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Covid update: Jackson now worst in North Georgia

Nearly 1,000 people in Jackson County had confirmed Covid cases over the last two weeks, giving the county the worst rate of new infections in North Georgia.

The 933 confirmed infections over the last two weeks put the county a rate of 1,249 per 100,000 people. That is the highest in the northern part of the state and the third worst rate statewide.

In addition, the county reported one of the state's highest positive rates with 30% of testing proving to be positive for the virus.

Since March 2020, nearly 6,000 people in the county have tested positive for the virus with 316 people hospitalized and 64 confirmed deaths. There are an additional 10 deaths that are suspected to having been due to Covid.

December was one of the county's deadliest months with 11 reported deaths. There has been one death so far in 2021.

The youngest death was of a 28-year-old white male. The most recent deaths were a 45-year-old white male with no known underlying conditions and a 49-year-old white male with underlying conditions.

VACCINES

As the virus continues to spread, the state is starting to ramp up its distribution of two approved Covid vaccines. 

So far, only healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities are receiving the vaccine.

Last week, the state said it would modify its vaccine plans to include those over age 65 with medical conditions to get a higher priority. The next wave is also supposed to include first responders and law enforcement officers.

Non-healthcare individuals in Jackson County who are not a first responder can preregister for the vaccine by going to the district health website at:

https://publichealthathens.com/wp/programs/infectious-disease/coronavirus-covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccination/non-healthcare-covid-vaccine-pre-registration/

While the vaccine is starting to be administered, some reports indicate the rollout in the state has been exceedingly slow.

While the federal government allocated funding to develop and then ship the vaccines, it did not allocate funding for the states to actually administer the vaccine until the most recent legislation was passed.

Dr. Amber Schmidtke, who does a regular analysis of Covid data in a daily email, said this week that there had been too much confusion over how the vaccine was being delivered to patients.

"Unfortunately, the rollout is not going smoothly at all, both in terms of logistics as well as messaging," she said.

She also said that under-staffing at state health departments is a problem. In some areas, state health departments are taking people off of testing and moving them to administer the vaccine, a situation that could slow the testing for the virus.

"But this policy change will drive our percent positive rate higher and we will miss more cases," she said. "Combined with growing pandemic complacency and fatigue, flying blind not knowing where the cases are is a recipe for catastrophe."


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Jackson County schools move to hybrid attendance for January

The Jackson County School System has expanded its return to class this week with a hybrid system of alternating in-person classes with remote learning for all of its schools.

The system had earlier announced it would go to the hybrid model for its middle and high school students, but expanded that last week to include all its elementary schools as well.

The system is also set to enforce a mask mandate for all students and staff wear masks inside school facilities.

"This is our best option to keep our students and staff in school while minimizing the potential impact of holiday travel," said superintendent April Howard.

The system's move comes amid a large outbreak of Covid cases in Jackson County and an expected uptick following Christmas and New Year's where a number of people may have been exposed to the virus at holiday gatherings.

The system plans to remain with the hybrid system though January, depending on the data from state health officials and the amount of community spread of the virus.

Howard said that system leaders will meet on Jan. 7 to make a decision about any modifications for next week's classes.

The system had to move to remote learning just before the holiday break due to a high number of school staff being required to quarantine.

Under the current plan, all students will do remote learning on Mondays. Students are then divided into two groups for in-person class attendance on an alternating schedule.

The hybrid system lowers the density of students inside school buildings to allow for more distancing.

Howard said the first day of the hybrid class system went well.

"Things are going very well for the most part," she said.

Two schools are seeing some staff shortages and in need of additional substitute teachers, Howard said.


News
Commerce 'hopeful' to resume events in 2021

Commerce leaders are hopeful the city will be able to host some of its regular events in 2021 amid the recent release of a COVID-19 vaccine. Many of the town’s 2020 events were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

“We’re very hopeful for 2021 that we’ll start having events again,” city manager James Wascher told the Commerce City Council on Monday (Jan. 4).

