Cobb health officials ask for patience with COVID vaccine

Cobb health officials COVID vaccine
Lisa Crossman, assistant director, Cobb and Douglas Public Health

Cobb public health officials said Tuesday they understand public frustrations over distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, but asked for patience as they work to improve an online appointment booking program and to get more shipments of the vaccine.

During a virtual town hall held by Cobb County Government, Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health, repeated remarks she made to county commissioners last week that “there’s not enough vaccine to meet the demand that we have.”

She also said she’s hopeful that by the time appointments for vaccines for next week are opened on Friday afternoon, that the health agency’s webpage that handles those bookings will be able to meet that high demand.

“We’re looking to move the site to another server” for appointments, she said.

(You can watch the full town hall at the bottom of this post.)

This is the second week people age 65 and older have been able to sign up for the vaccines, which are being given in a drive-through format at Jim Miller Park.

But the site crashed almost as soon as it was launched, and appointments were booked in just a matter of minutes.

In Georgia, only 80,000 vaccines are being distributed a week to a variety of public and private providers.

Cobb and Douglas Public Health has been providing several hundred vaccinations a week, with a goal of being able to get to around 1,200 or so, Memark said.

“We’re hoping that the federal government will be able to send more vaccines,” she said. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

Lisa Crossman, the health agency’s assistant director, said there are 1,700 providers around the state, and urged residents to contact a variety of potential sources that may have vaccines, including their own physicians, pharmacies and employers.

Cobb residents don’t have to get a vaccine in the county, and the Georgia Department of Public Health has provided a vaccination locator that is being updated.

Phase 1A+ of the vaccine distribution in Georgia also includes caregivers of those who are 65 and older.

Memark said only one caregiver per eligible senior will be allowed to register to get the vaccine.

She also said her agency is beginning community outreach to provide vaccines for those who cannot come to Jim Miller Park, and to connect with seniors who are not Internet users.

Crossman suggested that friends and family members could help with the online appointment process, as well as provide transportation to get the vaccine.

Cobb and Douglas Public Health continues to provide COVID testing, and you’re asked to book an appointment by clicking here.

Memark said to make sure you’ve signed up for the right service, because “some people came for a vaccine when they signed up for a test.”

For both tests and vaccines, appointments are required and no walk-ups will be taken.

Crossman said there’s still a high demand for COVID tests, with the agency conducting more than 8,000 a week in both Cobb and Douglas counties.

Cobb continues to be a growing hot spot for COVID infection in Georgia, with 359 new confirmed cases on Tuesday.

The death toll also has been on a sharp rise recently in the county, with nine more deaths in Cobb reported Wednesday, for 637 overall since last March.

There have been 47 COVID deaths in January in Cobb, and Memark said this month is shaping up to be one of the deadliest months since the pandemic began.

Memark said a new variant of the virus has come to Cobb, and while it’s not considered as deadly, “it can make you sick enough. . . . We have to clamp down and do what we can until more vaccines arrive.”

She continued to encourage citizens to wash their hands and wear masks and socially-distance when in public, but to shelter-in-place as much as possible.

A second dose of the vaccine is coming for some who’ve already had an initial vaccination.

Crossman said that for those who’ve received a shot, they shouldn’t assume an instant effect.

“It takes your body a while to build up immunity,” she said, adding that depending on which vaccine people get there could be six weeks in between vaccinations.

“We don’t know if this is a vaccine that will be repeatedly yearly or if it’s going to be a one-tine thing.”

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Secretary of State certifies Georgia Senate runoff results

East Cobb precinct votes Senate runoffs

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday certified Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock as the winners of the Jan. 5 runoffs for the U.S. Senate.

Ossoff and Warnock are set to be sworn in in Washington on Wednesday, the same day Democratic former vice president Joe Biden takes the oath as the 46th president of the United States.

Ossoff and Warnock defeated Republican incumbent senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively, by very close margins, but not within the margin for a recount.

Ossoff received 2,269,923 votes, or 50.61 percent, to 2,214,979 votes for Perdue, or 49.39 percent, in winning a six-year term.

A former 6th Congressional District candidate, Ossoff will become Georgia’s first Jewish senator and at age 33, he will be the youngest member of the Senate.

In a special election to fill the remaining two years of former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, Warnock received 2,289,113 votes, or 51.04 percent, to 2,195,841 votes for Loeffler, or 48.96 percent.

The minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Warnock will become Georgia’s first black senator.

