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DPH provides update on COVID-19 trends in Georgia

October 22, 2020 -  9:30 a.m.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is providing the following information regarding the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia:


COVID-19 Cases

· From 10/13 to 10/19, the seven-day average of new cases reported increased 3.8%.

  • The seven-day average of new cases reported is down 65% from our peak July 24.

  • As of Oct.13, there are 341,310 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and approximately 24,646 probable cases of COVID-19, most identified through antigen testing. (A probable case meets at least one of the following criteria: has a positive antigen test on a respiratory specimen; OR has not had a confirmatory COVID-19 test but has symptoms compatible with COVID-19 AND a known exposure to a COVID-19 case; OR the individual has died and the death certificate lists COVID-19 disease or SARS-CoV-2 as an underlying cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death.)


COVID-19 Testing


Georgia SPOCs

  • As of Oct. 19, the state reported 3,314,279 (cumulative) COVID-19, tests reported to DPH through Electronic Laboratory Reports (ELR).

  • The number of specimens collected at DPH SPOCs is 1,142,562

  • DPH is operating more than 220 SPOCs, including mobile and pop-up locations statewide.


Positivity Rate


The statewide percent positivity (7-day moving average) for PCR test increased from 5.7% on Oct.12 to 5.9% on Oct.19 or about 4%.



Daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 have decreased slightly from 1,325 on Oct.13 to 1314 on Oct. 20. Hospitalizations have decreased 59% since a daily high of 3,200 on July 30.


Emergency Department Visits

Emergency Department (ED) visits related to COVID-19 and ILI (influenza-like illness) have remained flat statewide over the two week period Oct. 3-16

The Georgia Department of Public Health monitors influenza (flu) activity year-round throughout the state with the help of volunteer sentinel healthcare providers. Influenza activity is calucated based on the percentage of provider visits that are for "influenza-like illness" (fever >100° F AND cough and/or sore throat). Click on this link to see the Flu Surveillance Report.

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COVID-19 Cases Among K-12 School Aged Children*



Oct.11-17: 93 (decrease of 3 from previous week)      

These outbreaks are occurring in settings where people are physically congregating and underscore the need for physical distancing and source control. The highest number of outbreaks occurred in schools, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities and workplaces.


Counties with High Transmission Indicators*

*By county of residence, report reflects Oct. 3-16


For updates on COVID-19, follow @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Facebook.


For information about COVID-19, visit or

counties with high transmission indicato

Annual Unity Run to be held as a virtual race this year

October 7, 2020 -  6:00 a.m.

The UNITY RUN 5K will look a little different this year. With COVID-19 affecting how we plan our day-to-day, we have decided to hold the 27th race virtually this year, which will take place November 23 - December 7, 2020.  A virtual race is a lot like a traditional 5K. You can run/jog/walk on the road, on the trail, on the treadmill, or at the gym. You can run your own race, at your own pace and when it is convenient for you! 


Want to run in the race? Registration opens Friday, October 9, 2020. Register online at Please note that we are not timing or submitting race times this year – it will be more of a fun-run instead of a competitive race. We will have awards, and categories will be announced soon.   


It’s also a great way to encourage socially-distanced team building for your company- which is why we need your help! If you are able to sponsor the race, you will receive exposure throughout the Northwest Georgia area. Your company logo/name will be displayed on t-shirts, signage, and all social media outlets!  

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All sponsors will have their company logo and name printed on 1,000+ t-shirts and will receive social media exposure leading up to the race.  


Platinum Sponsor:  $2,000.00 

  • Finish Line Sponsor on Designated Routes (We will have a 5K route mapped out at the Gordon County Recreation Department and The City of Calhoun Recreation Department)

  • Unity Run sponsor sign placed in front of business 

  • Company name and logo on the front and back of 1,000+ t-shirts

  • 20 Free race registrations valued at $500.00


Gold Sponsor:  $1,000.00

  • Unity Run sponsor sign placed in front of business location

  • Company name and logo on the back of 1,000+ t-shirts

  • 10 Free race registrations valued at $250.00


 Silver Sponsor $500.00

  • Company name on the back of 1,000+ t-shirts

  • 7 Free race registrations valued at $175.00


Bronze Sponsor: $200.00

  • Company name on the back of 1,000+ t-shirts

  • 2 Free race registrations valued at $50.00


Please note that sponsorship forms are due by November 2, 2020. You can find the sponsorship form on our website at 


I would also like to thank Engineered Floors for designing the race t-shirt and logo for the event this year! The new logo will be revealed in the coming weeks! Every year we ask a different United Way Corporate Partner to help design the logo for the race. Not only does the race signify our campaign efforts, it also highlights those who give to United Way all year long.


