Masks must now be worn in county buildings in Gwinnett. The order goes into effect Tuesday and will remains until Jan. 31, unless it is expected further.
These are the top stories from the past week.
Gwinnett Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson says she signed order mandating face masks in county buildings
Gwinnett County residents, employees and visitors are going to have to mask up if they want to step on county property.
County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson announced during a Council for Quality Growth event on Friday that getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control is a top priority, and that her first major action since taking the reigns of government earlier this month was to begin doing just that.
In short, face masks are mandatory in county buildings.
“I just signed my first executive order, which was pretty cool, to mandate masks in all of our facilities and our properties across the county because it really, at the end of the day, is about our employees and our work force,” Hendrickson said. “We have to operate, we cannot shut down, and our employees safety is our No. 1 priority.”
The order goes into effect on Tuesday and will remain in effect until Jan. 31, unless it is extended further. The order, which includes other facial coverings in addition to masks, stipulates that they must cover both the mouth and nose.
Anyone who cannot afford a mask will be provided with one, according to the order.
There are some exceptions including people who trouble putting on, wearing or removing a mask of facial covering without assistance, and people with “bona fide” religious objections or medical reasons for not wearing a mask.
In a statement, county officials said people who do not comply with the order can be denied entry to county buildings or could be asked to leave if they make it inside the building before they are seen without a mask on.
Gwinnett has a two-week incidence rate of 1,162 new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 residents as of Thursday afternoon. That is a total 11,287 new cases reported in the county over the last two weeks.
The county leads Georgia in total cases, with 67,465 cases, 635 confirmed deaths, 45 probable deaths and 4,330 hospitalizations reported since March.
Hendrickson said her priority is not just to make sure people wear face masks on county properties, however. She also said the county’s goal is to help with vaccinations where it can.
“(It’s) also helping to usher us through this pandemic to get to a point of herd immunity and working with our health district and many of our partners to have access to vaccines and make sure that we can get to that point where we can start living our lives,” Hendrickson said.
Another area the chairwoman said the county wants to look at is the economic impact COVID-19 has had on Gwinnett.
“We have seen how the pandemic has exposed the inequities with the impact of the pandemic on our minority and immigrant communities with job loss and business closures,” Hendrickson said. “We need to work with our partners and we have been working with our partners in also leveraging our CARES Act funding to support and mitigate against the impact that COVID has had on these communities.
“So, we’ve been weathering through that and will continue to do so this year until we get to that point.”
Everton Blair will lead Gwinnett school board as chairman in 2021, Karen Watkins picked to be vice-chairwoman
Gwinnett County Board of Education member Everton Blair Jr. will preside over the county’s school board meetings this year after his colleagues voted unanimously Thursday to pick him as their chairman for 2021.
Blair, a Shiloh High School grad who was the first African-American elected to the school board, has been one the school board for two years and is one of the board’s second-longest tenured members.
New school board member Karen Watkins, who was elected in November, was chosen as the board’s vice-chairman. Watkins and fellow board member Steve Knudsen were both nominated for the position, but Blair, Watkins and board member Tarece Johnson voted to elect Watkins to the serve in the role.
The board also voted 3-2 to retain the Daily Post as its media organ for 2021. Johnson and Watkins cast the dissenting votes, with Johnson asking that a request for proposals be put out to give the board the option to look at other media outlets to possibly serve as the organ.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to consider a different media source to represent our board in a different way — in a way that is more inclusive and that represents all of our board members in a fair and equitable manner,” Johnson said. “I highly suggest for us to provide an opportunity for other members of our community who in the media and relations field to have the opportunity to petition to the board the opportunity to represent us from a media perspective.”
The board also voted 3-2 to keep Thompson, Sweeny, Kinsinger and Pereira P.C. as the school system’s attorney for 2021, with Johnson and Watkins casting the dissenting votes. Johnson asked for an RFP to be issued to give the board more options to look at.
“(Thompson, Sweeny, Kinsinger and Pereira P.C.) may still be the law firm to represent us,” Johnson said. “However, I do believe it presents us with an opportunity now to put out to bid in a competitive request for proposals to allow other law firms to consider ways in how they represent our school system.”
