finances in April, with tax collections off about $1 billion for the month.

April’s 35.9% drop is expected to be only the first of several bad months for state government, which relies heavily on income and sales taxes to help pay teacher salaries, provide public health care, patrol highways, keep felons behind bars, protect the environment and inspect food.

Wednesday’s revenue announcement shows the state has a lot of work to do to get through this fiscal year and pay for its $27.5 billion budget.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) will take a pay cut voluntarily, according to the AJC.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said Wednesday he’ll take a 14% salary cut in the coming year as legislators ask state agencies to slash the same amount from their budgets because of the mounting economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we work through the budget process ahead of us it will be necessary for everyone to make sacrifices, and I will do my part and take a cut as well,” said Duncan in a statement.

Duncan makes roughly $90,000 a year, meaning his salary cut will cost him about $12,600.

Georgia’s legislative budget chairs have written the state’s Congressional delegation asking for additional COVID-19 aid to states, according to the AJC.

[House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, (R-Auburn), and Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, (R-Vidalia)] sent a letter Monday to the state’s congressional delegation lending their voice of support for more federal aid.

“As the chairs of the appropriations committees of the Georgia General Assembly, we are formally requesting your support for the timely approval and disbursement of these funds to close the unprecedented gap in dollars required to maintain a conservative and lean government framework of services for the state of Georgia and our constituents,” the letter read.

“We share your regard for conservative spending practices, and despite the expected reductions in force and services for our people because of these painful budget cuts, we will do our part,” it read. “In turn, we respectfully ask that you advocate and support the appropriation of $500 billion in flexible state stabilization funds that are proportionately distributed to help offset greater upheaval and longer recovery in Georgia.”

They said key elements of Georgia’s economy, including Atlanta’s airport and the hospitality industry, have been crippled by the pandemic.

Two Athens farmers markets are working to reopen this weekend, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Muscogee County School District will receive more than $775k in digital learning grants from the Georgia Department of Education, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The grants are designed to boost digital technology infrastructure and utility for schools during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Georgia schools have been closed since March as part of the state’s effort to decrease the spread of the deadly coronavirus. With class instruction online only, distance learning is tougher for schools with predominantly disadvantaged students.

“The ‘digital divide’ in Georgia is not a new issue, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more apparent,” GaDOE superintendent Richard Woods said in the department’s news release. “School districts have done incredible work during the COVID-19 school closures and have been hard-working, creative and thoughtful with the resources they have. But there is still a need for better digital learning infrastructure within our state, particularly in rural and underserved communities. These funds will help districts strengthen their digital learning capacity, extend summer learning opportunities and ensure no student is left unconnected.”

Read more here: https://www.ledger-enquirer.com/news/local/education/article242485896.html#storylink=cpy

The Whitfield County Board of Public Health will provide free COVID-19 testing with an appointment this weekend, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Chatham County is expanding COVID-19 testing, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Chatham County Health Department is expanding its COVID-19 testing program to make appointments available seven days a week, according to a press release issued Friday, May 1.

The Health Department is now offering appointments on Sunday afternoons at its drive-through specimen collection site in Savannah. In order to adequately staff this collection site, the department is consolidating most of its services at its Eisenhower Drive clinic.

Chatham County residents need an appointment for testing at the collection site, and can arrange this by calling the Coastal Health District COVID-19 Testing Call Center for a brief telephone screening.

Patients who meet the criteria will be referred for a test, and can often get an appointment the same day. The Testing Call Center number is 1-912-230-9744, and the center takes calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Floyd County Elections is working on the logistics of June elections, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Local election officials are hoping to pinpoint a site by the end of this week for early in-person voting in the June 9 primary election.

Floyd County Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady told a meeting of the Rome-Floyd County Joint Services Committee Tuesday that he is concerned the county administration building would not be the best location given social distancing rules in place for the election.

Early voting for the presidential and statewide primary elections is scheduled from May 18 through June 5, with one Saturday, May 30, included.

Special rules for the election call for no more than 10 voters inside the balloting area at any given time.

Everyone on staff at the elections office falls into the age group that Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered to continue to shelter in place, Brady said, adding that he does not want to jeopardize anyone’s health during the early voting period.

At this point, they’re down some of their pollworkers — usually older retirees — because of concerns about the new coronavirus.

Also, there will be at least one precinct change for Election Day voting.

Tybee Island has released new rules for using the reopened beaches, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Augusta Commission will reopen city offices in phases, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Departments reopening to employees Monday at increased staffing levels include human resources, the tax commissioner and assessors offices, engineering, planning and development, utilities, the clerk of commission and environmental services, according to the plan from Interim Administrator Jarvis Sims.

The Richmond County Tax Commissioner’s Office will spend the week preparing a safe environment for employees as well as customers, Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick said.

Most services have remained available by drop-off, online or mail since the government closed in March, but Kendrick said the office anticipates a huge run on payments when it opens to the public with extended hours May 18.

Two candidates are running for an open seat on Chatham County Superior Court, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Two candidates will face off in the June 9 non-partisan race for the Chatham County Superior Court post being vacated by the retirement of Judge James F. Bass Jr. at year’s end.

The winner of the primary race between Chatham County Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Goldwire Colbert and attorney Tracy O’Connell, a partner and 27-year member of the Savannah law firm of Ellis Painter, Ratterree & Adams, will be the new judge in the six-member court.

The winner will take office on Jan. 1, 2021.

Four candidates are running for Hall County Clerk of Court, according to the Gainesville Times.

Incumbent Hall County Clerk of Court Charles Baker faces three challengers — Bradford Rounds, Jennifer Gibbs and Laura Stiner — for the position he has held since 2008.

Baker, who at one point considered not running for reelection, said he had a change of heart.

“I feel like I’ve got more to offer for the clerk’s office,” he said.

Andy Miller writes for Georgia Health News that raising the state tax on tobacco may have a new popularity.

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the state budget.

More than $3 billion is expected to be sliced from state spending. The depth of those budget cuts could mean furloughs and layoffs for educators and other employees.

But could the financial devastation from COVID lead the state to accept long-stalled ideas to generate new revenue, such as raising the state’s tobacco tax?

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network thinks so. There’s more momentum than ever among legislators to hike Georgia’s tax on a pack of cigarettes, currently the third-lowest in the nation, said Andy Freeman, government relations director for the organization in Georgia.

“There’s a lot more interest from legislators probably than ever before,” Freeman said Tuesday. “From both parties.”

A spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Kemp, Candice Broce, told GHN on Tuesday that “we’re aware that those discussions are under way in the Legislature, but we will decline to comment at this stage.”

Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told GHN, “I don’t know on the tobacco tax issue. Have heard a little talk, but there is still time for that to develop.”

5
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 5, 2020

Madison Charles Smithgall Humane Society

Madison is a female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Charles Smithgall Humane Society in Sautee Nacoochee, GA.

Madison is one of the friendliest dogs her rescue has met in a long time. They rescued Madison from a high-kill shelter and since arriving on April 10, 2020 she’s quickly become a shelter favorite. She has a joy for living and she’d love nothing better than belonging to a family who loves her.