This time of year is also one of the most exciting at United Way. I am able to witness the collective power of what your donations can do. If you are able or would like to set up a payroll deduction campaign at your company or explore individual giving, please email Jennifer Latour at


Change starts with you. Give today.


Jennifer Latour is the Executive Director of United Way of Gordon County.

Election day is now for those who have requested absentee ballots or next week when early voting starts. In addition to voting for President, we will get to decide on two amendments to the Georgia Constitution and vote in one state referendum on Nov. 3.


I have received a number of requests to explain the three decisions to be made. And as a lady said last night, Rick, make it so I can understand it.


The two constitutional amendments on the ballot are based on resolutions that passed the Georgia Senate and Georgia House of Representatives. The resolution for Amendment 1 passed the Georgia House 164-4 and the Senate 53-0. The resolution for Amendment 2 passed the House 164-0 and the Senate 50-0.

Two amendments to Georgia Constitution, state referendum on ballot this election

October 6, 2020 -  12:00 p.m.

Rick Jasperse.jpg
Rep. Rick Jasperse 
R - Jasper. District 11

Amendment One: Changes the state constitution to allow fees and fines charged for certain purposes to also be dedicated to those purposes.


I heard about this issue a lot as I sat beside the author of the bill the late Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla). He had worked on this issue for 6 or 8 years trying to find a resolution to making sure the fees that were collected went where they were intended. He said it was a bait and switch because many times the dollars were used to fund something else or to balance the budget. When you looked into it, we didn’t have the authority to do it, all money went to the general fund and then had to be budgeted specifically into the correct program. The only way to fix it was to amend the constitution.


The most well-known fee, for tire disposal, has been in place since 1990. Though the fee was envisioned as helping to clean up tire dumps around the state – and most Georgians paying the fee may think it’s being used for that purpose – no law regulates how that money can be spent.  The tire disposal fee money has been used by the state for other purposes over the years. Other fees that will be affected include fees that are meant for Hazardous Waste Sites clean up, Landfill Cleanup, Drivers Education, Law Enforcement training.


If approved, the amendment allows the Georgia General Assembly to pass laws that would specify exactly how these specialty fees can be spent. Any law setting up these special funds, however, would have to receive a 2/3 majority in each chamber to become law. The fee designation laws would also automatically expire after ten years unless renewed.


The fees could be diverted if the state is in a financial emergency.


I did some research and I saw no opposition to this measure.


Amendment Two:  This measure would waive the state's sovereign immunity protection, thereby allowing residents to seek declaratory relief through the superior courts from state or local laws that are found to violate the U.S. Constitution, state Constitution, or state law.


So, what is Sovereign immunity? Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine in which the government cannot be sued without its express consent. It also imposes special rules and timelines for citizens who file suit against county governments, school systems, and the state.


The amendment only applies to lawsuits alleging a government action is unconstitutional or against state law. While it allows Georgians to sue to STOP the unconstitutional action, it doesn’t allow the award of monetary judgements, court costs, or attorneys fees. It also does not expand the ability for any lawsuits to be brought against the state or a local government as a result of a negligent act.


If the amendment passes, suits must be filed against the state or the local government – city or county.  The suits can name individual government employees or agencies. The waiver of immunity will only apply to actions taking place on or after Jan. 1, 2021.


Research showed no opposition to this measure.


Statewide Referendum:  This is a state-wide ballot question, not a constitutional change. This question applies to organizations like Habitat for Humanity and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charities that own property for the purpose of building or repairing homes. If approved, it would make the property owned by the charities exempt from property taxes if the property is owned exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes, and if the charity also finances its own interest-free loans to the owners of those homes.


Research showed no opposition to this measure.


I hope this helped you make a decision. If you want to have more information, I have a summary from the Secretary of State that has the entire bill, question, and a legal explanation.  Please call or email me at 770-893-2039 or at


Thank you for allowing me to serve you as your State Representative.

DPH Provides Update on COVID-19 Trends in Georgia

September 24, 2020 -  5:30 p.m.

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is providing the following information regarding the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia:


COVID-19 Cases*

  • From 9/14 to 9/21, the seven-day average of new cases reported remained flat.

