As local providers struggle to administer COVID-19 vaccines, Congressman David Scott said he is in Washington, D.C., “raising sand to get more” of it released.
Scott and a panel of healthcare experts provided information and answered questions during an hour-long telephone town hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Included on the panel was Cobb & Douglas Public Health Director Dr. Janet Memark.
“We can win this battle against this virus,” said Scott, Democrat whose congressional district includes all of Douglas County. “Wear your mask. We’ve got to attack this virus. I’m up here in Washington raising sand to get more released. We’ve got to mobilize it.”
Georgia is being shipped around 120,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines each week, Gov. Brian Kemp said earlier this week during a press conference.
Memark said CDPH is looking to vaccinate about 1,000 patients per day at each site once they have some up and running in Douglas County. CDPH opened its vaccination site at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta last week.
“If people get the shot, it is the best way to beat this pandemic,” she said.
“The good Lord gave us a blessing in this vaccine,” Scott said. “We’ve got to do more to get it in people’s arms.”
The panel of healthcare experts discussed the two vaccines — the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They said there isn’t much of a difference in the two.
Dr. Lynn Paxton, the district Health Director in Fulton County, said each vaccine calls for two shots. The Pfizer vaccine is done within a 21-day period and the Moderna has a 28-day period between doses.
“There is no difference in the immunity of the two,” she said. “You need to get the doses in the allotted time frame.
With the virus continuing to spike after the holidays, Memark said that parents and students should consider virtual learning.
“Schools have tried very hard to make school safe,” Memark said. “We really need to try our best to do what we know works, continuing to wear our masks, washing our hands and keeping our distance, but really I’m asking folks to not go out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Everybody has to look at their own situation. It has to be done on a case-by-case and school-by-school basis.”
Dr. Jeffrey Hines, an oncologist who serves as the medical director of Wellstar Health System’s Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity, noted that all members of the panel, including Scott, have received the vaccine.
He said that research is showing that African-Americans and Hispanics are a little hesitant about getting the shots.
“We have to educate on the importance of getting the vaccine,” Hines said. “Without the vaccine, it could have a devastating effect on these two communities. We are looking for trusted voices in those communities to help deliver the facts and some trusted information. The infrastructure is there from a testing standpoint.”
Dr. Collen Kelley, a principal investigator for Moderna’s Vaccine Trial, said researchers aren’t sure how long the immunity will last after getting the shot.
She added, however, that the outlook is “pretty good” that it will last for months.
“We will continue to follow the people that went through the trial experiment,” Kelley said.
Douglas County Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones rolled out new committee assignments in a late-night email to county commissioners.
Jones said after two years, it was time to make some changes in the committees. Not all of the commissioners accepted the new assignments.
“Committee assignments are rotated on an annual basis in both city and county governments, and it’s been two years since I’ve changed committee assignments,” Jones said in an email to the Sentinel. “In my opinion, change allows every member of the governing bodies to learn and engage in all aspects of local government and not just focus on one particular area.”
Under the new structure, Jones will sit on 15 of the 16 committees. She said this isn’t an indication that she is looking to have a bigger role in how the committees are run.
“Not necessarily because eight of the 16 committees meet twice a year and I am grateful for my fellow colleagues who chose to serve on the eight committees that meet monthly and understandingly respect the decisions of those who did not,” Jones said in the email.
Tarenia Carthan, who represents District 3, is the only commissioner that doesn’t have a committee assignment.
District 2 Commissioner Kelly Robinson, who chaired the finance committee, is now only on the transportation committee.
District 4 Commissioner Ann Jones Guider is now a member of the finance committee.
“It gives me a chance to give input right off the bat,” said Guider, the only Republican on the five-member BOC. “It gives me a chance to express my view.”
Guider has voted against the last two budgets that the BOC has passed.
She often clashes with other commissioners on budget issues.
“I’m conservative,” Guider said.
Joining Guider on the finance committee will be Jones, a newly-hired county administrator, county Finance Director Jennifer Hallman and the county’s chief financial advisor, David Corbin.
Guider might have an ally in Corbin.
“We usually agree on most things,” Guider said. “I will now have a voice from the get-go.”
Guider said she stepped down from the Fire/EMS committee with a new fire chief coming into the county.
At the conclusion of last week’s BOC meeting, Commissioner Henry Mitchell questioned Jones about the committee moves. He said they received a late-night email from Jones informing them of the moves.
“There was no conversation with us prior to the change,” Mitchell said. “She has the authority to make the move but we have the right to refuse the assignment.”