In Cobb County, Ossoff and Warnock both won with roughly 56 percent of the vote, although East Cobb voters favored Perdue and Loeffler.

The elections of Ossoff and Warnock will make the U.S. Senate 50-50 in party composition. Ties can be broken by outgoing California Sen. Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, who will serve as the President of the Senate.

She resigned her Senate seat Monday, and Alex Padilla, a Democrat who is California’s Secretary of State, has been appointed to fill the final two years of her term.

NBC News is reporting that the new Georgia senators will be sworn in by Harris on Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate has already begun confirmation hearings for Biden cabinet appointments, and plans are tentative regarding a possible impeachment trial for outgoing President Donald Trump.

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Atlanta Jewish Film Festival to take place in hybrid format for 2021

Submitted information:Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is thrilled to announce its return in 2021, a hybrid experience spanning 12 days, February 17-28.

In response to the ongoing pandemic, we’ve reimagined the annual festival to combine at-home virtual screenings with select drive-in movies, expanded conversations with filmmakers and special guests, as well as other unique components.

Our 21st edition will look and feel very different, prioritizing the safety, comfort and convenience of you, our loyal audience, above all else. What won’t change: world-class film, stimulating conversation and a celebration of diversity.

The 2021 AJFF film lineup will include over 30 narrative and documentary features plus short film offerings, representing the same breadth of genres and subjects that has become a hallmark of Atlanta’s largest film festival. Powered by CineSend, our Virtual Cinema will allow audiences to access the very best in international cinema from a smart TV, home theater, computer, tablet or other mobile device.

In addition, thanks to an exclusive partnership with Mercedes-Benz Stadium, AJFF will also offer a limited number of drive-in screenings in the 11-acre The Home Depot Backyard greenspace, a spectacular backdrop for a physically distanced but shared moviegoing experience.

Always core to the festival’s mission of fostering dialogue, AJFF will continue its commitment to community conversation with enhanced guest programming, including speaker introductions and extensive Q&A panels that further explore the themes and topics presented on screen. 

As stated by Executive Director Kenny Blank, “Cinematic stories feed the soul at a time when we need the help of film artists to make sense of our world, to be inspired, and to reignite our shared sense of humanity. Our festival staff and volunteers have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the core tenets of the festival – community, representation, storytelling and experience – are preserved in our 2021 hybrid edition. It’s gratifying to see that, despite the pandemic, the pipeline of new films on Jewish themes is as strong as ever. We look forward to being ‘together through film’ in February, our motto for these COVID times.”

Additional details on films, virtual screenings, programming, and drive-in dates to come soon.

 

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Cobb government to hold virtual town hall for COVID vaccines

Cobb COVID vaccine town hall
Mohammed Hisamuddin and Farhat Hisamuddin, the in-laws of East Cobb resident Qamar Hisamuddin, got COVID vaccines from Cobb and Douglas Public Health.

We continue to get many questions from readers about their frustrations booking appointments for the COVID vaccines being offered by Cobb and Douglas Public Health.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, when next week’s appointments were released, they were already filled.

On Saturday morning Cobb County government sent a message saying that it’s holding a virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday with health department leaders to answer the public’s questions about the vaccinations and appointments.

That town hall starts at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 19, and you can watch live at at facebook.com/cobbcountygovernment or youtube.com/cobbcountygovt.

You’re also invited to send questions in advance to [email protected]

The current phase of testing is for health care workers, first responders and people 65 and older, and it’s the latter group we’re hearing from most of all.

People are frustrated that the server for the appointment page is down—it’s been crashing all week—or when they’re able to get through, there are no more bookings available.

As we posted earlier this week, Cobb and Douglas Public Health is taking appointments a week at a time, based on vaccine ability.

A few comments we got Friday night:

Please take care of these older people! The website is the only way and it is constantly jammed.

I have tried all day every day for last 2 weeks when vaccine became available and have not been able to get through. I am 82 and been praying every day as I am doing what I should ie wearing Masks, staying mostly home and am scared due to very high people in hospital with COVID.

On Tuesday, Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health, admitted that “there are just not enough vaccines” to meet the heavy demand.

Late Friday afternoon, she said there only 80,000 vaccinations available a week to providers throughout Georgia.

“Our bi-weekly talks with the Georgia Department of Health reveal that they are actively working on plans to further increase the number of providers able to offer vaccinations including large retailers like Wal-Mart and Kroger,” she said. “Although it is difficult to hear as this pandemic wears on, we urge patience to allow more providers to come online to offer the vaccination.”