  • The seven-day average of new cases reported is down 53.6% from our peak July 24.

confirmed covid cases.jpg



  • As of Sept. 21, the state reported more than 2.7 million COVID-19 tests.

  • The number of specimens collected at DPH SPOCs has topped 1 million (1,012,393).

  • DPH is operating 180+ SPOCs, including mobile and pop-up locations statewide.



Positivity Rate


The statewide positivity rate (7-day moving average) for PCR testing has increased from 8.1% on 9/7/20 and 7.7% on 9/14/20 to 10.3% on 9/21/20.

Note: The Georgia Department of Public Health is in the process of onboarding many new facilities to our Electronic Laboratory Reporting (ELR) system. This will allow more timely and efficient reporting of COVID-19 test results, including negative and positive results, which will also improve the quality of data reporting on the Daily Status Report.

During the onboarding process, there may be days where the number of daily positive tests and positivity rates will be artificially inflated. This is due to a backlog of tests now being reported through ELR all at once, the majority of results previously reported by the provider or laboratory through other means.

DPH’s data quality team reviews cases and positive test results daily to ensure there is no duplication in reporting, however, the process takes longer when we receive a large number of positive test results at one time – which are in addition to the regularly reported daily number of positive test results we receive from facilities statewide. 

The most recent example of this was reflected in counties in NE Georgia. This will also happen in other areas of the state as more facilities are added to ELR. To help clarify the numbers, we have added a feature to the Daily Status Report that indicates the date of specimen collection. If there are large numbers of positive tests on a given day, the graph showing the date of specimen collection can be used to identify when testing actually occurred. Cases can be shown by symptom onset date for additional clarification.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are specific to individuals. People with a positive test often get retested and may test positive multiple times. These repeat positive tests will be counted as new positive tests, but they will not be reported as new cases.




Daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 have decreased from 1,533 on Sept. 14 to 1,415 on Sept. 21, or a decrease of 7.7% in the past week. Hospitalizations have decreased 55.7% since a daily high reported July 30 of 3,200.


Emergency Department Visits

Emergency Department (ED) visits related to COVID-19 and ILI (influenza-like illness) have remained flat over the two week period Sept. 5-18.

COVID ER visits.jpg

Daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 have decreased from 1,533 on Sept. 14 to 1,415 on Sept. 21, or a decrease of 7.7% in the past week. Hospitalizations have decreased 55.7% since a daily high reported July 30 of 3,200.


Emergency Department Visits

Emergency Department (ED) visits related to COVID-19 and ILI (influenza-like illness) have remained flat over the two week period Sept. 5-18.

COVID-19 Cases Among K-12 School Aged Children*

COVID school age kids.jpg


Sept. 13-19: 96     (Sept. 6-12: 93)

These outbreaks are occurring in settings where people are physically congregating and underscore the need for physical distancing and source control. The highest number of outbreaks occurred in schools, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities and workplaces.

COVID outbreaks.png

Counties with High Transmission Indicators*

COVID outbreak counies.jpg

*By county of residence, report reflects weeks Sept. 5-18


For updates on COVID-19, follow @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Facebook.


For information about COVID-19, visit or

Sheriff Ralston pens letter of thanks

September 17, 2020 -  5:00 p.m.

Around midnight, September 6th/7th, the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office experienced the nightmare scenario that every sheriff dreads: “a deputy has been shot.” A lookout had been received for a trailer stolen from Hamilton County, Tennessee which resulted in 2 Whitfield County deputies stopping the vehicle/trailer on Interstate 75 near the Whitfield County/Gordon County line. The driver of the vehicle, identified as Dalton Lee Potter (of Texas), viciously and without provocation shot Deputy Sheriff Darrell ‘Chip’ Hackney. Deputy Hackney was struck in his body armor, which undoubtedly spared him more serious injury and quite possibly saved his life. Deputy Hackney and his partner, Deputy Adrian Gomez, both returned fire as the suspect vehicle sped away. A short chase ensued before the suspect vehicle crashed on I-75 just south of Nance Springs overpass, even closer to the county line. Potter and his accomplice, identified as Jonathan Hosmer (already a fugitive from Texas) fled into the heavy undergrowth of the woods in the Carbondale/Resaca area.


