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NGHS COVID cases below 300, still high

Northeast Georgia Health System saw a slight downtown in its number of COVID-19 patients over the week, but the number is still high.

As of Jan. 4, the hospital system was treating 293 COVID patients with 82 of those at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. The week prior (Dec. 28), there were 312 COVID patients with 67 at NGMC Braselton.

Hospital bed capacity continues to be stretched, wit 721 beds occupied across the system and 23 available. At NGMC Braselton, there are 170 occupied beds with five available. In the intensive care unit at NGMC Braselton, there are 24 occupied beds with none available.

Meanwhile, the hospital system continues to deploy the COVID vaccine, with 3,160 employees vaccinated as of Jan. 4.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the hospital system has been allocated 6,825 doses of the Pfizer vaccination and 6,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine.


All four Braselton area counties are higher than the state average in new cases over the past two weeks (per 100,000 residents). Jackson County remains the hardest hit in the four-county area, followed by Hall and Barrow counties.

Details include:

•State: 591,106 cases; 9,900 confirmed deaths; 1,071 probable deaths; 78,792 new cases in the last two weeks (727 per 100,000 residents)

•Barrow: 5,113 cases; 66 confirmed deaths; one probable death; 881 new cases in the last two weeks (1,020 per 100,000 residents)

•Gwinnett: 53,884 cases; 565 confirmed deaths; 39 probable deaths; 7,957 new cases in the last two weeks (819 per 100,000 residents)

•Hall: 18,081 cases; 222 confirmed deaths; 13 probable deaths; 2,246 new cases in the last two weeks (1,088 per 100,000 residents)

•Jackson: 5,378 cases; 64 confirmed deaths; 10 probable deaths; 933 new cases in the last two weeks (1,249 per 100,000 residents)

Koltyn Lee Roberts was the first baby born in 2021 at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. Born on Jan. 1 at 2:54 a.m., Koltyn weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces and was 21.26-inches long. Koltyn's parents are Alyssa Selkirk and Trent Roberts. He joined a big sister, Olivia, who is 12 months old.

Lights coming to Gum Springs Park

Gum Springs recreation park continues to develop as the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a contract on Jan.  4, to add lighting for the playing fields.

The BOC approved a $583,000 lighting contract with Musco Sports Lighting. Funds for the lighting, and for the oversell development of the park, comes from the county's SPLOST 6 funds approved in 2017.


In other action, the BOC approved:

• a resolution to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for funds to help expand the county's senior citizens center. Plans for the center's expansion were announced last year.

• a $350,000 contract with Tusa Consulting Services to oversee the implementation of the county's new radio system. The county recently approved a multi-million dollar deal to upgrade the county's communications systems for public and emergency services.

• leasing a county building at 102 Cloverleaf Circle to be used by Reboot Jackson, a local non-profit organization for those with substance abuse and mental health challenges. The facility was formerly the county's 4-H office and is near the county courthouse and mental health facilities.

• a list of roads to be resurfaced and apply for state LMIG funding. The county anticipates getting over $819,000 in state funding and using $245,000 in local funding for the projects. The longest sections on the project list are for Lebanon Church Rd. at 4.5 miles and Old State Rd. at 3.9 miles. Other roads include: Wheeler Rd., Boone Rd., Bear Creek Lane, Brennan Dr., Walnut Ridge Dr., Wood Crest Dr., and Olde Wick Trail.

• amending the county's dangerous dog ordinance to put the oversight of dangerous dog issues under the county's magistrate court. The county dangerous dog committee has been defunct for several years, officials said.

• an ordinance to regulate the use of vehicle immobilization devices (car boots) in the county. Some private firms have been booting vehicles without following state guidelines, officials said. This move gives the county oversight of those issues.

• a new timber harvesting ordinance under HB897.

• the BOC meeting calendar for 2021.

• naming Chas Hardy as vice-chairman of the BOC for 2021.

• renaming Hubert Edwards to the board of assessors for another three-year term.

• renaming Bucky Sorrow to another term on the county's parks and recreation advisory board.

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.

See online for runoff election results

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 BraseltonNewsToday.com.

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.

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.

Braselton seeks input on sidewalk project in downtown area

The Town of Braselton is seeking residents’ input on a sidewalk project in the downtown area.

Residents on Pinecrest Ln., Davis St. and the Key’s Crossing neighborhood can provide input on the project — which includes the addition of sidewalks, lighting and drainage improvements.

Review the plan and submit input by visiting https://www.braselton.net/departments/capital_projects/current__proposed_projects.php.

The plans can also be viewed at the town’s Welcome Center in the Braselton Brothers Department Store (Suite 8).

Paper copies of the survey are available at the Welcome Center. You can also complete the survey online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JN5VG2W.

Hall schools to begin second semester with blended learning

Students in the Hall County School District will participate in blended learning as the number of COVID cases remains high in the area.

The district returns for the second semester on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Students will learn from home through the first week of the second semester.

"By Thursday, Jan. 7, we will have additional information and will make a better determination as to what to do through the MLK holiday, Monday, January 18," district leaders said in a news release.

School leaders said the move allows them to gather accurate internal data; support the hospital system; and provide additional time to make "the best possible plan" to maximize safety and positive learning experiences during the semester.

The news release indicated the number of COVID-19 cases in Hall County continues to increase at "an alarming rate."

"Additionally, the information we receive from our local hospital system is sobering," the district said. "Record numbers of patients are in beds, the supply of staff and resources are inadequate, and the hospital may be forced to contemplate how they would ration care if the spike continues."

The district also continues to have internal cases, but district leaders think what has been reported is "significantly less than the reality we will encounter in the coming days."

Hoschton announces 2021 meeting schedule

The City of Hoschton recently released its 2021 meeting calendar.

The town's planning commission will meet on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. The Hoschton City Council will meet on the third Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. Dates include:

  • Hoschton City Council (at 5:30 p.m.) — Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 15, April 19, May 17, June 21, July 19, Aug. 16, Sept. 20, Oct. 18, Nov. 15, Dec. 20, Jan. 17, 2022.
  • Hoschton Planning Commission (at 7 p.m.) — Jan. 25, Feb. 22, March 22, April 26, May 24, June 28, July 26, Aug. 23, Sept. 27, Oct. 25, Nov. 22 and Dec. 27.