Watkins added, “because it is a high dollar amount, the amount that we do spend, there should be opportunity for others ... It could come out that they are the only law firm, but (this is) just to present the opportunity, especially since this is a very high dollar amount with reference to legal fees and consultation and everything.”
Gwinnett Elections Chairwoman Alice O'Lenick faces backlash over elections comments, resists calls to resign
Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections Chairwoman Alice O’Lenick did not deny comments she made at a Gwinnett Republican Party meeting last week and resisted calls to resign Tuesday night.
O’Lenick, who is one of two Gwinnett GOP appointees on the bipartisan elections board, is facing calls from 15 members of Gwinnett County legislative delegation — all Democrats — as well as 17 voting and civil rights groups to step down.
Those calls were in response to a Daily Post report over the weekend in which she was quoted telling the county’s GOP on Jan. 14 that she felt election law changes should be made so Republicans would “at least have a shot at winning.” The comments also drew condemnation from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux.
But, O’Lenick stood her ground as she addressed the controversy at the elections board meeting on Tuesday.
“I swore an oath to uphold the laws and provide a lawful election in Gwinnett County, and that is what I do,” O’Lenick said.
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
O’Lenick’s comments and the calls for her resignation come on the heels of a heated elections season that ended with President Donald Trump and his attorneys and supporters floating claims — which were refuted by officials in Georgia’s Secretary of State office — of widespread voter fraud in Georgia.
The changes O’Lenick advocated including scaling back no excuse absentee-by-mail voting, limiting it to the elderly and “infirm,” and eliminating absentee ballot drop boxes.
“We, the undersigned Gwinnett state legislators, demand your immediate resignation for the irreparable harm your public statements have caused, which clearly demonstrate your inability to complete the duties of chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Elections to ensure free and fair elections and an open democratic process for the citizens of Gwinnett County,” the 15 legislators — three-fifths of the county’s legislative delegation — wrote in their letter to O’Lenick.
News of O’Lenick’s comments has gained attention across the country.
As the elections board was meeting Tuesday night, a hashtag targeting O’Lenick, #AliceMustGo, was the second highest trending item in the U.S. on Twitter with 25,300 tweets with that hashtag being posted as of 7 p.m.
“O’Lenick isn’t even trying to hide her bias against Democratic voters and voters of color in Gwinnett County,” Stacey Abrams’ group, Fair Fight, said in one of a series of four tweets. “She has made clear that her only motivation is pure partisanship, engaging openly in rhetoric that is more suited for a political party hack than an elections official.”
During the virtual meeting, critics and supporters of O’Lenick debated whether she should step down or be removed from the elections board.
The criticism at the meeting began with a statement from Stephen Day and Wandy Taylor, the two Gwinnett County Democratic Party appointees on the elections board, before it moved on to the public comment section.
“Simply put, they want to change the rules to bias the laws against Democrats to help Republicans win elections,” Taylor said as she read the statement. “This attitude violates the fundamental principles of our representative democracy and frankly it’s un-American.
“The idea that one political party can only win by suppressing the vote of another political party is an abomination of our system of governance.”
O’Lenick said she believes people should have more access to vote, pointing to her support of expanding early voting hours and being in favor of adding more early voting sites.
“Addressing absentee-by-mail is not voter suppression, it is vote security,” O’Lenick said. “We should encourage voting in person, either during early voting, known as AIP, or on election day. I have voted for and implemented more hours of early voting, more days of early voting and two Saturdays and two Sundays in the last election.
“Do we need more hours? In my opinion, yes. Do we need more locations for early voting? Yes.”
Critics who spoke during public comments claimed her comments amounted to voter suppression, with one person comparing it to Jim Crow laws.
State Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, countered O’Lenick’s assertions that she was not advocating voter suppression by arguing that some of the changes she was advocating, including removing drop boxes and scaling back no excuse absentee-by-mail voting, was in fact suppression.
“Chairman O’Lenick’s remarks, which she has not stated were a misquote when she had an opportunity to do so in her opening remarks, that she will fight to disenfranchise voters to give a political party, the Republican Party, ‘a shot at winning’ are antithetical to a robust and functional democracy,” Clark said.