Along with officers from other state and local law enforcement agencies, my deputies and I responded to the shooting scene. An intensive manhunt then ensued which was continued on a 24/7 for almost 3 days. Deputies from Whitfield and Gordon swarmed into the area aided by federal, state and other local officers. Round-the-clock patrols and checkpoints were maintained on all the roadways. The State Patrol Aviation Unit searched from the air and K9 tracking teams and officers mounted on ATV’s searched the ground. Most of the terrain was steep, rugged, heavily overgrown and/or swampy. Hot and humid conditions, typical of Georgia summer, persisted throughout, draining the officers burdened with heavy gear of strength. Fortunately, Potter’s accomplice Jonathan Hosmer was arrested by Whitfield County deputies near Cabondale Tuesday morning.

The manhunt continued unabated, throughout a very large area of South Whitfield County/North Gordon County until Wednesday afternoon. At about 4:30 p.m., 911 calls were received that a man had been shot at a Cline Road address. The investigation revealed that a local citizen, Mr. Eddie Cloer was going about his business in his own yard when the fugitive Potter, again in a most cowardly and unprovoked manner, shot Mr. Cloer in the back a number of times. Mr. Cloer, himself armed, was able to return fire, wounding Potter in the head. Potter fled to another home and invaded it before returning to a hiding place in the woods. Suffering greatly from his injuries, Mr. Cloer managed to call for help and report the incident to authorities before collapsing.

Over 175 peace officers from at least 26 different jurisdictions poured into the area as the search for Potter intensified. The GSP helicopter returned to the air as officers created a tight cordon which stretched for several miles through the vicinity of Hyde Road, Midway Road, Cline Road and Bandy Lake Road. K9 and ground teams took to the woods as officers continued to arrive to help. Darkness fell and the search became even more intensive. At approximately 10:30 p.m., Potter was located hiding in a swampy, overgrown area near Bandy Lake by a team of officers acting in support of a K9 Unit. Without the advantage of surprise and deception, Potter did not resist the officers and was apprehended peacefully. He is now residing along with his accomplice in the Whitfield County Jail, charged with the shooting of Deputy Hackney and a host of other offenses. Warrants have also been issued here in Gordon County charging Potter with the assault against Mr. Cloer and a variety of other crimes.

I apologize to the ordinary people in the Carbondale and Resaca areas for the disruption of their lives on a holiday weekend, but our actions, though inconvenient, were necessary and we had your best interests at heart. Each of you are the reason we serve.

eartfelt thanks to all the citizens of both counties who gave us leads and information, you are our eyes and ears.

I would like to commend Mr. Cloer for his personal bravery, and add that his actions were not only heroic, but substantially aided in Potter’s apprehension.

I also want to personally thank and commend each and every peace officer, local state and federal, involved in the arduous manhunt for a criminal considered “armed and very dangerous.” It takes a special person to go into dark woods to hunt down a vicious criminal with no regard for laws for lives. I recognize and praise your bravery. The concern and dedication you displayed and your rapid, unquestioning response in the face of danger speaks well of each of you, reflecting brightly on your respective agencies. I specially realize the valor above the call of duty of Deputy Sheriffs Hackney and Gomez, as well as the individual heroism of Mr. Eddie Cloer.

I also want to thank all of fire/rescue, emergency management, and emergency medical personnel who worked so tirelessly in support of this operation. You all are a credit to public service. A special thanks to Chief Tony Pyle and the Calhoun Police who not only provided officers on the ground, but answered 911 calls countywide to assist my Office.

The assistance rendered and the level of cooperation between so many agencies was both overwhelming and humbling.

Lastly, thanks and congratulations to my own staff. It is an honor to lead you in the service of Gordon County.

I apologize in advance if I have overlooked any agency, entity, business or individual who played a role in all of this. Individually you know the part you played and the service you provided.

Thank you most sincerely and God Bless you all.