Madison is about 10 months old and currently weighs 51 pounds. She’s thought to be a retriever mix. She’s a bigger pup, tall and lanky with a beautiful, angora-soft golden brown coat. We’re not sure what this young pup has gone through in life, but she seems afraid of other dogs and will give chase to cats. However, she LOVES people and would probably love being around older kids as well. She welcomes attention and will happily sit with her person. She is an active girl and an active lifestyle would suit her best. She’s learning to walk on a leash and she knows how to sit already. Madison is being showered with affection and kindness and every day she grows a little more confident in the scary and noisy shelter. If you’re looking for a terrific young dog to welcome to your family and make part of your activities, Madison may be the girl for you.

Pete Charles Smithgall Humane Society

Pete is a male Plott Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Charles Smithgall Humane Society in Sautee Nacoochee, GA.

Pete is a six-year-old plott hound/corgi mix. He weighs about 50 pounds. Pete is a love once he gets to know you. Having lived a life of neglect, Pete isn’t used to people wanting to give him attention and he quickly warms up to it when given the chance. Pete walks well on a leash and enjoys being out and about. He’s a smarty pants too. He learned quickly to sit and shake – with both paws! Pete loves the water and will happily play with a hose or sprinkler for hours if you let him. He’d probably make for a great water or boating dog. We’re working to build Pete’s confidence to help him learn that humans can be kind and good intentioned. We have not yet tested Pete with other dogs, but he seems to do well with cats.

Pete would welcome the chance to be someone’s best companion. He’s never been allowed to be a family dog and would welcome the chance. A family or person who can show him what it’s like to live in a home and meet him where he is will be richly rewarded with a sweet and loyal boy. Perhaps you’ll be the one to give Pete a second chance at a happy life.

AJ & Mindy Charles Smithgall Humane Society

AJ is a Senior Hound mix (and his bestie, Mindy) who is available for adoption from the Charles Smithgall Humane Society in Sautee Nacoochee, GA.

AJ is a happy hound. He was rescued from Animal Control, with his companion Mindy. They arrived at our shelter on April 1, 2020.

AJ is a wonderful older dog. He’s a seven-year-old hound/shepherd mix. He’s a larger dog, but he moves gracefully and calmly so don’t let his size fool you. He has beautiful manners. He’s calm, sweet and very friendly. He’s a lower energy sort of guy and prefers to relax with his people and his best friend Mindy. AJ walks well on a leash and he knows basic commands. AJ is happy to go along to get along. He’s just a big love bug who will make for someone’s best companion. He’s very low-key, but loves to see what Mindy is up to and happily follows her around.

AJ and Mindy are a bonded pair and must be adopted together. The way they depend on each other, it’s like a seamless ballet. Each dog brings out the best in the other and together they are probably less effort then having one dog, because they complement each other so well. They’re recent arrivals and we have yet to test them with other dogs or cats, but will do so for potential adopters. Our guess is they could be house-trained, because they are so polite and smart, but it may take some remedial training since they have been without a home for a little while now.

AJ is exceptional. He seems to be the quintessential family dog. It’s crazy to think he and Mindy ended up homeless. We have no idea of their back story, but they are a delightful pair who would make for a great addition to any family willing to open their hearts and home to them. AJ is neutered, fully vetted and micro-chipped.

Mindy is an Australian Cattle dog mix. She’s about five years old and of medium size. Mindy celebrates her herding roots and has good energy. She loves sitting on your feet and makes a game of getting you to go where she wants to go. She definitely likes to work and keep busy, but her energy is not overwhelming. Given she’s five years old, she is more mature and seems pretty happy-go-lucky. She is very smart and knows some commands. She is leash shy, but does okay once the lead is slipped on. She loves ear scratches and she’ll vocally tell you how much she appreciates the attention and how good the scratches feel. She has a beautiful red and white coat and her eyes reflect her intelligence. Like, AJ, we haven’t tested her with other dogs or cats, but will do so for potential adopters.

She and AJ are a bonded pair and must be adopted together. Mindy relies on AJ for comfort and security and AJ loves to be where Mindy is. Adopting this pair may be easier than having an only dog. They complement each other and their interactions are seamless. They love being with people and welcome attention, but they are also content to relax and explore the yard together. They are a delightful pair, who will be no more work than if adopting just one dog.

We do not know Mindy’s and AJ’s backstory, but they are polite and may even be house-trained given how mature they are and how well they act.

5
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 5, 2020

Georgia and American History

The Battle of the Wilderness began on May 5, 1864, between the Army of the Potomac, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, and the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.

On May 5, 1886, Jefferson Davis attended a public reception at Savannah, Georgia’s City Hall.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Cy Young threw a perfect game against the Detroit Tigers on May 5, 1904.

Alan Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space on May 5, 1961, making a 15 minute sub-orbital flight that reached an altitude of 115 miles, during which he experienced about five minutes of ‘weightlessness.’ He was launched in the 2,000-lb. capsule Freedom 7 from Cape Canaveral, Florida… The flight traveled 302 miles at a speed relative to the ground of 4,500 mph. The mission was named Mercury-Redstone 3, or Freedom 7.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp traveled to Albany, the region hit hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Albany Herald.

New coronavirus cases have declined since a peak in late March or early April, and more patients are being discharged and admitted daily to area hospitals.

Even more encouragingly, though there have been 125 deaths of Dougherty County residents who tested positive for the coronavirus, there have been no deaths this week, County Coroner Michael Fowler said.

That said, health officials and elected leaders warned during a Tuesday news conference that a relaxation in social distancing could undo that progress as businesses continue to come back online after being closed for weeks.

“We are seeing measurable, positive trends in terms of flattening the curve,” [Dougherty County Commission Chair Chris Cohilas] said. “When I talk about flattening the curve, I’m talking about the numbers who are being infected each day, the numbers that are entering the hospital each day.

“Why are we trending downward? Because we took early and decisive action. We took immediate action to swiftly enact measures.”

“These are today’s heroes, and I know Georgians appreciate that,” Kemp said during the tour. “I know that I do. My wife Marty and my family does as well, because we know how hard this has been on everybody, no matter what part of the state you’re in. It’s certainly been harder than most right here in Albany and southwest Georgia.”

The Statewide Judicial Emergency Order has been extended through June 12, 2020, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton on Monday, May 4, announced that he will extend the Statewide Judicial Emergency until 1159 p.m. June 12 in the face of the coronavirus epidemic.

That order was due to expire May 13.

Chatham County Superior Court Chief Judge Penny Haas Freesemann last month extended the court’s emergency order until May 31, beyond the state’s deadline. It was unclear Monday if any further local extensions were planned.

Under the new extension order, all criminal and civil jury trials will continue to be suspended, and courts will be barred from summoning and impaneling new trial and grand juries.

These suspensions are necessary due to the social distancing and other safety measures recommended by the CDC, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and local county health departments to protect the health of the large groups of people who are generally assembled for jury proceedings, the court said.

From the Fulton County Daily Report:

Melton’s new order will continue the suspension of all criminal and civil jury trials through June 12 and also bars courts from summoning and impaneling new trial and grand juries. He said the suspensions are necessary because of the need for recommended social distancing and to protect the health of large groups of people who are typically assembled in response to jury summonses.

Melton said he was extending the state judicial emergency because, “The courts are different from most private establishments and public places in that we compel people to attend court proceedings, and that requires us to be extra cautious.”

Melton intends to sign an order codifying his announcement later this week.