Mitchell said after a conversation with Jones, he retained the position on the previous three committees he served on.
“I’m pleased at where I’m at right now,” Mitchell said.
The Douglas County Travel and Tourism board of directors tabled the adoption of their 2021 budget during a meeting Wednesday morning.
DCTT President Dorsha Simmons suggested tabling the budget until some changes could be made. She said a special meeting will be called later to vote on the budget.
However, during the virtual meeting Wednesday, the board approved creating two contract positions.
A part-time administrative assistant position was approved with a $27,600 annual salary. The board also approved a three-month contractual social media position that will pay $12,000.
During the hour-and-half meeting, a budget was discussed that had money set aside to promote the county through radio and television advertising along with billboards near Columbus, Birmingham, Augusta, Brunswick, Rome and Macon.
The total cost of the signage is estimated at $52,859, which includes an one-time $950 installation fee.
There will be am advertisement at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
A new sign is budgeted for the old courthouse, which houses the county’s Museum of History and Art.
The board also approved the 2021 Exploration Challenge for Black History Month. It is a contest for visitors to explore the history and contributions that African-Americans have made to the county.
It will launch later this month in time for Black History Month, which is observed in February.
Last month when it passed its $98.7 million dollar budget, the county Board of Commissioners gave DCTT more control on how some of the county’s share of hotel/motel taxes are allocated.
The Douglas County Chamber of Commerce, Museum of History and Arts, and Cultural Arts Council Douglasville/Douglas County all have to apply to the DCTT board if they want to receive funds for the upcoming year that they previously received automatically from the county.
During the recent budget meetings, the BOC said it expects to take in about $840,000 in hotel and motel revenue. The county gets to keep $315,000 of that money and the rest will now go to DCTT.
The CAC, Chamber and museum can go before the DCTT to request some funding from the $525,000 it will receive from hotel/motel taxes.
Georgia’s Senate majority leader announced on Tuesday he tested positive for COVID-19 on the second day of the 2021 legislative session.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Carrollton Republican whose Senate district includes parts of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties, said in a statement that he received a positive test Tuesday morning after following COVID-19 standard testing protocol in the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta.
“My symptoms are minor, and I plan to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and isolate at home until the virus passes,” Dugan wrote. “I’m grateful for the staff at the Capitol who ensure all members are healthy and safe by performing these health screenings and I look forward to returning to my duties and working hard for the good people of the 30th district.
“I appreciate Georgia Tech and the innovative testing procedure they have produced. I had results prior to noticing any real symptoms.”
State lawmakers returned to Capitol building on Monday for the first day of the 2021 legislative session. While election reforms will be on the top of the priorities list, legislators will also deliberate on the upcoming state budget and tackle other issues, such as $2,000 teacher pay raises.
Dugan said lawmakers are required to get tested for the virus twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays during the legislative session, which typically lasts through March. Masks are mandated in both chambers and in all committee rooms.
He said despite his positive test, his absence will not impact the legislative session much this week. He was tested on Monday before experiencing any symptoms.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dugan told the Times-Georgian he has a “slight cold and dry throat,” but he can livestream his meetings online while he isolates for seven days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, for most people with COVID-19, isolation and social distancing precautions can be discontinued 10 days after symptoms start if the person has no fever for at least 24 hours.
He said he is unable to vote, but he plans to be back in time for state legislators to focus on Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget proposal next week.
In an interview with the newspaper last week, Dugan talked about the COVID-19 procedures that legislators will go through under the Gold Dome amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For example, the page program that allows middle and high school students to work as assistants to their elected officials in the Capitol is gone this year. The college intern program that gives these students credits for working during the session has also been scaled back, he said.
He added that, constitutionally, lawmakers cannot conduct the legislative session virtually because they are required to meet as a body in the Capitol building.
But Dugan said the General Assembly considered meeting at the World Congress Center in Atlanta and using the center’s event rooms to allow lawmakers to spread out. The building is a state-owned property and is on Capitol Hill, but he said the legislative session needs to be streamed online and the center presents limitations on video recording.
Another modification to the way Senate members will conduct business this year deals with how each legislator votes. Each senator has one minute to cast their vote, and Dugan said a vote tally will then come up. This is being modified so that legislators from different areas of the building can isolate rather than having each member sitting on the floor together.
“When they come to vote, they’ve got to come in the chamber,” Dugan said. “What we’re doing is we’re trying to filter them in areas that are spread out in the chamber. So, they can come in, vote on their machine and then go back out. The next group comes in and we leave the machine up until all the votes are counted.”