Other people who spoke during public comment questioned whether O’Lenick should publicly advocate for elections law changes while sitting on the county’s elections board.
“If she sees her role as an advocate, then she needs to be a lobbyist or run for elected office,” Curt Thompson, a former state senator and county commission chairman candidate, said.
Supporters, however, praised O’Lenick and said she has worked for years to protect voting in Gwinnett County.
Warren Auld, who was at the Gwinnett GOP meeting where O’Lenick made the comments at the center of the controversy, said comments made against her were “inflammatory” and were not based in fact.
“She advocated some changes, advocated looking at absentee ballot issues, drop and reviewing the election laws,” Auld said. “The statements in opposition to her almost immediately jump to conclusions about attitude alleging she was suppressing the vote. There was language of her participating in Jim Crow-ism, conspiracies, attempting to suppress the vote, even alleging African-Americans would be harmed by what she was doing.
“All of those are just without any basis in fact.”
Gwinnett GOP Chairman Edward Muldrow said that, as a Black man, he does not feel his vote would be suppressed if the changes O’Lenick has called for were adopted.
“I think it’s actually laughable that we have people using phrases like ‘Jim Crow’ and ‘voter suppression’ and invoking the victimhood, if you will, of Black people in order to support their stance for wanting to remove Alice O’Lenick,” Muldrow said.
Lilburn looking to bring brewery to Old Town area, part of goal of revitalizing Railroad Avenue
Lilburn officials are looking to revitalize the Railroad Avenue area of Old Town Lilburn and the first goal in that effort is starting to brew.
They want to attract a brewery to fill part of the building currently occupied by Builders Steel Supply.
“That is the hope,” Lilburn Community Development Administrator Brian Burchik said.
The city recently issued a request for proposals from partners interested in developing a brewery in part of the building, which is located at 57 Railroad Ave., and conducted a walk through on Friday. Anyone interested in taking on the project must submit a proposal by March 1.
Burchik said the building is a large warehouse with 29,112 square feet of space.
“It’s positioned at the sort of the start of Railroad Avenue, which is a street that is right in the middle of Old Town but has always just been historically an industrial dead end kind of street and hasn’t been integrated into any kind of downtown experience at all,” Burchik said.
“And, so we felt like that property would be the first one to kind of catalyze the transformation of, ultimately, Railroad Avenue.”
With the addition of a brewery, Railroad Avenue would become a destination of sorts for people looking to buy locally produced alcohol. The Hope Springs Distillery is also located on that street.
“We’re really excited that breweries have become such destinations for people to come into a downtown and (it’s) just become such a trend,” Burchik said. “We hope our residents will love this as sort of local brewery and that a very big (part) in our RFP. It’s stated very clearly that the concepts show that they’re significantly interested in having a theme or a concept that feels very local to our community.
“So, we’re excited for that and that it will be sort of a community gathering for Lilburn, but also we know that there’s people who travel around to other cities, kind of hopping around from brewery to brewery. There is that kind of passion to go and check out all of these different breweries.”
Burchik said the goal is to have a brewery that can act as an entertainment and tourism destination in addition to being a place where beer is produced.
That means having a tasting room where visitors can hang out and sample beers before walking up to Main Street to visit businesses, restaurants or City Park.
“It’s maybe one block to get from the brewery site to Main Street and then you just cross over Main Street and you’re in the park basically,” Burchik said. “And, we do have a hospitality zone in this area so that you can take a drink to go, you can take a beer to go and walk to the park or Main Street.”
There is another brewery in development in Lilburn, called Blackbird Farms Brewery. That brewery will be located on Lawrenceville Highway and is expected to open this spring, according to Burchik.
The city is looking at additional plans for Railroad Avenue, so it is no longer a dead end street that ends at Hope Springs and only serves as a manufacturing area off Main Street. Streetscaping and connections to the Camp Creek Greenway would also be in the plans for that road.
“We hope to see it become a connected road to other streets in downtown,” Burchik said. “So (it would be) connecting to First Avenue, having a connection that brings a connection from the residential areas on that west side of Main Street where they can walk and have pathways that come from streets like First Avenue, Elizabeth Way and all of these places into, not just Railroad Avenue, but just go a little bit further and connect straight to the greenway.”