Melton stressed in his announcement that Georgia courts remain open to handle critical and essential court services. His new order will urge courts across the state to develop plans for restoring noncritical court operations that can be conducted remotely by a combination of videoconferencing or adhering to social distancing and other guidelines currently recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health.

From the Gainesville Times:

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which includes Hall and Dawson counties, extended the judicial emergency order to end at 11:59 p.m. May 31. The statewide judicial emergency order has been extended to 11:59 p.m. June 12.

Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin issued an order requiring anyone entering the courthouse to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose “unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health” or for children younger than 2 years old.

“Such coverings shall be worn in common areas, including hallways and courtrooms, where social distancing may be difficult to maintain,” according to Gosselin’s order.

Jury trials and grand juries [in the Northeastern Judicial Circuit] are suspended until Aug. 1, and in-person, non-essential hearings are suspended until June 1.

[Under the statewide order,] Local judicial circuits may institute more restrictive orders.

Georgia Public Schools are set to receive $457 million dollars in federal aid related to the COVID 19 outbreak, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Cherokee Ledger & Tribune News.

Georgia school officials agreed Monday to distribute around $411 million in federal funding to help local school districts shore up their budgets and programs as coronavirus continues pummeling the state’s economy.

The relief funds come from about $457 million approved for Georgia public schools as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The money is poised to help pay for online learning programs, school meals, staffing expenses to offset upcoming budget reductions, and special services for low-income, homeless, migrant and foster-care students.

The bulk of Georgia’s $457 million share from the CARES Act education fund will go in varying amounts to nearly 200 county and city public school districts, plus about 30 charter schools. Roughly $45 million will be set aside for emergency use.

Georgia State Parks are planning to reopen lodges beginning May 21, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

COVID-19 relief funds will be used by the Secretary of State’s office to pay for some expenses relating to upcoming elections, according to the AJC.

The Georgia secretary of state’s office is distributing federal coronavirus relief money to county election offices for personal protective equipment, sanitizing disinfectant supplies and secure drop boxes.

Each county is eligible for up to $6,000 to reimburse their expenses related to the coronavirus, according to a grant program announced by [the] Secretary of State.

The funding comes from nearly $11 million allocated to Georgia from $400 million in election-related coronavirus relief funds that Congress approved last month.

Local election officials can receive $3,000 for equipment including masks, gloves, shields, disinfectant materials and alcohol wipes for election offices and polling places.

They’re also eligible for $3,000 for purchasing and installing drop boxes where voters can deliver their absentee ballots. The State Election Board recently allowed counties to use absentee ballot drop boxes for the primary, a provision that may be extended to future elections as well.

Augusta will reopen government offices in a phased approach, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to a phased-reopening plan going for commission approval Tuesday, starting May 12, some city departments will be open to the public with some staff returning to the office.

All entering Augusta Municipal Building must wear a mask and physical barriers will be placed where needed.

More staff will return the week of May 18 and June 1, all staff will return and all departments will be open to the public.

Democrat Jon Ossoff is using Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) to bolster his lack of experience and credentials in the Democratic race for the United States Senate seat held by Republican David Perdue. From the Associated Press and AccessWDUN.

Civil rights pioneer and Georgia congressman John Lewis’ endorsement of Democratic Senate hopeful Jon Ossoff is the focus of a new television ad from Ossoff’s campaign that begins airing statewide on Tuesday.

Ossoff, a former congressional aide who broke fundraising records during an unsuccessful 2017 run for a metro Atlanta U.S. House seat, faces a handful of other Democrats in a June 9 primary election. The winner will earn a spot taking on Republican Sen. David Perdue, a former business executive and ally of President Donald Trump, as he seeks a second term in November.

“I’ve known Jon for many, many years,” Lewis says in the ad. “He will fight for our values. Friends, I’m calling on you to support Jon Ossoff and send Donald Trump a message he will never forget.”

A primary runoff, required if no candidate receives more than 50% of votes in June, is scheduled for Aug. 11.

Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) will be running her own ads in the race to retain the seat Governor Brian Kemp appointed her to, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A $4 million ad campaign launched Monday labels as “liberal lies” and a “witch hunt” allegations the wealthy Atlanta businesswoman bought and sold millions of dollars in stocks shortly after a Jan. 24 closed-door briefing she and other senators attended on the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

“While the left, media and her opponents play politics … she has worked around the clock to deliver relief to those impacted by COVID-19,” Loeffler campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said. “Kelly will not be distracted by their false attacks.”

More than 20 candidates from both parties will be on the ballot Nov. 3 in a “free-for-all” election likely to require a runoff. The challengers include Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, pastor at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Karen Handel‘s Republican primary opponents made clear she is the front-runner by attacking her. From the Capitol Beat News Service:

It was open season on former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel Monday when four Republican opponents who have never held public office teed off on her in an hour-long debate streamed by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Handel responded by pointing to a record of accomplishments both in the public and private sectors, including creating jobs as CEO of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, balancing Fulton County’s budget as county commission chairman without raising taxes and putting in place a photo ID requirement for voters as Georgia secretary of state.

After running unsuccessfully for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Handel captured the 6th Congressional District seat in 2017 in a special election over well-funded Democrat Jon Ossoff. McBath, a gun control advocate who lost her son to gun violence, upended Handel two years ago by a narrow margin.

“I am the strongest candidate in this race … the only Republican with the organization and the money to win,” Handel said. “I’m proud of my service and engagement in the community.”

Eight of the nine Republicans running for Congress in the Fourteenth District appeared in an online forum, according to the Rome News Tribune.

In all, nine Republican candidates have signed up for the race to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican, who announced late last year that he will not seek re-election. He has held the 14th District seat since 2010.

The reliably Republican district stretches from Paulding and Haralson counties north through Rome, Calhoun and Dalton to the Tennessee line.

Of the nine Republican candidates, eight appeared in Monday’s debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. They alternated between praise for President Donald Trump and his administration’s policies, disdain for congressional Democrats and a handful of jabs at each other.

Without much daylight between them in terms of policies and values, some of the Republican candidates took to attacking each other’s records.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) does not approve of Delta’s suspending service to Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

“I understand that Delta has tough decisions to make right now, but the CARES Act provided funding to the airlines to maintain their current flight routes,” Carter said.

“The Delta flights are the main air artery into Brunswick Golden Isles, and I have been in contact with the Department of Transportation and Delta to express my concerns about the application and to express my opposition to suspending the service.”

Brunswick Golden Isles Airport is one of nine Delta is seeking authorization to drop for now. All have produced low passenger counts since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and each community served is within driving distance of a major airport.

No official protest was filed by the Glynn County Airport Commission, though airport officials have been in touch with Delta.

“We have instead spoke directly with Delta upper management and they have indicated that they are committed to BQK, and if suspension is authorized and current traffic demand justifies suspension, they will return service as soon as traffic demand returns,” said Rob Burr, executive director of Glynn County Airports.

Gainesville City Schools are delaying their budget process due to questions about state and federal funding, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Gainesville City School District will not submit a budget for approval at the end of June as planned, and will instead bring a spending resolution before the board asking that the timeline for budget approval be pushed back a month.

The move to delay the budget submission until the end of July was announced in a statement made by Gainesville Superintendent Jeremy Williams at a school board meeting on Monday evening. Williams acknowledged that the spending resolution would have to be brought before the governor..