Planned events include:

•Easter parade — April 3

•Spring cleanup — April 10

•Car show and barbecue — May 15

•Concert on Cherry — June 4

•Music and fireworks — July 2

•Concert on Cherry — July 16

•Farm to Table — Sept. 21

•Chili cookoff and car show — Oct. 2

•Hometown holiday — Dec. 4

•Christmas parade — Dec. 5

The proposed schedule of events will go before the council for a vote at its Jan. 19 meeting.

OTHER ITEMS

Other items discussed for the Jan. 19 meeting were:

•a bid for grease trap pumping for commercial customers. The lowest bid was Hulsey Environmental, the city’s current vendor, at $0.18 per gallon for outside pumping or $95 per visit for inside pumping.

•the addition of an on-call gas main installer contractor. The only bidder was Harrison and Harrison Inc.

•an electrical easement for electricity for phase 3 of Highland Estates.

•reappointing Susan Stephenson to the Commerce Downtown Development Authority.

•reappointing Ann Rhodes and Sam Chaney to the library board.

•proposed 2021 meeting dates for the council and the city’s various agencies.

ALTERNATE JUDGE APPROVED

Also on Monday, Jan. 4, the council held a special called meeting to approve an alternate judge for two cases in the city’s municipal court. The individual involved in both cases filed a motion in court for a new judge, due to a potential conflict of interest.

Wascher noted it is easier and likely more cost effective to go ahead and get an alternate judge in place (compared to facing a possible appeal in the Superior Court of Jackson County).

The alternate judge will be paid $75 an hour.

Darren Owensby and Bobby Redmon were opposed.


Runoff election held Jan. 5

The much-watched runoff election for Georgia's two U.S. Senate seats was headed for the finish line on Tuesday, Jan. 5, with the final day of voting.

Since the election results fell beyond the newspaper's deadline, results will be posted to our website at JacksonHeraldToday.com.

Over 21,000 votes were cast in Jackson County during early voting and by absentee ballot.

There were three races on the ballot: Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff; incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock; and incumbent Republican PSC member Lauren "Bubba" McDonald faces Democrat Daniel Blackman.

McDonald is a native of Jackson County where he served on the board of commissioners and as a long-time state representative.


News
County receives threatening email about election

A threatening email sent to Jackson County officials over the weekend is being investigated by Homeland Security, the GBI and other agencies.

The email was apparently part of a coordinated series of threats sent by a right-wing individual or group to several counties across the state threatening to blow up polling places and doing violence to anyone who doesn't support overturning election results in the state to favor Donald Trump.

The profanity-filled rant listed several hashtags that are affiliated with right-wing social media and conspiracy sites.

Jackson County Sheriff Janis Mangum said her office was already planning to have extra deputies at polling places on Jan. 5  given the heated tensions surrounding the runoff elections for Georgia's two Senate seats.

On Saturday, President Trump made a hour-long phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger demanding that he overturn Georgia's voting and find him enough votes to change the state's outcome in his favor. Joe Biden won Georgia by around 12,000 votes. Ballots were counted in the state three times following the Nov. 3 election.

The president's call has quickly become extremely controversial for Trump's demanding tone and perhaps illegal demand to overturn a legitimate election in the state. The call was recorded and released to the media.

The threatening email to Jackson County rants about Republicans who don't support Trump's efforts to overturn Georgia's voting results and also says anyone who votes in the runoff for any candidate is "our greatest enemy."

Text of the threatening message:

F_CKING HEAR THIS JACKSON COUNTY OR D!E

This election is f_cking rigged. You all know it and all of you are

COMPLICIT as F_CK! No one should vote for these corrupt RINOs who

abandoned Trump and our party when he needed them the most, and when its

clear something fishy as f_ck happened here. There is NO WAY Biden won the

most votes in history. That is totally bullsh_t and self-evident. And then

B_TCH McConnell wants to only give us $600 of OUR money when our

businesses are dying? When even the DEMONcrats are pushing for more, your

doing something WRONG. Even Pence has shown he's just a big p_ssy that

will roll over on Trump. Where the F_CK is the loyalty? WHAT F_CKING

HAPPENED to our party??? This corrupt party has left our Moral Authority,

lost its d_mn balls and forgotten its most loyal supporters. We cannot

trust RINO Kemp or Loeffler or Perdue or ANYONE who is not 100% standing

by OUR PRESIDENT. This sh_t is rigged, Trump called it MONTHS ago, and

until Trump is guaranteed to be POTUS until 2024 like he should be, we

will bring death and destruction to defend this country if needed and get

our voices heard. Anything and anyone in this county that stands in his

and our way is an enemy to us and DEMOCRACY. We need signature

verification. We need a special session. We need a Constitutional

Amendment to make sure this bullsh_t never happens again. Loeffler and

Perdue and the rest of our state's SH_TTY politicians have shown their

true colors in November and are clearly NOT on the side of OUR PRESIDENT.

We don't need more power-hungry anti-democracy RINOs. Anyone who supports

them or the COMMUNISTS can f_cking die. All of you and anyone who supports

this vile sh_t. We are past playing nice.

We'll make the Boston bombings look like child's play at the poll sites in

this county. You just f_cking WAIT. This country was founded on righteous

war, and if this is what is required of us to defend our very democracy,

we will step forward. We will hit every poll site, government office and

beyond until every RINO is out of office and Trump stays where he f_cking

belongs. Whoever does not support OUR PRESIDENT does not deserve to call

themselves a REPUBLICAN. You all are FAKER than the FAKE NEWS. F_CK

Loeffler and Perdue and Kike-lover Kemp and our Secretary of SH_T. Give us

some d_mn integrity. We WILL secure our EXISTENCE from your twink agenda.

Only state in the South that went to Biden? Yeah F_CKING right! Not

suspicious at all!!

Throw out the corruption immediately or we Patriots will END YOU all. And

everyone who supports this SH_T. You have less than 3 days. LOOK UP TATP

motherF_CKERS...we're ready.

ANYONE WHO VOTES FOR DEMONCRATS OR THESE CORRUPT-AS-F_CK RINOS PERDUE AND

LOEFFER, who won't support OUR RIGHTFUL PRESIDENT and loudly boycott this

COUP of our party and country, are unworthy to live in this Great Country.

Therefore ANYONE at these poll sites is worthy of our wrath. Detonations

will occur at every polling site set up in this county. No one at these

places will be spared unless and until Trump is guaranteed to be POTUS

again... anyone who votes for either corrupt-as-F_CK party until then is a

traitor to the Constitution and our greatest enemy. You will face our

righteous wrath. You too f_cking bucktooth N_GGER CUNT ABRAMS and KORRUPT

KEMP and ANY other SO-CALLED REPUBLICAN who supports this coup. DEATH TO

THE SOCIALIST KIKES AND RINOS. If you think we're bluffing, f_cking TRY

us. Youve been warned. We will end you all. See you soon.

#thisistyranny #libertyordeath #wethePATRIOTS


News
State to expand COVID vaccine group

State leaders recently announced plans to add another group of people to the current group of individuals eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

Adults 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders are expected to be eligible for the vaccination in the next two weeks (if adequate supply is available). They will join healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, who are already eligible to receive the vaccination.

“Following the expert guidance of Dr. Toomey, the CDC, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Georgia will move to expand Phase 1a vaccination criteria within the next two weeks to include the elderly, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders - provided the state continues to receive adequate vaccine supplies,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “We will continue to monitor the administration efforts of our public health workers and partners in the private sector, and the supply chain of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to ensure eligible Georgians are vaccinated without delay.”

“Different areas of the state are completing Phase 1a at different times based on the number of healthcare workers and LTCF residents and staff they have to vaccinate,” said Commissioner Kathleen Toomey. “This expansion of 1a eligible vaccination criteria will allow vaccine to be administered as quickly as possible to our most at-risk populations in terms of exposure, transmission and severity. It also gives healthcare providers and public health staff time to plan and work with local communities across the state to ensure safe and efficient deployment of limited vaccine supplies.”

State leaders continue to urge residents to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. While the COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective in preventing illness in the individual being vaccinated, it is not yet known if the vaccine fully prevents person to person transmission or asymptomatic infections, state leaders said in a news release.


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