She said growing COVID case numbers “is an additional concern to an already dire situation.” In the last two weeks, there have been more than 10,000 PCR and antigen cases in Cobb and Douglas counties, with the highest levels of hospitalization yet during the pandemic, which is in its 11th month.

Nearly 500 cases also were reported this week in the Cobb County School District, which is going fully remote next week.

Memark said that while “we are all fatigued and stressed by the effects of this year-long pandemic . . . the vaccine is here and will be distributed faster and faster. We must all do what we can to give this plan time to work. The cases are exceptionally high right now. We will be feeling the effects of holiday gatherings. We urge all citizens to do what needs to be done to control the pandemic. Try your best to not leave your homes unless you absolutely have to leave. Try to telework when you can. Try not to gather with those outside of our households. Wear your masks in public. Wash your hands frequently. Do not leave your homes if you have COVID-19 or are in close contact with someone who had it.

“Working together as a community is the only way we will beat this pandemic.”

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Cobb to hold virtual Martin Luther King Jr. event on Monday

Cobb MLK virtual event

From Cobb County Government:

All Cobb County Government offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 18, in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Although our annual celebration of his life and works will look different this year, we encourage you to enjoy our virtual event, in partnership with the Cobb NAACP.

It will be held live on the county’s Facebook page, facebook.com/cobbcountygovernment, at 10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 18. For more information, click here

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Cobb COVID vaccine appointments available on Fridays

Cobb COVID vaccine appointments

Earlier this week Cobb and Douglas Public Health sent out word that online appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine become available every Friday at 5 p.m.

We’re repeating that message here, with links to sign up and get more information.

As we noted previously, CDPH is doing this one week at a time, as new supplies of the vaccine become available.

On Tuesday, Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health, admitted there are “just not enough vaccines” as the online appointment booking page crashed due to overwhelming demand.

That sign-up page has been down intermittently during the week.

This is the continuation of phase 1A+, which is limited to first responders, health care workers and people 65 and over.

Vaccinations will take place every Monday-Saturday at Jim Miller Park. Here’s more from CDPH:

Key Points to Remember:

  • Everyone must have an appointment to receive a vaccine. Individuals may come together in the same car if they have appointments for the same day, even if different times. 

    Please be patient as Cobb & Douglas Public Health is adding appointments to the system no more than a week at a time due to uncertain vaccine supply.

    Approved vaccine providers are being activated daily across the state. Please check this Georgia Department of Public Health vaccine locator for vaccine providers: https://dph.georgia.gov/locations/covid-vaccination-site

    There are a limited number of appointments each day, so you may not get an appointment right away.

    Please follow the instructions in your appointment confirmation email.

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Cobb schools to go remote next week, report 470 new COVID cases

The Cobb County School District on Friday announced that all classes next week will be done via remote, due to “high numbers of staff and students recently informed to quarantine.”Cobb County School District, Cobb schools dual enrollment summit

The district has been shifting some schools to remote learning this week, including Simpson Middle School and McCleskey Middle School in East Cobb.

In a release sent Friday morning, the district said face-to-face learning would resume on Monday, Jan. 25.

Next week is a shortened one with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday being observed on Monday.

Here’s more from the district’s statement Friday:

This decision comes as a result of daily consultation with local and state public health officials regarding the high numbers of staff and students recently informed to quarantine. This break will provide our families and staff an opportunity to quarantine and work together to fight COVID-19 from our homes by limiting large gatherings, enforcing social distancing, wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible, and regularly washing our hands. According to the Center for Disease Control and Department of Health guidelines, it is crucial that students and staff who display COVID-19 symptoms quarantine and do not report to school or work. 

In recent remarks made by Dr. Janet Memark, Director for Cobb & Douglas Public Health, parents are being encouraged to consider remote learning, if possible, while commending the school District for continuing to offer face-to-face classrooms for those who need that option. 

The separation period will allow our staff and students to return on January 25 after a time of quarantine, better prepared to teach and learn in face-to-face and remote classrooms to honor the instructional delivery models our families have chosen. 

The district didn’t specify numbers in the release, but in its weekly COVID update on Friday, 470 new cases were reported, a single-week high.

Last week the district began showing the number of active cases at each school. This week, there are 22 active cases at Lassiter High School, along with the 21 active cases reported at McCleskey last week.