Williams added that based on conversations he’s had with other superintendents around the state, many other school districts would be moving forward with similar budget plans.

The delay in an approved budget comes in response to recent guidance from Georgia legislators advising all state-funded agencies to expect a 14% budget cut across the board. The state legislature will not meet again until June, and Williams said that timeline would not give Gainesville City Schools enough time to propose an accurate budget by the typical deadline.

Habersham County Commissioners voted to apportion proceeds from the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) between the county and its municipalities by population, according to AccessWDUN.

That was the 3-2 decision made by the commission in a called meeting Monday afternoon, May 4.

The decision was not what three of the county’s seven municipalities wanted because it generates less money for them.

Commissioner Natalie Crawford initially made a motion to approve the composite share formula, which benefited Clarkesville, Cornelia and Tallulah Falls and did not affect Alto, Baldwin, Demorest or Mt. Airy at all. Her motion was seconded by Chairman Stacy Hall but failed 2-3.

Instead, commissioners voted on a model that will provide roughly $1,995,412 (6.8%) more to Habersham County over the six years of the proposed SPLOST. That decision potentially costs Clarkesville $226,851, Cornelia $1,643,382, and Tallulah Falls $125,180.

Varnell City Council is interviewing candidates for police chief, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

1
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 1, 2020

The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia is doing a virtual adoption process with curbside pickup. Email humanesociety@hsscg.org for more information.

Ted Humane Society South Coastal GA

Ted is a young male Hound and Retriever mix puppy who will be available for adoption with a May 6 date to go home, from the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

Beary Humane Society South Coastal GA

Beary is a young male Hound and Retriever mix puppy who will be available for adoption with a May 6 date to go home, from the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

Fred Humane Society South Coastal GA

Fred is a young male Hound and Retriever mix puppy who will be available for adoption with a May 6 date to go home, from the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

1
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 1, 2020

May 3d is National Widow’s Day.

On May 1, 1707, the Act of Union with England, passed by the Scottish Parliament brought together England and Scotland and made the Union Jack the official flag of Great Britain.

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Georgia delegates convened in Augusta on May 4, 1789 to approve a new state Constitution and consider amendments.

The Second Confederate National Flag was adopted on May 1, 1863.

Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_(1863-1865)

General Nathan Bedford Forrest led troops who captured raiders near Rome, Georgia who were intent on disrupting the Western & Atlantic Railroad on May 3, 1863.

General William Tecumseh Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign on May 3, 1864 with troops marching from Tennessee toward Catoosa Springs, Georgia.

One year and one day after General Sherman began the Atlanta campaign, on May 4, 1865, Atlanta surrendered. On the same day, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in Virginia and into the Wilderness. The Battle of the Wilderness began on May 5, 1864, between the Army of the Potomac, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, and the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.

One year after that, on May 4, 1865, the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet convened in the old Georgia State Bank Building, which was located at the site of the present-day Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, Georgia.

On May 1, 1886, Jefferson Davis visited the Benjamin Hill monument at Peachtree and West Peachtree Streets in Atlanta, having arrived the previous day. On May 2, 1886, Jefferson Davis left Atlanta, headed to Savannah.

Savannah officials had successfully solicited Davis to attend a variety of special ceremonies and events being planned in Savannah. On the way, the train stopped briefly in Forsyth and Macon, where the ex-Confederate president was greeted by crowds and spoke briefly from the back of his train. Although he didn’t leave the train, Davis would return to Macon the following year for a more formal visit.

Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gone With the Wind on May 3, 1937.

On May 2, 1939, Lou Gehrig benched himself as the Yankees took the field against the Detroit Tigers, ending his streak of 2,130 consecutive games.

On May 4, 1965, the Rolling Stones played a show at Georgia Southern.

The British band played in Hanner Fieldhouse to an overflow crowd of more than 3,500 people, according to a retrospective by Jim Hilliard in the Statesboro Herald. The gym’s capacity was about 1,500.

Hilliard said organizers figured they could sell 1,800 tickets at $2.50 each, which would be enough to pay the band and have some money left over for expenses.

The Stones had played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday, May 2, and advance ticket sales were brisk the Monday and during lunch Tuesday, the day of the concert.

Hilliard said he signed the contract booking the Stones on behalf of Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity. The contract called for the new fraternity to pay the band $3,000 for the appearance. Hilliard said he got a $1,500 loan from First Bulloch Bank to make the deal happen.

The Stones were expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. and play for at least an hour, but Hilliard had lined up three front bands, and “it proved to be a fatal flaw in plans for the concert,” he said in his retrospective.

The noise was deafening as the original Stones lineup — Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — hit the stage nearly an hour late.

Jagger and the other band members were “openly hostile” at having to wait so long to play.

On May 4, 1970, National Guard members shot into a crowd of protesting students, killing four and wounding nine others on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

On May 1, 1971, “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night was the #1 song in the nation.

Kennesaw, Georgia City Council adopted an ordinance on May 1, 1982 requiring each household to own a gun and ammunition.

(a) In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore.

(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.

The Weather Channel began broadcasting from Cobb County, Georgia on May 2, 1982.

On May 1, 1991, Rickey Henderson broke the major league baseball stolen base record on the same day that Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, recorded his seventh no-hitter.

The official state tartan of Georgia was designated on May 1, 1997.

On May 4, 2003, I married Mrs. GaPundit. Monday would have been our 17th Anniversary and the 20th Anniversary of our first date. May the Fourth be with you, my love.

United States forces killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order 04.30.20.01, addressing the renewal of the Public Health State of Emergency.

1.) The Public Health State of Emergency due to expire on May 13 is extended 30 days and will now end at 11:59 PM on Friday, June 12, 2020.

2.) Emergency orders regarding nursing homes and long term care facilities (04.08.20.03), Georgia National Guard callup (04.08.20.05), and Section III of the Shelter in Place order, pertaining to higher risk individuals,  (04.23.02.02) are renewed and will now expires at 11:59 PM on Friday, June 12, 2020.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

With a renewed focus on bolstering Georgia’s economy, eyeing monthly revenue numbers expected to drop significantly due to the coronavirus outbreak, Kemp freed up most of the state’s population to visit reopened businesses.

The Georgia Department of Labor has paid out more unemployment claims during the outbreak than in the past four years combined, officials said Thursday. During the last six weeks, $388 million was distributed to out-of-work Georgians.

Despite the stay-at-home order reaching its end, Kemp “urged” Georgians to stay home “whenever possible” and, according to his staff, recommends people wear masks in public, especially in high traffic areas such as grocery stores.

“I’d like to ask all Georgians to help us double-down on protecting our fellow vulnerable citizens,” Kemp said earlier this week.

Some Athens-Clarke County local electeds are complaining about the end of the statewide shelter-in-place order, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Gwinnett County Public Schools employees will return to their workplace in phases, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The return to work will be phased in, starting with director level employees working at the Instructional Support Center in Suwanee next week and building up to teachers returning to schools in mid-May to wrap up the school year. There will be three phases of employees returning to work, and the plan also gives a glimpse into when students may be able to go back to schools and retrieve whatever belongings they have there.

“With the end of the state’s Shelter in Place order on April 30 and the re-opening of many businesses, school district leaders have created a plan for the return of GCPS employees to schools and facilities,” school system officials said in the plan released Friday.