There has been some groups that have already established breweries elsewhere, and are looking to open a second or third location, as well as newcomers who have been looking for the right opportunity to jump into the brewery business who have expressed interest in the site.
“The nature of this space, because it is large, you do kind of have to be somebody who is looking to take on a pretty significant sized concept,” Burchik said. “This isn’t for just kind of a small brewery. It’s definitely a size that you would want to producing a significant amount and you’d need to have a vision for a pretty large tasting room.
“So, the nature of the building in some ways limits who can really think they can take on that large of a space.”
Burchik said the city is looking at the building having multiple uses, noting that it is a large facility even by brewery standards. Building Steel Supply originally owned the building, but sold it to the Lilburn Downtown Development Authority. The firm is currently leasing back the space from the DDA until it can finish construction on a new facility which is expected to open later this year.
As a result, the RFP that the city has put out is inviting interested parties to come up with their ideas for how all of the space could be used, with the brewery serving as an anchor for the site, according to the city’s community development administrator.
“As we’ve looked at it, up to this point, there’s been talks and interest in maybe one half of the building, one side of the building, being a brewery,” Burchik said. “Then perhaps on the other side maybe its kind of an open food hall concept, maybe with a few different restaurant stalls, thinking about kind of like Krog Street Market or something like that.
“There’s also a significant amount of office spacing so perhaps maybe a company with offices there and leases office space or a co-working space or something like that.”
The RFP for the site can be viewed at bit.ly/2NxB31p.
Gwinnett commission chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson says county has to address transit, workforce housing
Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson paused for a second and chose optimism as she reflected on the defeat of the county’s transit referendum.
Hendrickson addressed the issue of transit on Friday during a Council for Quality Growth fireside chat featuring herself and three other new chairwomen from counties around metro Atlanta. She had been a proponent of passage of the referendum that was defeated very narrowly in November, the latest in a series of transit referendum losses in Gwinnett spanning decades.
But, the county’s new chairwoman didn’t see the loss as a door closing on transit expansion in Gwinnett.
“I was hoping our referendum would have passed by the time I got into office, but it didn’t, it failed for the fourth time I think,” Hendrickson said. “But, it just forces us to take a step back and look at our approach and what we need to do to put our heads together to come up with solutions.”
There has been talk in the past about how soon another transit referendum could appear on the ballot.
- By Curt Yeomans firstname.lastname@example.org
At first, the obviously choice might seem to be November 2022, which is the next major election guaranteed to draw a large voter turnout. But a vote on extending the county’s special purpose location option sales tax is expected to be on that ballot and some county leaders, including new commissioners, have expressed concerns as to whether having both measures on the same ballot could result in both failing.
The other option that is being looked at is November 2024, which is the next presidential election.
Either way, Hendrickson said the county can’t afford to give up and do nothing to address transit since the county is projected to be home to 1.5 million people by 2050.
“We have transit challenges in Gwinnett County,” she said. “We are about to add another 500,000 people to the region over the next couple of decades and Gwinnett County is going to acquire many of those folks that are moving in.
“We are a destination for the region and we have to figure out how to get people around. We have to figure out how we can contribute to people’s quality of life for people who don’t own a car, for people who don’t want to use a car for a means of transportation.”
Hendrickson also pointed to the economic impact expanded transit, or a lack of it, can have on Gwinnett. Officials in the business community have long touted transit as an economic development driver and there have been cases in the past, such as WestRock in 2017, of businesses leaving Gwinnett to relocate to areas in metro Atlanta that have transit access.
“We have to be competitive in the region if we’re ever going to attract high paying jobs and attract the talent that we need to recruit those jobs as well,” Hendrickson said. “So, it’s a challenge that we have to address.
“We are working in partnership with many of our community improvement districts (and the) state. Our new congresswoman, Carolyn Bourdeaux, is on the (U.S. House transportation committee) and so we’re going to put our heads together with her as well to see how we can draw down funding to support transit infrastructure projects and improvements. The CIDs are working with us on studies for local transit expansion, but we’re also looking at how we can address traffic engineering, road improvements, all of the things can help make us that premiere destination for businesses.”