Another 14 active cases are being reported at Dodgen Middle School, 12 active cases each at Pope and Walton high schools, 10 at Mabry Middle School, 8 at East Cobb Middle School and 7 at Simpson Middle School.

The district does not break down staff and student case figures, and it does not indicate how many others may be in quarantine.

Cobb’s decision to go all-virtual for next week follows similar decisions by Gwinnett, Fulton and Cherokee public schools.

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McCleskey, Simpson middle schools to finish week all-remote

Two middle schools in East Cobb are conducting classes in an all-remote setting Thursday and Friday, after five others in the Cobb County School District switched to online-only instruction earlier in the week.Cobb County School District, Cobb schools dual enrollment summit

McCleskey Middle School and Simpson Middle School families were notified Wednesday of the changes, with nearly identical messages posted on each school’s website.

Also switching to all-remote learning for Thursday and Friday were seven other schools, bringing the total number to 14 schools that are finishing the week online-only.

According to the school district’s most recent figures, there are 21 active COVID-19 cases at McCleskey, the most for any single Cobb school. There was only 1 active case at Simpson.

On Tuesday, the district announced that Hillgrove High School, Nickajack Elementary School, Clay Harmony Leland Elementary School, Barber Middle School and Lindley Middle School would be going all-remote for the rest of the week.

The district didn’t specifically explain its decisions for each school, nor did it respond to a question from East Cobb News about the case numbers at McCleskey.

A district spokeswoman issued the following statement Thursday in response to a request from East Cobb News for more information about the additional schools switching to remote learning:

“This decision has been made based on student, staff, and school needs and will allow us to offer a face-to-face classroom option as soon as possible. At this time, the schools will remain remote through the end of this week. Each school will continue to be evaluated on a day-by-day, school-by-school basis. If that timing changes, it will be communicated to those students, staff, and communities directly.”

The other schools going all-remote with McCleskey and Simpson for Thursday and Friday are Baker, Bullard and Hayes ES; Campbell, Griffin and Smitha MS and Campbell HS.

A district spokeswoman on Tuesday refuted social media postings saying the entire district would be going all-remote, saying the school system “remains committed to face-to-face and remote classroom options for students and parents.”

The district released updated figures Wednesday showing that 66 percent of enrolled students began the spring semester last week in a face-to-face setting.

But other school districts in metro Atlanta have been switching to all-remote learning. Next week, Gwinnett County schools, the largest in Georgia, and Fulton County schools will go fully virtual.

Cherokee schools have been closed to in-person classes this week due to a high number of teachers who are out due to COVID infection or who are in quarantine.

Atlanta and DeKalb schools were all-virtual for the fall semester and their plans for reopening campuses are still on hold.

Cobb schools reported 351 new COVID cases last week, but the district does not break down how many of those are students and staff.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there have been new 594 cases of COVID in Cobb County among ages 5-17 over a 14-day period through Jan. 7, with a 14-day average case rate of 450 per 100,000 people.

Social media postings in the last week from Cobb teachers and staff have expressed exhaustion and concern over staffing levels at schools.

With its update last week the Cobb school district revealed active case numbers for the first time.

North Cobb High School has 17 active cases, there are 14 at Awtrey Middle School, 12 at Lassiter High School, 11 at Walton High School and 10 at Kell High School.

In addition, there are 8 active cases each at Bells Ferry Elementary School and Wheeler High School in East Cobb.

All of those schools remain open for classroom instruction.

Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health, said Tuesday that parents who are “able to have your children go virtual at this point [if] this is something that if you can do it, it is recommended.”

But Memark has not recommended that all Cobb schools go fully remote.

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McBath recaps accomplishments after 1st term in Congress

U.S. Rep Lucy McBath, gun violence research funding, McBath border-funding vote

Submitted information:

This morning, Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-06) released her accomplishments of the 116th Congress. As a freshman member in the U.S. House of Representatives, McBath had multiple pieces of legislation signed into law by the President, secured millions of dollars for the Sixth District, and assisted thousands of constituents with their federal cases. Her bill to serve veterans experiencing financial hardship was deemed the “biggest bill” passed by a first-term member. During her first two years in office, she was described as “an effective lawmaker” and “one of the House Democratic Caucus’ most important voices.”

“Each and every day we are called upon to serve our communities in Congress – that is what this work is about. They are trusting us to do everything we can to advocate and legislate on their behalf,” said McBath. “I am so proud of the work we did to return millions of hard earned dollars to constituents throughout the district, to have conversations with our friends and neighbors at town halls and community events, and to have multiple pieces of bipartisan legislation signed into law. Truly, this work is about serving my community in Congress, and I look forward to continuing that work to solve problems, connect with people, and create policy to help serve our fellow Americans.”