The director-level employees will return to work on May 6, with all remaining employees who work at the Instructional Support Center along with non-teaching school-based employees heading back to their offices on May 11.

Teachers are scheduled to return to schools on May 18 so they can wrap up the final three days of digital learning, work with students who need to make-up any work, finalize grades, close out their classrooms and assist students in retrieving their belongings.

Absentee voting is set to hit record levels, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia election officials have sent out around 700,000 absentee ballots so far for the upcoming June 9 primary election amid ongoing concerns over coronavirus.

The ballots stemmed from more than 1 million requests from voters to date to receive absentee ballots, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference Thursday. His office expects to field even more absentee-ballot requests in the coming weeks.

“We don’t know what it will be,” Raffensperger said. “But we don’t think we’re done yet with 39 days left to go.”

Absentee voting for the primary is poised to greatly outpace prior big-ticket elections in Georgia. For instance, voters cast roughly 223,000 absentee ballots in the high-turnout 2018 gubernatorial election, while about 207,000 absentee ballots were cast in Georgia in the 2016 presidential election.

A Savannah City Council meeting went off the rails, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter made accusations of a power grab, voter suppression, white privilege, and likened herself to an abuse victim during the contentious discussion.

Gibson-Carter made her comments during a rules of council discussion. One item in particular took up most of the workshop. The proposed rules requires council members to submit a proposed agenda item to the mayor in writing, including by email, and to copy the city manager and city attorney one week prior to the scheduled meeting.

Gibson-Carter took her allegations even further when she accused city staff of treating her like an abuse victim.

“You drag us and beat us down and then we (are expected) to put on the makeup and cover the bruises,” Gibson-Carter said.

Chatham County Commission candidates met in an online forum, according to the Savannah Morning News.

State agencies are being asked to trim nearly $4 billion dollars from budget requests, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via The Brunswick News.

State agencies were already facing budget cuts of 6% ordered by Kemp for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year, which starts July 1. Lawmakers also have largely approved 4% cuts to the state’s revised 2020 fiscal year budget that Kemp requested.

Negotiations between lawmakers over those cuts dominated the 2020 legislative session before it was suspended in mid-March. Facing the 6% cuts, agencies managed to trim costs largely by leaving vacant staff positions unfilled, upgrading technology and scaling back work-related travel.

Now, facing coronavirus-prompted cuts of more than twice that amount, agencies will almost certainly experience more painful impacts that could result in scaled-back services and layoffs.

The upcoming cuts would also include public schools and Medicaid spending, which were excluded from the most recent round of 6% cuts ordered by the governor.

From the Associated Press via the Gainesville Times:

Forecasting a major blow to the state’s economy and revenue collections due to the coronavirus pandemic, Georgia lawmakers in charge of the state budget sent a memo on Friday asking agencies to prepare for cuts of 14% across the board, totaling nearly $4 billion.

The memo was sent by state House Appropriations Chair Terry England, Senate House Appropriations Chair Blake Tillery and Kelly Farr, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. It made clear that no areas would be spared, including funding for education and public health.

“While the Great Recession of 2008 was considered then to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ event, our current situation will certainly overshadow it,” the memo says. “That is why this request is being made to ALL areas of the state budget with no exceptions.”

Kemp earlier this year had set a $28 billion revenue estimate for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered business across the country and left more than a million Georgians out of work. And a good part of the $2.8 billion in reserves that the state started the year with may be needed to plug holes in the current year’s budget.

United States Senator David Perdue will introduce federal legislation to address shortages of healthcare professionals, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via The Brunswick News.

Sen. Perdue was joined by Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) and Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) in requesting that the Air Force consider basing a new fleet of C-130J aircraft in Savannah, according to The Brunswick News.

Brunswick Golden Isles Airport will receive an additional $1 million grant from the FAA, according to The Brunswick News.

Fifty-four Georgia counties fall under a burn ban beginning today, according to AccessWDUN.

Rome has seen higher sales tax revenues in April, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” City Manager Sammy Rich said. “We can only assume that maybe some of the pre-COVID panic buying that was going on resulted in the jump in sales tax.”

30
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 30, 2020

Grayson Dogs Rock Inc

Grayson is one of three young Pit Bull Terrier puppies who are available for adoption individually from Dogs Rock Inc. in Franklin, GA.

Pepper Dogs Rock Inc

Pepper is a young male Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption individually from Dogs Rock Inc. in Franklin, GA. Sister Piper is also available for adoption.

Kara Dogs Rock Inc

Kara is a young female Labrador Retriever and Pointer mix who is available for adoption individually from Dogs Rock Inc. in Franklin, GA.

30
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 30, 2020

George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America in New York City on April 30, 1789. From Washington’s inaugural address:

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.

On April 30, 1803, negotiators from France and the United States finished discussions of the Louisiana Purchase, which would double the size of the country.

By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power: from New Orleans northeast to the Great Lakes and northwest to modern-day Montana. In 1762, during the French and Indian War, France ceded its America territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain and in 1763 transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain. Spain, no longer a dominant European power, did little to develop Louisiana Territory during the next three decades. In 1796, Spain allied itself with France, leading Britain to use its powerful navy to cut off Spain from America.In 1801, Spain signed a secret treaty with France to return Louisiana Territory to France.

Reports of the retrocession caused considerable uneasiness in the United States. Since the late 1780s, Americans had been moving westward into the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys, and these settlers were highly dependent on free access to the Mississippi River and the strategic port of New Orleans. U.S. officials feared that France, resurgent under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, would soon seek to dominate the Mississippi River and access to the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. envoys agreed to pay $11,250,000 and assumed claims of its citizens against France in the amount of $3,750,000. In exchange, the United States acquired the vast domain of Louisiana Territory, some 828,000 square miles of land. In October, Congress ratified the purchase, and in December 1803 France formally transferred authority over the region to the United States. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre was Thomas Jefferson’s most notable achievement as president.

On April 30, 1886, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrived in LaGrange, Georgia for the unveiling of a monument to Benjamin Hill.

The Augusta Library system is collecting stories of the COVID 19 outbreak, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The project, called Augusta-Richmond County Public Library Pandemic Project, will help to tell the story to future generations, students and scholars of what occurred during the coronavirus similar to how people have learned about experiences from the Spanish flu. Floyd said eventually the fervor and stories of the coronavirus will die down so the stories need to be gathered now.

The library is asking for written documentation, personal stories, photos, audio recordings and video clips to be submitted through the library’s genealogy blog with online forms. The library is accepting submissions from everyone but is particularly interested in first responders, medical professionals, hospitality workers, small business owners, military members, teachers and students. Monaco said there is no story, no event too mundane for submission.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

More than one million absentee ballot requests have been made by Georgia voters, according to the AJC.

The number of Georgia voters requesting absentee ballots crossed 1 million Thursday, a tremendous increase in people voting from home amid challenges to make polling places safe.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said voters responded to his initiative to increase absentee voting for the June 9 primary. He mailed absentee ballot request forms to Georgia’s 6.9 million active voters, encouraging them to avoid voting in person at precincts during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can now see that effort is exceeding far past our own aspirations,” Raffensperger said during a press conference outside the state Capitol. “Today we are passing the 1 million mark in absentee ballot requests. That is unprecedented.”