Hendrickson also talked about housing issues at the fireside chat, pointing out that Gwinnett has begun work on a comprehensive housing study. That study will look at the market in the county and the housing options that are available.
The chairwoman, who is now a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s board by virtue of her new position in the county, said she would like to join the ARC’s affordable housing committee to help the county leverage the regional commission’s resources to tackle housing issues.
“We have a large workforce, and I like to use workforce housing instead of affordable housing because that is essentially what it is,” Hendrickson said. “But, for our workforce, and I’ll speak for Gwinnett County government alone, 56% of our employee base represents public safety officials but they live outside of the county because they cannot afford to live in Gwinnett because of the housing prices.
“You have to earn a salary of at least $50,000 to be able to own a home in Gwinnett. Well, the base salary for our police officers is below $40,000. So that’s something that we have to examine, have to look at, so that we can retain our employees in our county and so that they can live and work in our county and enjoy the benefits of being both a resident and somebody who works in the county as well.”
Gwinnett BOC approves construction management contract for new fire station in Suwanee
A new fire station that will be located next to the Suwanee Town Center on Main park project is cleared to be built.
Gwinnett County commissioners approved the hiring of Reeves Young LLC to manage the construction of the new Fire Station 13 this past week. The station will be built on land the city of Suwanee is providing at the intersection of Suwanee Dam Road and Main Street at a library driveway.
“This new station will enable Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services to continue to provide the outstanding service that people have come to expect,” Gwinnett Fire Chief Russell Knick said.
“It is strategically placed to enhance the emergency response capabilities and the community risk reduction initiatives of the department.”
The construction management contract is worth up to $7 million and will be funded by the 2017 special purpose local option sale tax program.
The new fire station will be located at 105 Main St. and have a fire engine and ambulance. It will also house at least five firefighters and paramedics each day, with designs calling for the station to be able to accommodate up to 11 employees at a time.
It will have 11,000 square feet of space and include three drive-thru apparatus bays, gear and equipment rooms, an industrial grade kitchen, an administrative office area, separate male and female locker and shower facilities and individual bunkroom cubicles.
“This just shows the kind of good things that can happen when cities and county government work together for the benefit of the public,” Gwinnett County Commissioner Kirkland Carden said.
Partee Elementary School assistant principal Jennifer Clowers promoted to principal
Partee Elementary School faculty, staff, students and parents have a new principal, but it’s someone they are already familiar with.
Jennifer Clowers, an assistant principal at the school, was appointed by the Gwinnett County Board of Education to be the school’s new principal Thursday night. She replaces Kelli McCain, who was recently appointed to become one of Gwinnett County Public Schools’ assistant superintendents for elementary schools.
Clowers received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Florida A&M University as well as a master’s degree in instruction from Central Michigan University and a specialist degree in educational leadership from Mercer University. She has been an educator for more than 17 years, according to her profile on the school’s website.
She has been with GCPS since 2017 and spent all of her time in the district at Partee Elementary. The school’s new principal previously worked in DeKalb County and Atlanta schools.
Other appointments made on Thursday include Jay Nebel as an assistant superintendent for middle schools and Nicole White to be executive director of Special Education and Psychological Services.
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
Nebel has been with GCPS since 1996 and was the executive director of Continuous Quality Improvement — a job he was appointed to last February — prior to his appointment to his new job on Thursday.
He was a teacher at Creekland Middle School from 1996 until 2007, a teacher and coach at Norcross High School from 2007 until 2013, a sixth grade administrator at Creekland Middle School from 2013 until 2016, principal at Sweetwater middle School from 2016 until February 2020.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and middle grades education from Georgia State University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Touro University International and a specialist’s degree in educational administration and policy from the University of Georgia.
Meanwhile, White has been the principal of Kanoheda Elementary School since 2016 and has been with GCPS since 2003.
The various positions White has held in the district, prior to becoming principal at Kanoheda, have included a department chair and teacher of the visually impaired from 2003 until 2011; an assistant principal at Meadowcreek Elementary School from 2011-2016; a summer school assistant principal for elementary schools from 2013 until 2014; and summer school coordinator for elementary schools in 2015.
White received a bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in secondary education, from Florida A&M University; a master’s degree in visual disabilities from Florida State University; a specialist’s degree in media, with emphasis in instructional technology, from the University of West Georgia; and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Argosy University.