  • Sheriff Scott Chitwood and the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office

  • Sheriff Gary Langley and the Murray County Sheriff’s Office

  • Sheriff Mark Schrader and the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office

  • Sheriff Clark Millsap and the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office

  • Sheriff Tim Burkhalter and the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office

  • Sheriff Steve Wilson and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office

  • Sheriff Butch Conway and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office (stand by)

  • Sheriff Terry Langley and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office (stand by)

  • Calhoun Police

  • Fairmount Police

  • Dalton Police

  • White Police

  • Tunnel Hill Police

  • Lafayette Police

  • Cohutta Police

  • Chatsworth Police

  • Floyd County Police

  • Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force

  • United States Federal Bureau of Investigation/FBI Aviation Unit

  • United States Marshals Service

  • Georgia State Patrol/GSP SWAT/GSP Aviation

  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation

  • Georgia Department of Corrections/DoC K9s

  • Georgia Department of Community Supervision

  • Georgia Department of Homeland Security

  • Georgia Department of Natural Resources

  • Georgia Communications Authority

  • Hamilton County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office

  • Rhea County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office

  • Real County, Texas Sheriff’s Office

  • Gordon County Sheriff’s Auxiliary

  • Gordon County EMA

  • Whitfield County EMA

  • Gordon County E911

  • Whitfield County E911

  • Catoosa County EMA

  • Gordon County Fire & Rescue

  • Whitfield County Fire Department

  • Gordon County EMS

  • Hamilton EMS

  • Whitfield County Building and Grounds

  • Whitfield County Public Works

  • City of Chattanooga Mobile Communications Service

  • Chaz Acree Family

  • McKee Foods

  • Bob’s Wrecker Service

  • Chick-fil-A Calhoun

  • Chick-fil-A Dalton

  • Jerusalem Grille

  • Big John’s Treat Shoppe

  • Circle K (Carbondale)

  • Dr. Jeff Richmond, Animal Hospital (stand by)

  • Dr. Mike Wilson, AOSM (stand by)

Most Gratefully and Sincerely,

And on behalf of Sheriff Scott Chitwood, Whitfield County

Sheriff Mitch Ralston

DPH Provides Update on COVID-19 Trends in Georgia

September 9, 2020 -  9:30 a.m.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is providing the following information regarding the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia:


Positive Indicators

COVID-19 Cases

  • From 9/1 to 9/8, the seven-day average of new cases reported decreased 11.7%.

  • The seven-day average of new cases reported is down 48% from our peak July 24.

  • The highest % of case numbers still come from the high population counties in metro Atlanta (Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb have the highest case numbers, as before) but these counties continue to experience decreases in case numbers.




  • As of Sept. 8, the state reported over 2.5 million COVID-19 tests.

  • DPH is operating 180+ SPOCs, including mobile and pop-up locations statewide.

  • The number of specimens collected at DPH SPOCs has now passed 946,000.

  • The mega-testing site at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International airport will close Friday, Sept. 11.


  • Positivity Rate

  • The positivity rates (7-day moving average) for PCR testing have decreased from 10.1% on 8/24/20 to 8.9% on 8/31/20 to 8.2% on 9/8/20. Despite overall testing numbers decreasing statewide, the positivity rate also continues to decrease.



Daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 have decreased 13.4% since Sept. 1. Hospitalizations have decreased 48.2% since a daily high of 3,200 July 30.

COVID-19 Cases Among K-12 School Aged Children*

Areas of Concern

Outbreaks Aug. 30 - Sept. 5: 82

These outbreaks are occurring in settings where people are physically congregating and underscore the need for physical distancing and source control.

For updates on COVID-19, follow @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Facebook. For information about COVID-19, visit or

COVID school age children.jpg

DPH and Governor Kemp ask Georgians to follow four things this Labor Day Weekend and through the Fall

September 4, 2020 - 1:30 p.m.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and Governor Kemp are encouraging Georgians to have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend while following Four Things for Fall COVID-19 prevention measures. Wear a face covering in public. Stay 6 feet away from others. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. And follow the public health guidance outlined in Governor Kemp’s Executive order.


One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid large gatherings, even those held outdoors. People who do not know they are infected can still spread COVID-19 to others who then continue the spread by infecting their household or their community. The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.


It is also important to remember that face coverings or masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Face coverings prevent the droplets produced by talking, coughing, or sneezing from leaving one person and infecting another. Wearing a face covering or mask is about protecting your neighbors, friends, relatives and other members of your community, especially those at high-risk. Face coverings and social distancing together provide the best protection for you and those around you.

In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have decreased in Georgia. By following the Four Things for Fall prevention measures, the downward trends can continue and we won’t see a surge of new infections like those that followed Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.


As a fifth measure, it is also a good time to get a flu vaccination.


“This year it is more important than ever to get a flu shot,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “We want to protect people from getting the flu and prevent our  health care providers and hospitals from being overburdened with flu and COVID-19 patients.”


Many DPH test sites will be open over the holiday weekend, but are operating with reduced hours. Be sure to check the website of your local health department for hours or log on to and click on COVID-19 Testing from more information.