The number of absentee ballots requested could exceed 1.5 million or even 2 million, he said. Most voters are expected to vote by mail after about 5% of voters did so in most prior elections, Raffensperger said. Georgia has allowed anyone to cast an absentee ballot without having to provide an excuse since 2005.

Governor Brian Kemp‘s Shelter-in-Place order expires at midnight tonight, unless it is renewed or replaced. From WRDW:

Georgia’s shelter-in-place order will expire Thursday at 11:59 p.m., but many are wondering what’s next for the state.

Kemp has not said in recent news conferences whether or not if he’d extend the order again. Instead, he’s made a point to say the shelter-in-place would be expiring on April 30.

In Augusta, Mayor Hardie Davis has pushed city residents to continue social distancing efforts in hopes of continuing to stymie the spread of COVID-19.

From the AJC:

“We will announce more tomorrow,” Candice Broce, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in an email Wednesday. She declined to comment further.

Kemp has strongly hinted — most recently, during a news conference on Monday — that he would lift the shelter-at-home order for all but elderly and sick Georgians. He has spoken forcefully about the economic harm caused by the quarantine, particularly the damage done to countless small businesses.

In a study of Georgia coronavirus cases that was released Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus appears to be more dangerous than previously thought for relatively young and healthy people.

The findings, the CDC said, show the need for continued social-distancing measures — “not only to protect older adults and those with underlying medical conditions but also … persons in the general population who might not consider themselves to be a risk for severe illness.”

Nevertheless, Kemp and his aides have said state data shows the virus’ spread is declining or hitting a plateau. Other experts have questioned their interpretations.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald.

Kemp is weighing whether and how to relax mandatory social restrictions in place since April 3 that have required people to remain at home except for essential errands like grocery runs and to exercise, and for most businesses to limit their operations only to levels that will keep them financially afloat.

The order has already been extended once since it was first issued on April 3. It is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

At a news conference Monday, the governor said the state largely has been following federal guidelines for deciding when to let businesses reopen, while also weighing input from local health officials as well as the dire financial situation facing many business owners who have been shuttered for weeks.

“We are looking at depression-like unemployment,” Kemp said. “It has all tumbled off a cliff like it has in every state. But we will come back, and we will come back even stronger.”

Governor Kemp suspended the requirement for road testing to get a Georgia driver’s license, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced in his most recent executive order that — provided they meet all other requirements — those holding instructional permits can qualify for their licenses without the “comprehensive on-the-road driving test.”

That means teens can get their license when they turn 16 without getting in a car with a test administrator.

The change is in effect until the expiration of the state’s Public Health State of Emergency, which Kemp has extended to May 13.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston will allow House committees to begin in-person meetings, according to the AJC.

While Georgia legislative leadership continues to negotiate the date lawmakers will return the Capitol, House Speaker David Ralston told his chamber’s members that panels could begin discussing bills in mid-May.

It is not yet clear when lawmakers will come back to Atlanta to complete the legislative session. Ralston is taking steps to resume work June 11, while Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Senate leaders are pushing for a May 14 return. Ralston and Duncan must agree before session can resume.

“We plan to permit the resumption of in-person committee meetings at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 19,” Ralston said in a letter to chamber members sent Thursday. “Those meetings will be subject to the provisions of any applicable public health directives.”

Committees can only hear testimony and discuss legislation. Ralston said they can not take any action on proposed bills until the session resumes. Under the plan outlined in Ralston’s letter, House staff members would return to the Capitol May 18.

Hundreds of workers in Georgia’s poultry industry have been sickened by COVID19, according to the AJC.

Nearly 400 workers in Georgia’s prized poultry industry have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, and one has died from his illness, according to Georgia Department of Public Health statistics obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The 388 workers who have been sickened by COVID-19 represent about 2% of the estimated 16,500 people employed at 14 chicken processing plants across the state.

“The biggest challenge for these employees is the community widespread transmission in the areas where they live, the lack of education about COVID-19, and reluctance to change behaviors,” said Georgia Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam, adding that her agency has received many anecdotal reports of people attending large social gatherings, house parties and religious services.

“Also, most live in multi-generational homes with large numbers of family members (12-14 persons),” she said. “They have no place to self-isolate if they are sick with COVID-19 and the whole family ends up getting sick.”

From AccessWDUN:

As poultry processing plants ramp up safety initiatives to fight the coronavirus, employees at those facilities should be able to take home best practices learned on the job to help prevent the virus’s spread at home.

That’s the opinion of Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King, who has been asked by Gov. Brian Kemp to lead an initiative to help educate members of the Hispanic community about how to protect themselves from COVID-19. About half the confirmed cases in Hall County are Hispanic residents.

King and Gary Black, the state’s agriculture commissioner, toured a Hall County poultry plant Monday and talked with officials and workers about the pandemic.

“How do we provide accurate information not only to the community but then taking those lessons learned and what they are doing at work and how do we carry that to their homes, to their churches, to their family gatherings,” King said during an appearance Wednesday on WDUN’s “Morning Talk with Martha Zoller.

King offered praise for the plant he toured, saying it put safety procedures in place that “went above and beyond” those issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said the company enacted the procedures after conversations between management and employees. He did not name the company who owned the plant.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools are seeking donations to help equip students, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Since switching to distance learning in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the district has been working to give students at-home access to devices.

In March, SCCPSS surveyed schools and families about their technology devices and connectivity and acted accordingly. “At the start of [distance learning], we did survey students about connectivity, access to a device and other technology questions,” wrote Stacy Jennings, director of communications for the district, in an April 23 email.

“In a strategic move to ensure technology barriers were addressed, the district pulled devices from schools at the end of March for distribution to students,” according to an April 20 press release from the district.

More are still needed. “We’ve distributed approximately 3,000 devices,” Jennings continued in her email. “But we need around 3,500 more.” Several local corporate sponsors have stepped up recently to donate funds and/or Chromebooks for students. International Paper, Gulfstream, Choate Construction, and Hussey Gay Bell are just some of the district’s most recent benefactors. As of Wednesday, April 29, $80,600 has been donated, according to the district website.

Mayor Hardie Davis and SBA Regional Director Ashley Bell will host a webinar on COVID 19 effects on small businesses, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Davis and Ashley Bell, SBA Regional administrator and entrepreneurship policy advisor for the White House opportunity and revitalization council, will host the webinar at 3 p.m. According to a release, the meeting will include COVID-19 response and recovery updates from the federal and local level, including updates about the Paycheck Protection Program.

“This webinar will provide helpful information about how to access federal and local resources for small businesses,” Davis said in a release. “Coronavirus has impacted businesses and families and it is important to connect our business community with resources to help them weather the storm.”

Panelist will include South State Bank Regional President Jay Forrester, Augusta University Dean of the James M. Hull College of Buisness and Professor of Management Richard Franza and Augusta Meto Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Sue Parr. During the webinar, panelist will share information about how to work with banks to withstand economic hardship, how to navigate local business networks and resources and what to expect from the economy, according to a release.

Viewers will be able to ask questions, if time permits. The webinar can be accessed at https://zoom.us/j/99469263074.

Columbia County schools are scheduling fall around the golf tournament, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

With the 2020 Masters rescheduled for Nov. 9-15, the board approved beginning the school year three days early for a new start date of Aug. 3 and students will no longer have Oct. 12 as a school holiday to allow students and teachers to be off during the week of the tournament. Nov. 11 was already a scheduled holiday for Veterans Day.