She has also been an adjunct online instructor from Thomas University and Ashford University, a member of the Supplemental File Review Technical Writing Team for GCPS, an online scoring rater for Educational Testing Service and a parent advisor for Georgia Parent Information Network for Educational Services.
Gwinnett County Police: Duluth teen allegedly stole nearly $1 million from Kroger where he worked
A Duluth teen was recently arrested for allegedly scamming a Kroger store he worked for out of nearly $1 million and using the money to buy cars and weapons among other items, according to Gwinnett County police.
Cpl. Collin Flynn said Tre Brown, 19, is accused of stealing more than $980,000 from the Kroger on Steve Reynold Boulevard in unincorporated Duluth by creating more than 40 fraudulent returns for non-existent items over a two-week period between late December and early January.
The returns ranged from $75 to more than $87,000 and were allegedly put on several credit cards.
“Corporate employees from Kroger noticed the fraudulent transactions and contacted the police department,” Flynn said. “Investigators learned that Brown purchased clothes, guns, shoes, and two vehicles with the money. Prior to being arrested, Brown totaled one of the vehicles.”
Gwinnett County jail records show Brown was arrested, booked and later released from the jail on Jan. 14. Flynn said a large amount of the money was returned to Kroger after Brown’s arrest. The teen has been charged with theft by taking.
Longtime Gwinnett resident, two-time Super Bowl champion Tony Jones dies at 54
Former offensive tackle Tony Jones, a starter on two Super Bowl championship teams with the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s, died Friday at age 54.
The team announced his passing but did not state a cause of death.
Jones was a longtime resident of Gwinnett, coached for years in the Gwinnett Football League and his children, sons Tony Jr. and Kameron and daughter Kamilla, went to Peachtree Ridge. Tony Jr. coaches linebackers at Collins Hill, Kam plays college football at Chattanooga and Kamilla attends Georgia State.
"We lost a great man," Broncos Ring of Fame wide receiver Rod Smith posted on Instagram on Friday. "Just happened to be a hell of a ball playa. We love you and miss you Bone. One of the Broncos all time best tackles. greatest dresser of ALL-TIME!"
As a player, Jones was with the Broncos from 1997 to 2000, his final four NFL seasons. He played right tackle and helped Denver beat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII after the 1997 season, then served as the left tackle when the Broncos topped the Atlanta Falcons in the following Super Bowl. He made the Pro Bowl in the 1998 season.
"I was deeply saddened to learn of my old teammate Tony Jones passing," the quarterback of those two Denver championship teams, John Elway, posted on social media. "I only had the pleasure of playing with him a couple years, but what great years they were. We earned 2 Super Bowls together. I was so grateful for his protection. He was a great teammate and an even better man. He will be missed. My condolences to his entire family."
Undrafted out of Western Carolina, Jones broke into the NFL with the Browns in 1988, and he played in Cleveland through 1995.
After playing for the Baltimore Ravens in their inaugural 1996 season, he joined the Broncos.
Jones started all but five games in his last 11 seasons, making 16 starts in a year nine times.
"He was an amazing guy, a heck of a nice guy," Broncos Hall of Famer Steve Atwater told DenverBroncos.com. "Great football player — mean, nasty. That's the kind of guy that you want to go to war with if you're going to war. And we were really good friends. We lived in the same neighborhood when we lived in Georgia — lived down in Sugarloaf down there. We had a pretty good friendship. ... He and one other friend of mine, we got lunch a little bit before I moved from Atlanta, took me out to lunch. I always remember how nice of a guy he was, how great he was with his kids. A good guy, man."
COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Georgia awaits more doses from Biden administration
Georgia officials overseeing the state’s COVID-19 vaccine program are awaiting word from the new Biden administration on whether more doses will head their way amid an early shortage.
Pharmacies and health clinics had given out more than 550,000 doses to Georgia nursing homes, hospitals and people at least 65-years-old as of Thursday, marking roughly half of the vaccines Georgia has received so far, said state Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.
That’s far short of the 2 million Georgians now eligible for the vaccine who will need two doses each.