During the 116th Congress, McBath:

  • Held 15 town halls and more than 200 community events
  • Led 4 pieces of legislation signed into law by the President
  • Returned $3,177,683 in earned benefits to constituents
  • Secured $5,605,400 in federal grant funding
  • Resolved 3,069 constituent casework inquiries – many shared their stories.
  • Responded to 76,178 phone calls and letters
  • Sponsored and cosponsored 325 bills
  • Nominated 62 students to U.S. Service Academies

Since being sworn into her first term on January 3, 2019, McBath has championed bipartisanship and has prioritized causes to help Georgia families, veterans, and small businesses, including:

 

Members of the community who are in need of federal casework assistance can contact McBath’s office at (470) 773-6330.

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66 percent of Cobb students in face-to-face for spring semester

Pope High School, Cobb SAT scores
Nearly 70 percent of Pope students chose face-to-face for the spring, second among Cobb high schools.

The day after emphasizing that it is not going to full-time remote learning, the Cobb County School District on Wednesday updated its data to show an increase in the numbers of students choosing face-to-face instruction for the spring semester.

In early December, the initial sign-ups for face-to-face for the spring were around 52 percent of all district students.

With the spring semester having started last week, the number of students choosing face-to-face is at now 65.9 percent.

The district issued this release that includes a spreadsheet for each individual school, as well as all three grade levels.

As was the case in the fall, the percentage of elementary students whose parents chose face-to-face was the highest, at 72.4 percent. More than 66 percent of middle school students are back in classrooms, and for high schools that figure is at 57.2 percent.

That reflects a student enrollment of 106,978, which is down from 107,379 in October.

When Cobb schools were closed to in-person classes due to COVID-19 in March, the district’s enrollment was 111,707.

Those figures come from the Georgia Department of Education.

The district’s release Wednesday included comments from parents who “once again expressed appreciation for the choice model.”

On Tuesday, the district said five schools were going remote for the rest of this week for reasons that were not specified.

That came after social media postings and other media reports quoted teachers and staff expressing concerns about safety measures, low staffing and community spread of COVID-19, which continues to surpass record levels.

A Cobb schools spokeswoman told East Cobb News Tuesday the district has not been recommended to go all-virtual. However, Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health, on Tuesday encouraged parents to go virtual if possible.

The district has not explained why some schools are going all-remote, nor did it provide information on 21 active COVID-19 cases at McCleskey Middle School in Northeast Cobb.

That’s the highest number of active cases at any of the district’s 113 schools.

The percentage of East Cobb schools with students choosing face-to-face for the spring semester ranges from 85.3 percent at Keheley Elementary School to 46 percent at Wheeler High School.

Only one of the district’s 17 high schools—Harrison, in West Cobb—has more than 70 percent of students on campus. Pope has 69.9 percent and Lassiter 68 percent.

The district said there will be another choice window in mid-semester, but hasn’t announced any dates.

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Cobb Fire seeks public help in investigating Vinings arsons

Vining arsons

Photo and text below from Nicholas Danz, Public Information Officer, Cobb Fire & Emergency Services:

WHAT: We suspect that 10 intentionally set fires have occurred in and around this location. 3 of those occurred within 12 hours spanning between January 10-11, 2021.

WHEN: From September 2020 – January 2021

WHERE: WestHaven at Vinings, 5900 Suffex Green Ln NW, Atlanta, GA 30339

WHY: We would like your help gathering information related to these incidents. Please contact our Fire Investigations Unit.

HOW: There is a reward up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect(s). You can call the Cobb County Fire Investigations Unit at 770-499-3869 or the attached hotline number for the HEAT program sponsored by Georgia Arson Control.

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Pope Band recycling event for Saturday has been cancelled

Pope Band recycling event cancelled

Submitted information:

Out of an abundance of concern for public health, the PBPA Recycling Event scheduled for this Saturday, January 16, has been canceled. 

Numbers and spread in our community at an all-time high, and we could not in good conscience risk the health of our volunteers or our donors.
Thank you so much for your support, and please help spread the word. Looking at the bright side, this just gives us more time to gather a good collection for our March 27 event! Mark your calendars now!
Thank you for supporting the Pope Band and the environment. 

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