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All adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
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During a briefing with the Douglas County Board of Commissioners last week, Cobb & Douglas Public Health Deputy Director Lisa Crossman said her agency is capable of doing more vaccinations provided they get more vaccines.

Crossman’s staff may get that opportunity as Gov. Brian Kemp has opened eligibility up to more Georgians.

Kemp announced at a press conference Tuesday that all Georgians at least 16-years-old can now get the shot, starting today.

“We are capable and ready to do more,” Crossman said. “We are like kids at Christmas waiting on the side of the road for those deliveries every week.”

Kemp also announced that the state is set receive another boost in its weekly shipment of vaccines.

Kemp said the state received 450,000 doses this week.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. Those 18 and older can receive any of the three vaccines currently approved by the FDA including those made by Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson.

Kemp urged everyone eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“This is our ticket back to normal,” Kemp said. “We’re getting closer to that point every single day.”

So far, Georgia has distributed roughly 3.2 million vaccine doses to groups that have gradually become eligible since mid-December, including all residents ages 55 and older, health-care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders, judges, courtroom staff and people with physical, mental or behavioral health conditions.

Crossman said last week that about 15,500 Douglas County residents had gotten at least one shot.

The majority of the vaccinations at the county’s mass vaccine location at Arbor Place Mall has been given to county residents.

Kemp is scheduled to get his first vaccine dose on Friday, likely in Waycross, according to some media reports.

In an attempt to address some hesitancy, especially in rural areas, Kemp said he has been talking with former University of Georgia football star and Super Bowl champion Champ Bailey to spread awareness about the importance of receiving the vaccine.

“I just want to encourage everybody to get the vaccine,” Kemp said. “We’re seeing this across the country, but especially in the South, we’re seeing vaccine hesitancy. There should not be hesitancy. This is a medical miracle.”

Kemp said that 70% of the state’s weekly vaccine doses were sent to metro Atlanta sites, where the demand is higher.

“If you’re in the metro where demand continues to be high, we’ve got great options,” Kemp said.

Georgians can pre-register for a vaccine appointment at myvaccinegeorgia.com even if they do not yet qualify under the governor’s eligibility criteria. They will be notified once they qualify and scheduled for an appointment.

Douglas County residents can visit the CDPH website https://www.cobbanddouglaspublichealth.com/covid-vaccine/ or they can go directly to the DPH site to make an appointment at Arbor Place Mall/Sears Parking lot: https://gta-vras.powerappsportals.us/.

Many chain retail pharmacies including Kroger, Publix, Ingles, Walmart, Walgreens and local pharmacies including Premier Drugstore are also offering the vaccine and have their own appointment systems separate from the public health departments.

A report from Capitol Beat News Service was used in this article.

Douglasville renames baseball field in honor of Terry Harper
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Terry Harper was a little reluctant to sign up for a youth baseball team at the city of Douglasville baseball park growing up.

He was finally convinced by a friend, who didn’t want to be the only Black on the team, to give it a try.

Harper did, and ironically, a week later his friend discovered he was too old to play on the team.

Harper remained on the team, and would become a standout player growing up in Douglas County.

Drafted out of Douglas County High, Harper enjoyed a 20-year professional career, including seven seasons with the Atlanta Braves from 1980-86.

Last week, the city of Douglasville Parks and Recreation Department renamed a baseball field in his honor at Hunter Memorial Park.

“I was kind of surprised, it was not what I was expecting,” Harper said. “ I knew they were going to do something, but not to that extreme. I’m really overwhelmed.”

The renaming ceremony took place on Opening Day of the baseball season for the city’s parks and recreation department and was attended by Mayor Rochelle Robinson.

“We are so excited to be able to recognize local legend Terry Harper in this way,” said Douglasville Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Chris Bass. “He has had such an impact on baseball in our community and we thought it was only fitting that we rename a baseball field in his honor.”

Harper was accompanied by his family, including his wife, two daughters and a granddaughter.

Harper’s daughter, Asa, drove down from Charlotte to be a part of the ceremony.

“This is where it all got started for me,” said Harper, who played youth baseball for the Douglasville Rebels. “It was great having my family here. I’m big on family.”

Harper said he didn’t have a particular special memory of playing at the park, but just the long-lasting friendship he has with his former teammates and coach — Dennis Chandler.

“He was tough in a good way,” Harper said. “I’m still friends with him. The friends that I played with on that team, we still keep in touch. It has be friendships that have lasted a lifetime.”