If the tournament is not open to the public or is canceled, October 12 will be restored to a holiday, the week of November 9–13 will be a regular school week and the school year will end three days earlier than scheduled.

Statesboro City Council is considering changes to their alcohol ordinance, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro’s council members and mayor are considering changes to the city’s Alcohol Ordinance to allow open alcoholic beverages to be carried outside by pedestrians in the downtown area and to allow public officials – potentially including themselves – to hold beverage licenses.

City Attorney Cain Smith noted that Georgia’s only statewide “open container” law is the one that prohibits open alcoholic beverage containers inside vehicles.

“There is no other state law regarding open containers,” he said. “That’s why you see these open-container exemptions in other jurisdictions. That’s why you’re allowed to walk along River Street with a beer in a plastic cup, because that’s governed by Savannah law and they’ve made the decision to do exemptions, with those restrictions, in that area.”

Franklin City Council member Clifford Henry Jiles was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly swapping stickers on meat at the Piggly Wiggly, according to the AJC.

Jiles, 54, allegedly swapped the price tag on the beef tenderloin with the tag on a less expensive pork tenderloin. The beef cut was priced at $83.24, while the pork retailed for $12.16, Miles confirmed. Franklin police were notified Monday after a customer noticed the price tag that had been left on the pork tenderloin.

The case was turned over to the GBI because it involved an elected official.

Jiles was charged with theft by deception and theft by shoplifting.

29
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 29, 2020

Goofy Dawson County Humane Society

Goofy is an adult male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Dawson County Humane Society in Dawsonville, GA.

Goofy lives up to his name as he is one of the silliest dogs we have! While big and intimidating, his puppy eyes reflect his true, sweet nature. He enjoys going for walks at the park and loves to get his back scratched all day long. While he does well with his caregivers, Goofy can be a little defensive with strangers, especially children, and other animals so a meet n greet is a must with him. Come stop by and see if this big hunk of love is the perfect fit for you!

Rowdy Dawson County Humane Society

Rowdy is an adult male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Dawson County Humane Society in Dawsonville, GA.

Don’t let his name fool you; Rowdy is very calm and friendly. This Coonhound sweetie will warm your heart with his floppy ears and slobbery kisses. He loves attention, playing outside, and children. Rowdy is a playful guy who may need some basic training, but he walks fairly well on a leash. If you are looking for a big lovable dog, this could be your guy.

Gila Monster Dawson County Humane Society

Gila Monster is an adult male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Dawson County Humane Society in Dawsonville, GA.

Gila is a very sweet and affectionate Hound mix looking for his new fur ever home. He seems to do well on a leash but, he does better with a harness on. Gila is treat motivated and already has learned how to sit on command! Gila does do well with other dogs and enjoys running around and exploring everything with his new friends. He seems to be interested in cats, but we don’t know how he will do with them in a home setting. Gila has not been around children yet, so we are not sure how he will be with them. However, we could help with introducing him if you do have any children in the home.

***Please know this animal is in a foster program and will need to have a scheduled appointment***

29
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 29, 2020

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his fourth trip to Georgia on April 29, 1926, closing on the purchase of property at Warm Springs, Ga.

Dachau concentration camp was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945. At least 31,951 inmates died there, more than 30,000 survivors were found on liberation day, and more than 250,000 passed through the camp and its subcamps.

Dobbins Air Force Base was dedicated on April 29, 1950, named for in honor of the late Capt. Charles M. Dobbins and in memory of the other servicemen from Cobb County. Dobbins was shot down over Sicily in 1943 and his family attended the opening of the base.

Hank Aaron hit his first home run in Atlanta against the Houston Astros on April 29, 1966, providing the winning margin as the Braves won 4-3.

Atlanta was selected as the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics on April 29, 1988.

On April 29, 1993, Barry White guest-starred on The Simpsons. I guess that makes today “Whacking Day.”

One year ago, the Georgia Department of Public Health was recommending measles vaccinations. Seems almost quaint now. From the Newnan Times-Herald:

Three Georgians were diagnosed with the illness in January, bringing the total number of cases statewide to six.

Although the risk of becoming sick is low, the DPH is notifying people who may have been exposed to the virus and may be at increased risk for developing measles.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious respiratory disease. Health officials say it is particularly dangerous for infants who cannot be immunized until they are at least 12 months old and young children who have only received one dose of measles vaccine.

Nationwide, nearly 700 cases have been confirmed in 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC issued a report Wednesday calling the outbreak the worst since 2000, when the illness was considered eliminated in the U.S.

“The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States,” the CDC said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Some absentee ballots for Hall County voters were sent out with incorrect elections, according to the Gainesville Times.

Some Hall County voters have received absentee ballots with an incorrect congressional district listed, although those ballots can still be used to vote in the June election.

Some ballots include a heading for Georgia’s 1st Congressional District. Hall County is in the 9th Congressional District. The ballots list the candidates running for the 9th District U.S. House of Representatives seat, and according to county and state officials, voters can still choose their preferred candidate for the 9th District despite the incorrect heading.

“The Hall County Elections Office is working with the state to reissue the ballots affected if requested by the voter,” county spokeswoman Katie Crumley said in an email. “The error will not impact ballot tabulation in any way. If an impacted voter would like a new ballot, he or she may call the Secretary of State’s Office or the Hall County Elections Office, and we will assist them in getting a new ballot issued by the state.”

Incorrect instructions on absentee ballots may also be fixed by the Secretary of State’s office, according to the AJC.

Georgia election officials said Tuesday they will correct absentee ballot instructions that erroneously told voters to insert ballots into envelopes that no longer exist.

Instructions mailed with future absentee ballots will tell voters that ballots should be placed inside a folded piece of paper labeled “Official absentee ballot,” which replaced an inner envelope that secured ballots in previous elections.

The inner envelope protected the secrecy of ballots so they couldn’t be matched with voters’ information printed on the outer envelope. Without the inner envelope in Georgia’s June 9 primary, a county election worker could see how someone voted after opening the outer envelope.

“Voters are going to be confused,” said Margaret Arnett, a DeKalb County voter and member of Indivisible Georgia Coalition, a left-leaning group. “There’s an awful lot of people who have never done vote-by-mail before, and this is their first exposure to it. It’s kind of like getting a desk from Ikea and the instruction sheet isn’t right.”

State law requires an inner envelope for absentee ballots. Sterling said the folded paper meets the intent of the law, which he said is to protect secret ballots if someone were to hold an absentee ballot envelope to a light and try to detect how they voted.

Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, criticized the secretary of state’s office for the incorrect instructions.

“This was a careless mistake that will confuse voters and inundate already overwhelmed county boards with phone calls,” said Seth Bringman, spokesman for Fair Fight Action. “Despite the secretary of state’s incompetence, we encourage voters to cast their vote by mail so that voting in-person is safe for those who need it.”

Governor Brian Kemp announced that Tuesday, April 28, 2020 was the highest number of COVID-19 tests performed in a single day in Georgia, according to a press release.

Today nearly 13,000 new tests were reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website, recording the largest single day in new tests reported since the coronavirus pandemic began. View the report here.