Gov. Brian Kemp said officials will move “as quickly as we can” to distribute vaccines if Georgia’s current allotment of 120,000 doses per week increases with the new president.
“I can’t control the supply we’re getting,” Kemp said at a news conference Thursday. “But if we get more … we will do everything in our power to empower not only the government, but also private-sector partners to get this vaccine in people’s arms.”
Biden, who was inaugurated Wednesday, has pledged to distribute 100 million vaccines over the next three months by using the federal Defense Production Act to spur vaccine production and setting up Federal Emergency Management Agency-run vaccination centers.
More than 1,600 clinics, pharmacies, doctors and groceries have signed up to administer vaccines in the month or so since Georgia’s rollout started, Toomey said. Their success depends on how much supply the federal government and manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna can muster in the coming weeks.
“This is a federal program,” Toomey said. “All the logistics are done at the federal level.”
Despite concerns, Kemp and Toomey said COVID-19 vaccines are now stocked enough to ensure Georgians already vaccinated once will be able to receive the necessary second dose for full inoculation. That’s due to a federal program making headway on vaccinating residents and staff in nursing homes through CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, Kemp said.
“These additional doses in the short term will allow existing providers and public-health departments at the county level to expand the number of appointments that they are currently scheduling,” Kemp said. “But our total supply … does not fulfill the demand from seniors and other at-risk eligible Georgians.”
Georgia’s vaccine rollout kicked off in mid-December at a slow pace, hindered by short supplies and an imbalance in demand between health-care workers in rural areas who have shown less zeal for vaccination than metro Atlanta hospital employees who have rushed to schedule appointments.
Meanwhile, deaths stemming from the highly contagious virus have ticked up in recent weeks, Kemp said. The grim news comes during spike in COVID-19 infections over the winter months that’s showing signs of a slowdown, Kemp said – but which is still hammering communities even harder than the devastating outbreaks of summer.
The governor urged Georgians Thursday to continue wearing masks, washing hands and keep distance from each other as fatigue over safety measures takes root nearly a year after the pandemic began.
“Our hospitals cannot handle another surge of COVID-19 patients on top of their current workload,” Kemp said. “This is not an all-clear signal. We’ve got to continue to keep our foot on the gas.”
More than 700,000 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia as of Thursday afternoon, with nearly more 150,000 more reported positive antigen tests indicating likely positive results. The virus has killed 11,511 Georgians.
Gwinnett County Public Schools to resume in-person learning Monday
Gwinnett County Public Schools students will be back in the classroom on Monday — if their parents opted for in-person learning, that is.
The school system announced on Friday that the district will resume in-person instruction on Monday for students whose families have selected that option.
The district did note that Tuesday, Jan. 26, is a scheduled Digital Learning Day for all students. It is one of four at-home asynchronous learning days this semester that will provide additional planning time for teachers, the district said.
- By Curt Yeomans firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday, meals will be available for curbside pick-up at schools, and, the district will deliver meals along all bus routes countywide, said Sloan Roach, Executive Director of Communications and Media Relations. Roach said families should expect buses to run their routes from approximately 10:45 a.m. to noon, beginning at the first stops on the route.
The district began the spring semester with both in-person and digital learning on Jan. 7. But as COVID numbers in the county increased, which also caused a shortage of teachers who either had COVID-19 or had been in contact with someone who had it, the district went to digital only learning for all students this past week (Jan. 19-22).
The issue of whether students should be back in the classroom was a major topic of debate at the Gwinnett County school board meeting on Thursday.
“Our children were, and are, fortunate enough to attend a fantastic elementary school in our little corner of Gwinnett County where the teachers love them, educate them and make them feel welcome every day,” one parent, Craig Martin, told the school board. “it’s because I care about the well-being of my children, as well as others in Gwinnett County, all of us are made in the image of God remember, that I strongly advocate for our schools to remain open for in-person and face-to-face learning.”
But, one educator, Anthony Downer, pointed to the death of Gwinnett County paraprofessional Maude Jones, who died from COVID-19 earlier this month. It is believed that Jones likely was exposed to the disease at the school she worked in.
“It is time we give teachers the choice to work from home,” he said. “I wish that were a choice our colleague, the late Mrs. Jones had.”
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