Harper signed with the Atlanta Braves in 1973, and remained with the organization for 16 years as either a player or coach. He finished his nine year-run in the big leagues in Detroit and Pittsburgh.

After his playing days were over, Harper worked as a coach helping individuals and teams improve their hitting skills. He coached the Greenville Braves, Douglasville Bulls, and various youth and high school teams in the area.

Through his nonprofit organization — International Sports Connection — Harper has had an impact baseball internationally. Through this organization, Harper has been able to provide support to low-income youth baseball players in Douglas County, the Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean Islands.

“Baseball has been a big part of my life,” he said.

Homeless camp hailed as model program state
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Proposed legislation that would create homeless camps on public and private properties in the state was modeled after Douglas County’s homeless camp.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, introduced legislation that would send state dollars currently earmarked for building shelters and short-term housing to be used instead on so-called “structured camping facilities” for a city or county’s homeless population.

The plan was met with much debate during a General Assembly committee meeting last week.

Many homeless advocates praised the proposed legislation while opposers pointed out that money would be stripped from shelter-based programs to fund the new setup.

“There is no doubt this is a little out-of-the-box,” Dempsey told the state House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. “It’s creative [and] it’s a different way than we’ve done it.”

Charles Branson, vice chair of the Douglas County Homeless Coalition, called it a good start, but said finding stable housing is the key to eliminating homelessness.

“This is a temporary thing,” Branson said of the local camp. “Housing is first. It is the gold standard.”

Much like the set-up at the county’s Shinnah Haven, Dempsey’s bill calls for water, electrical outlets and bathrooms for a six month period for a homeless person. The facility would be reserved for those that are motivated to find work and secure permanent housing.

Branson said there are currently 18 men living in the Shinnah Haven, which has tents set up on pallets with a tarp over it. There is a solar panel, microwave, coffee maker and running water.

The men live under strict rules that prohibit drug use and alcohol consumption among other rules contained in three pages.

“It works out well,” Branson said. “We have had to put some people out. We try to provide something that is not a problem or embarrassment to the county. Most people only need to be there a short time as some are just coming out of jail.”

Superior Court Judge Beau McClain is a proponent for a state-wide program much like Shinnah Haven.

“We need to start this in the state of Georgia before [unsheltered homelessness] gets out of hand,” McClain said. “It’s practical to not bring these people to the [emergency room and] to not house them in jail. It’s a practical solution to the problem.”

In addition to the camps, Dempsey’s bill also proposes requiring cities with homeless populations larger than the state average to spend a chunk of state and federal grants to create outreach teams made up of police, social services workers and mental health professionals tasked with moving people from illegal street camps to sanctioned homelessness services.

Some homeless advocates say some camps, especially the larger ones in places like San Francisco, have done little to curb the homeless population.

Cathryn Marchman, chief executive officer for the group Partners for HOME, an Atlanta-based group, said sanitation problems have arisen from such camps.

Branson points out that the Douglas County camp is equipped for trash cans and enforces strict rules.

“It’s cleaner than any state park camp ground,” Branson said.

Lithia murder suspect in custody
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A teenager accused of murdering a man last week in Lithia Springs is in custody.

Nathanael Michael Searcy, 17, was arrested late Monday, Douglas County Sheriff’s Capt. Elmer Horn told the Sentinel.

Searcy is accused of killing 21-year-old Melvin Porter on March 16.

Porter’s body was discovered March 16 in the Silver Creek Ranch Subdivision in Lithia Springs by deputies responding to a reported vehicle collision and shots fired call, according to Lt. Col. Tavarreus Pounds.

Searcy is charged with murder, felony possession of marijuana, theft by receiving stolen property and possession of schedule I controlled substances, according to jail records. He was denied bond at his first court appearance and remains in the Douglas County jail.

Two other arrests were made previously in the case with associates of Searcy who were at the scene of the crime, Pounds said.

Kyle Girard, 18, was charged with party to a crime, possession of drug related objects, tampering with evidence and possession of marijuana less than an ounce. Abdulmujeeb Raji, 17, was charged with party to a crime. Both men were denied bond and remained in the Douglas County jail Wednesday.

Clarification on story about Armed Protest at Jail
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An article in the March 20-21 edition of the Sentinel headlined “Armed protesters force jail lockdown,” cites the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office identifying the protesters as members of the “Not F—— Around Coalition” or NFAC. The Grand Master Jay, supreme commander of NFAC Global, wrote in an email to the Sentinel after the article was published that “The NFAC had nothing to do with this protest.” He added that the protesters had “misrepresented themselves and are not NFAC affiliated nor was this an NFAC event.”