For more information about COVID-19 or


August 18, 2020-  1:30 p.m.

Effective Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 3 p.m., there will be several improvements to the COVID-19 Daily Status Report on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) website. These changes are designed to make the dashboard more user-friendly while providing an accurate picture of COVID-19 in Georgia.


The changes to the Daily Status Report will include:


  • Map changes:

The way you choose which maps to view has changed. You are now able to choose the map you would like to view as well as change the date being viewed. In addition, % PCR positive lab data have been added. To use the new features:

o   Choose ”Cases,” Testing” or “Deaths,” then use the drop-down menu to choose cumulative “Cases,” “Cases per 100K,” ”Deaths,” “Deaths per 100K,” “% Positive,” or data for the ”Last two weeks.” On the map, you can hover or click to find out additional details such as number of deaths, hospitalizations, case rate, etc. Selecting a county will also update the cases over time charts.

o   By clicking on the date above the map, you can select a past date to see historic maps, using the current color scale.

  • Two maps have been added to reflect percent positive PCR by county

    • “% Positive Last two weeks”: Reflects the percent positive PCR tests reported through ELR by county during the last two weeks.

    • % Positive Overall”: Reflects the cumulative percent positive PCR tests reported through ELR by county.

  • “COVID-19 Over Time” now has the option to select total PCR tests and percent positive PCR tests.

  • A link has been added to access Georgia hospital capacity and current COVID-19 hospitalization data:


For updates on COVID-19, follow @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Facebook.


For information about COVID-19, visit or

State School Superintendent Richard Woods on return to school concerns

August 7, 2020-  12:00 p.m.

“As the school year begins, schools across our state are working hard to serve students, whether virtually or in-person. They are implementing intensive protocols to keep their students, teachers, and staff safe and I am deeply appreciative of their efforts.

We have heard concerns in these opening days that I wish to address. First, we have received many questions about hallway transitions and class changes. Our reopening guidelines developed in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health lay out strategies schools can use to limit the number of students congregating during transitions, including staggered class changes and hallway flow paths. While these are recommendations and not mandates, we do strongly suggest that schools consider implementing these strategies.

Additionally, while the use of face coverings/masks is not mandated by the state, it is strongly recommended in settings where social distancing is difficult to accomplish – including hallway transitions. Local school districts do have the authority to require face coverings as part of their dress code policy.

We have also heard concerns about students disciplined for sharing photos taken at school. To be very clear, discipline decisions are constitutionally the purview of local boards of education. With that said, I want to encourage our districts and schools to operate with transparency, and to ensure that students and staff are not penalized for expressing their concerns.

I recognize that this situation is brand-new for everyone navigating it. We are forging this path together, and the Georgia Department of Education continues to stand in support of Georgia’s school leaders, teachers, students, parents, and families.”

Gordon County Schools approves FY2021 budget; discusses school reopening at Tuesday meeting

July 28, 2020 -  6:30 p.m.

No one showed up on Tuesday to speak before the Board of Education concerning the proposed FY2021 Budget, where the Board voted 6-0 approving the budget for the upcoming school year.

The budget passed shows expenditures from the General Fund in the amount of $ 61,548,353, with revenues for the General Fund coming in about $3 million under that at $58,224,974. With $17.7 million in reserves, if the school system is not able to find ways to cut from the budget during the year, as in the past, they will be able to use money from the reserves to balance the budget. That will leave a reserve balance of $14,376,621 at the end of the fiscal year.

BOE 2019 (1).png

After the budget was passed, the Board went into a discussion on the re-opening of schools. Gordon County Schools is set to reopen on Wednesday, Aug. 12.


“We’ve been planning for August 12 to start school,” said Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Fraker. “We are still on track for that. I share with you (the Board) in each of our meetings, and sometimes in between, the preparations we are making.


“We ended up with about ten-and-a-half percent of our students deciding to stay totally online (learning), so we switched around some teaching staff to serve our elementary students, then we have a program-based curriculum for grades six through twelve with some teacher support to make sure the students stay on track” said Fraker.