“Two weeks ago, I told Georgians we were not testing enough in our state and that we would make every effort to boost testing capacity,” said Governor Kemp. “It is clear we are making significant progress. We have dramatically increased the number of testing sites with forty-nine now available across the state in partnership with our university system, the private sector, local public health officials, and nine additional Georgia Guard testing sites. We are pushing our testing capacity to the max. Yesterday I asked all Georgians who are experiencing symptoms to schedule an appointment to get tested. We have the sites, the physicians, and the tests. We just need more Georgians to participate.”

To get a free screening, Georgians with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 can download the Augusta University ExpressCare app at augustahealth.org, or call (706) 721-1852. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the following symptoms for COVID-19:

Cough
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Fever
Chills
Repeated shaking with chills
Muscle pain
Headache
Sore throat
New loss of taste or smell

Asymptomatic Georgians who are medical workers, first responders, law enforcement, or residents or staff of a long-term care facility can call their local health department to schedule a free COVID-19 test. Find a nearby test site here or see below for a list of Georgia National Guard testing sites.

Clayton State Parking Deck (City of Morrow)
5893 North Lake Drive
Morrow, Georgia 30260
Monday – Sunday (1 pm – 4 pm)

Kennesaw State University Parking Deck
525 Parliament Garden Way NW
Kennesaw, GA 30144
Monday – Sunday (8 am – 12 pm)

Colquitt Regional Medical Center
3131 S Main Street, Moultrie, GA 31768
Monday – Sunday (8 am – 12 pm)

Decatur Armory
3736 Durham Park Road, Decatur, GA
Monday – Sunday (9 am-1 pm)

Albany Civic Center
100 W Oglethorpe Blvd 31701
Monday – Sunday (2 pm – 6 pm)

Greenbriar Mall
2841 Greenbriar Pkwy SW, Atlanta, GA 30331
Monday – Sunday (10 am – 2 pm)

Georgia State University Blue Parking Lot
521 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30312
Monday – Sunday (2 pm – 6 pm)

M.E. Lewis Elementary School
11145 GA Hwy 15, Sparta GA 31087
Monday, Wednesday, Friday (2 pm – 3 pm)

Rock Creek Sports Complex
445 Martin Road, Dawsonville, GA
Monday – Sunday (10 am – 2 pm)

A Georgia National Guard unit is helping with the state’s COVID-19 response, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Georgia National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Macon, returned from its most recent overseas deployment in the fall.

Now, more than 1,500 members are battling the new coronavirus on three different fronts, disinfecting nursing homes, staffing COVID-19 test sites and working side-by-side in hospital emergency rooms.

The National Guard formed infection control teams, or ICTs, to enter these facilities and disinfect them. As of Tuesday, the 48th Infantry Brigade has disinfected more than 500 nursing homes; that number doesn’t include nursing homes in metro Atlanta, which are handled by ICTs from a different brigade.

Kemp said the state has enough capacity to test all Georgians with COVID-19 symptoms and even some who don’t have any symptoms. There are 49 testing sites in Georgia, according to Capitol Beat, set up by GPH, the University System of Georgia and private companies, including three mobile sites. The National Guard had opened another nine.

“One thing about the guard, we have a lot of manpower and a lot of state agencies don’t,” [brigade commander Col. Anthony] Fournier said. “We’re setting up sites across the state where people can drive up to the site, and trained professionals will administer the nasopharyngeal test, send that to a lab and get results in 48-72 hours.

“We’re hoping to get a saliva test that’s less invasive, and we’re partnering with Augusta University to do some research on that test; they’re checking the reliability of it. If it’s good, we’re going to be able to increase our testing capacity.”

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson wants a slow re-opening of the coastal city’s economy, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We are not out of the woods,” Johnson said regarding the COVID-19 virus.

Speaking Tuesday, April 28, at his weekly meeting with local media, via Zoom, Johnson said he saw increased numbers of people outside over the weekend.

Many of those spotted were not wearing masks or keeping the recommended six feet of physical distance between others, he said.

“It is not time to become complacent,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he hopes businesses that can open under Kemp’s order take precautions.

“We understand the challenges (businesses are facing),” Johnson said. “Please don’t open unless you are sure you are ready. Have a plan to protect your employees and customers.”

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz would like to extend shelter-in-place orders beyond the current expiration date for the statewide order, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

[Governor] Kemp could extend his order, extend it with modifications or simply let it expire.

But sheltering in place will continue in Athens-Clarke County if the governor allows it, said Mayor Kelly Girtz.

Girtz and many, if not most, Athens-Clarke commissioners believe the governor is moving too fast as he relaxes restrictions on business operations in an effort to get the state’s stalled economy moving again.

Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director of the Georgia Coastal Health District, said local shutdown measures helped keep a low case count in Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We have I-16 and I-95 coming right through Chatham County, we have an airport, we have a large seaport with the associated rail and trucking operations, we have Tybee Island with the beach. … All those factors would be expected to increase our traffic and increase our potential for new cases to spread among the general population,” Davis said.

“Our elected officials canceled the St. Patrick’s celebration and the Music Festival and multiple other festivals,” Davis continued, while also citing the CHD’s good cooperation with local government, law enforcement, and hospitals as effective for hampering COVID-19 spread locally.

“I have no way to prove that these measures are the reason that we have relatively good-looking numbers in this area, but all of these things are best practices,” Davis said. “One could certainly say these things have had a very beneficial effect. My own opinion is that these measures probably have been very helpful.”

“The majority of our recent cases locally seem to have come from congregate living facilities,” Davis said. “Testing in nursing homes has been ramped up, primarily through cooperation of the National Guard. … They are also providing what we would call a deep cleaning in some of the facilities.”

Valdosta Regional Airport is seeing far fewer flights now because of COVID-19, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Delta Air Lines, the only carrier servicing the airport, reduced its operations to one flight a day each way between Valdosta and Atlanta, according to Delta staff.

The normal flight schedule for Valdosta Regional is three flights each way each day except Saturday, with only two flights that day.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which offers financial aid to struggling airports, requires carriers to maintain routes they were running as of March 1, though they could adjust the number of flights on those routes, he said.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the only destination available from Valdosta, has lost about 94% of its passenger traffic during the pandemic, Galloway said. Valdosta Regional Airport’s numbers should look similar, he said.

Valdosta Regional Airport is suffering its most significant financial distress in terms of car rentals, he said. About 20% of the airport’s internal revenue comes from auto rentals, and with so few passengers, car rentals have dwindled, Galloway said.

Varnell City Council members would like to return to the process of hiring a new police chief, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Brunswick and Glynn County local government offices are expected to reopen to the public on Monday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Harold Pate Building, Public Works administration building, Glynn County Fire Department administration building, Recreation and Parks Department offices and the Glynn County Animal Control shelter will open for normal business hours on Monday, according to county spokesman Matthew Kent.

Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission administration director Jay Sellers also confirmed the agency’s main office will open to the public on the same day.

Social distancing measures ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp will remain in effect due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Residents must keep six feet from others unless related and are encouraged to cover coughs and sneezes, practice good hand hygiene and to isolate from others if feeling sick.

Sales tax revenue cratered for Brunswick during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to The Brunswick News.

There was no way Brunswick Finance Director Kathy Mills could sugarcoat the city’s latest tax revenue report at Tuesday’s finance committee meeting.

Sales tax revenue for March is down $45,000 from a year ago, and down $34,000 from the previous month.

“I don’t think this will be our worst month,” she said.