“Also, I’ve visited with each principal to see the visible changes in their schools, and I think it’s important that we reiterate that this won’t look like school looked when we got out in March,” said Fraker. “Our process and procedures are very different; our attention the first few days of school will be totally on teaching students new processes and procedures, especially in the transitions we have, the cafeterias and how we set up the classrooms to offer as much social distancing as possible. I’ve been very pleased with each one of our schools and the work the principals have done, with their staffs, to mark things. It’s very much like when you go to a store; we have things marked six feet apart. Also in the cafeteria, certain seats are marked that you can sit in and ones marked that you can’t. We will also be using classrooms as well for lunches; they will rotate. You may not get to have lunch every day in the cafeteria. Recess has been worked out. They have put a lot of thought and consideration into (the procedures). When you walk in the buildings, it feels very different. It will be very different. We are intentionally teaching students things about health and safety, and that’s the concentration for the first part of school before we start easing into transitions and how we do things.


“We have videos that will be released this week that show how to ride the bus safely, the importance of masks when you cannot socially distance, what classrooms look like, how we’re cleaning. We’re just real appreciative of the work everyone has put into this and the focus on safety,” said Fraker.


Fraker told the Board that the Calhoun-Gordon County COVID-19 Task Force has been very supportive of both school systems opening, and shared all concerns they had so they could be addressed.


“We know that numbers have been up recently,” said Fraker, saying that the Task Force has given guidance into reopening plans, which is still planned for Aug. 12.


Board member Eddie Hall began discussion on the reopening, asking what the rush was in opening on Aug. 12.


“I looked at the reports from (Gordon County) EMA just for the month of July, and I only counted five or six days where we haven’t had double-digit increases each day,” said Hall. “(There’s) probably somewhere between 500 and 600 new cases just in the month of July. Are we trying to do too much too soon? I think social distancing is good, but I think we’ve all witnessed, if we’re honest, when you put people together, that breaks down pretty quickly. I would like to see a decline in numbers before we bring our kids back to soon, but it’s just my opinion. I think that many cases is a big number to look at when sending our kids to school.”


Board member Bobby Hall said that he felt the numbers will still be high in September, so there was no reason to put off the start of the school year.


“I think September is going to be just as bad as it is right now,” said Bobby Hall. “The only difference in March, and starting school in August is we’re more prepared to have the cleaning done. If we stop now where we’re at, we’ve got to redo our whole calendar. The teachers cannot get out for extra time to pull the classrooms back together. It would mess up the whole school and I can’t support that. I can only support this superintendent that made every preparation (for the return to school) and our teachers, not all of them, but 90 percent of our teachers are ready to go back to school.”


“I will say I don’t have the numbers right in front of me, but every meeting that we have, and there’s a meeting every week with Department of Public Health for our region and our local EMA and hospital, and no one has said ‘Don’t go back, you can’t go back. It isn’t advisable.’ Everyone has been very supportive. We’ve followed the guidelines the CDC has put out. We put together a chart of school systems that are on the weekly call for our regional group, and what their plans were for opening. I do know we are all starting back around the same time. We’ve all been in contact with the Department of Public Health. If anyone had said along the way, ‘Don’t do this,’ then we would’ve gone in a different direction,” said Fraker.


Fraker told the Board that the system has asked for more data on students and COVID-19, because they want to see more data on that age group, but haven’t been able to receive it yet.


“We still keep looking for more data,” said Fraker. “So we really rely on our local group and our regional group as far as our decision to return (to school). As far as waiting, I just don’t know what the future will be, and we do feel like the teachers need to see their students and re-establish that connection in school and how we can serve them.”


“I think from a medical standpoint, I don’t think we can fault anyone for asking; people are scared and looking at the numbers, we are worse than we were in March when we shut down,” said Board member Dana Stewart. “Truly the only way we’re going to come through this is through herd immunity or a vaccination. We all know a vaccination is months away, next year. Herd immunity is we all get (COVID) at some point, we don’t know when that will take place. I work in the medical field and I’m very appreciative of all the work the (system) has done. We are seeing an uptick in cases. I think we just have to have a plan, and it sounds like (the system) does, because it’s inevitable; once we get all these kids in one building, we’re going to have cases. We’ve just got to have a plan how we handle that. It would surprise me if we didn’t shut down after a couple of months into school just because of how fast things spread. I think we just have to have that plan in place, and lots of prayer.”


“I do want to offer that we brought all 12-month employees on June 9 and were very successful in bringing our staff back. And of course, with GHSA’s return to sports and conditioning process and the way we started with smaller groups of children, and now we’re up to groups of 50 working together and also offering a couple of camp-type situations. It’s been very successful, so far, with the groups we’ve been bringing back together, which I really applaud our coaches, our schools and our sponsors of those opportunities for students because it’s a tribute to them they’re doing things the right way as far as screening people, having hand sanitizer, emphasizing hand washing and using the masks,” said Fraker.


Board Chair Charlie Walraven then asked Fraker if any students or staff had contacted COVID-19.


“We’ve had two staff members, but one was earlier in May, when we had a school nutrition staff member (test positive) and we had a central office staff member since this started,” said Fraker.


“Is there a point, if we have a breakout at school, we say ‘this school has too many cases?’ Do we have a number in mind?” asked Board member Jason Hendrix.


“We don’t have a number, it’s just us working with the Department of Public Health and they would advise us if we’re at the point where we need to close down,” said Fraker. “We’ve also talked about how it might be a classroom; we would work case by case with the Department of Public Health.”


Fraker said they are encouraging teachers to wear masks as well.


Fraker reiterated that the first few days back will be intentional teaching about safety.


“Do we have any teachers who have tested positive who are not going to be able to start when school starts,” asked Board member Kacee Smith.


“I’ve been notified of a couple, and both of them should be back at the start of school,” said Fraker. “I’ve not been notified of anyone yet that will not be here in the beginning.”


The Board then voted to approve the re-opening of school on August 12, with Bobby Hall, Kacee Smith, Jason Hendrix, Dana Stewart and Charlie Walraven voting for the start of school. Eddie Hall was the lone vote against starting school on August 12.


The next meeting of the Gordon County Board of Education is set for Monday, Aug. 10, at 6:15 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Gordon County College and Career Academy on Beamer Road.

Gordon County COVID-19 Task Force gives update

July 28, 2020 -  3:30 p.m.

We want to take this time to let our citizens know that Gordon County, Calhoun and leadership and public safety from all municipalities, school systems, faith-based organizations, and non-profits continue to work alongside each other to address issues relevant to COVID-19 within our community by communicating daily and holding bi-weekly meetings. These bi-weekly meetings serve as tools to make sure we are all collaborating together to stay up to date on our current situation as well as that around our nation. We also monitor numbers daily to include increases of cases and deaths both statewide and in Gordon County as well as numbers from our local hospitals on COVID-19 cases, bed availability, and ventilator availability.


The Calhoun Gordon County COVID-19 Task Force met on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, to review historical and current Gordon County numbers. Over the past month, confirmed cases have risen. “We knew that numbers would increase when business and industry started opening up. The Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends saw many gatherings across the community which could’ve also contributed to some spread of the virus. Much of this increase is due to increased testing in our community as well as persons testing multiple times with positive results,” stated Jim Ledbetter, County Administrator.

While the majority of those impacted with COVID-19 do not require hospitalization, AdventHealth continues to manage the increase in patients under their care, much like they do during flu season. Officials reminded the group that the hospital and intensive care unit is built to support the needs of the community. At this time approximately 20% of all patients admitted to the hospital are due to COVID-related illnesses and not all of those are Gordon County residents as AdventHealth serves our regional needs. “As of July 28, sixteen persons are hospitalized with COVID-19 and this number has not risen above 21 at any given time,” stated Garrett Nudd, Director of Marketing and Communications. The number fluctuates multiple times a day as patients are discharged and new patients are admitted. “We are confident in our ability to care for the needs of our community and are appreciative of the local task force and our community partners,” Garrett shared.

“As schools prepare to reopen, it is important to reinforce the CDC guidance and to encourage all of our community members to be diligent in their efforts to wash hands frequently, cover coughs, social distance and wear a mask. The Governor has made it clear that he feels that we do not need a mandate to do the right thing. As responsible citizens and leaders in our community, we agree. We need to hold each other accountable to do the right thing and wear a mask when it is not feasible to social distance and we also need to continue these best practices at home,” stated Paul Worley, City Administrator. School leaders expressed their gratitude for the COVID Task Force and community partners who have donated supplies and assisted with reopening efforts.

We will continue to monitor numbers daily and do all that we can to keep our citizens safe. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have worked diligently to try and stay ahead of this virus as a team here in Gordon County. If you do feel you need to be tested the Gordon County Health Department located at 310 North River Street in Calhoun is doing free daily testing Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. No appointment is needed for this testing and you will remain in your car to be tested.

The next meeting of the Gordon County COVID Task Force is scheduled for Tuesday, August 11th at 9:00 a.m.

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