Cobb public health director: Limit ‘non-essential’ activity

Cobb public health director, Cobb COVID cases
After a recent drop in the 7-day moving average of COVID cases in Cobb, that figure has risen to more than 100 a day. Source: Georgia Department of Public Health. Click here for more.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health said rising COVID-19 cases are stressing hospital capacity and she’s urging the public to reduce “non-essential” activities for the time being.

That includes limiting gatherings such as parties and weddings, which she said have been common sources for what she said is “pretty substantial community transmission” in Cobb County.

In a videotaped message posted Friday by Cobb County Government (see below), Dr. Janet Memark said hospitals are at near capacity with new COVID-related admissions—up nearly 20 percent in recent weeks—and there’s only one critical care bed left.

“These are very dangerous times for us,” said Memark, who didn’t provide any hospital figures. “The weather is going to get colder and we’re moving inside and there’s increased travel.”

She said citizens “know what works”—wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing—but “we should try to do our best and not go out and do too many things that are not essential at this point.”

She recommended against eating out in crowded places and going to bars, because along with weddings and other social gatherings, “that is where we are having the transmission.”

On Friday, there were 186 new reported cases of COVID-19 in Cobb, continuing a rising trend in November.

For the month, there have been 2,453 new cases in the county, for an average of 122 a day. Since March, Cobb has 25,178 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Cobb also has 487 deaths, the second-most in Georgia, and 26 have been reported this month.

That data is according to the date that cases and deaths are reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Its daily status report is issued in the afternoon.

In East Cobb, there have been 5,319 COVID-19 cases and 102 deaths as of Nov. 9, according to a ZIP Code map compiled by Commissioner Bob Ott.

Another set of metrics—date of “onset,” or when a positive COVID case is confirmed, and date of death—also is on the rise in Cobb.

The 14-day moving average of cases according to date of onset (in the chart at the top) was 115 a day as of Nov. 7.  After a summer surge of cases, that figure had dropped to 37 a day in late September.

Another indicator used to monitor community spread is a 14-day average of cases per 100,000 people. That now stands at 271—100 is considered “high community spread”—and it has been a figure Cobb school superintendent Chris Ragsdale relied on earlier in the school year regarding reopening.

But he told Cobb Board of Education members this week “there are no metrics” in determining classroom or school closures, and that each situation will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

There have been no closures since Cobb students opting for face-to-face learning returned to schools.

On Friday, the Cobb County School District reported 106 new COVID cases among teachers and staff, and 105 the week before that.

Of the 721 cases reported in the district since July 1, 434 have come since students began returning to school.

Memark has said that she’s not seeing transmission in the schools—a point Ragsdale also made to the school board—but she said students going to school and adults going to work who are sick “is happening way too often, and it is going to be a major problem for everybody.”

She said that the schools will continue to be “disrupted by this,” and urged parents to determine what environment is best for their children.

Cobb school district parents have until Nov. 29 to decide learning options for the spring semester, although another choice window could open in the spring.

Across the country, Memark said only three states are not seeing surges in new COVID-19 cases.

“If you have people who are medically fragile or are coming from areas that have very high rates like us, you’re definitely at risk of exposure or exposing others to COVID at this time,” she said.

There have been nearly 400,000 reported COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 8,591 deaths. Since last Sunday, there have been 11,477 cases reported according to date of report, and 5,232 according to date of onset.

In that time, there have been 144 deaths reported according to date of report and 49 by date of death in Georgia.

More COVID-19 information and resources from Cobb and Douglas Public Health can be found here.

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Cobb Elections explains post-recount shredding activities

Cobb Absentee Ballot Envelope
Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said white privacy envelopes were among the items shredded Friday, but no ballots of any kind were destroyed.

After wrapping up a hand recount of votes in the presidential race, the Cobb Board of Elections and Registrations on Friday responded to social media postings about shredding activities near its recount location at Jim Miller Park.

Related story

  • UPDATED Tuesday, Nov. 24: Cobb government says the social media posting of another video alleging the shredding of ballots was in fact part of routine shredding activities for materials from the Cobb Tax Commissioner’s Office. A county spokesman said no documents from the Cobb Elections Office were shredded.

In a release issued through Cobb County Government spokesman Ross Cavitt, Cobb Elections said the items that were being shredded were mailing labels, completed and “checked off” reports, sticky notes and other papers and documents.

Voters were mailed two envelopes as part of their absentee ballot package. One was a “white privacy envelope” that contained the actual absentee ballot. The privacy envelope was then placed in a larger mailing envelope that contained the voter’s signature.

The privacy envelopes were among the items that were also shredded—after the election was certified—but not the mailing envelopes with the signatures.

None of the shredded materials were ballots, according to the statement, which quotes Cobb Elections director Janine Eveler:

“None of these items are relevant to the election or the re-tally. Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file. After an out-of-context video was shared on social media we contacted state officials to reassure them this was a routine clean-up operation and they could inspect our stored materials if they wish.”

Lin Wood, an Atlanta attorney who’s filed a lawsuit for the Trump campaign contesting the Georgia presidential results, posted several times Friday on his Twitter account with videos shot at the park by others.

In a post published at 3:27 p.m., he wrote:

The Cobb Elections release was issued about 10 minutes later, but Wood did not respond to that denial. His Tweets after that were focused on Kyle Rittenhouse, a Wisconsin teenager accused of killing two protesters in Kenosha and who was released on $2 million bail.

After absentee and other final ballots had been initially counted, Democratic former vice president Joe Biden had a lead of 14,116 votes over Trump.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered a hand recount—something that hadn’t been done in the state before—and after that was complete, the results indicated that Biden’s lead was 12,670 votes.

On Friday, the Georgia board of elections certified all the election results, including the presidential race, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed off on the certification.

There were several thousand uncounted ballots found during the recounts in four counties (Cobb was not among them), including more than 2,000 in Floyd County, where the elections supervisor was fired.

“The vast majority of local elections officials did their job well,” Kemp said, citing circumstances related to COVID-19 that led to unprecedented absentee balloting.

He urged legislators to make changes, including a voter ID requirement for absentee ballots.

The Trump campaign has until the end of Tuesday to request a computerized recount, which would serve as the official vote tally.

Georgia’s 16 electoral votes are slated to go to Biden, the first Democrat to win the state in the presidential race since Bill Clinton in 1992.

The official tally now stands at Biden with 2,474,507 votes (49.51 percent) to 2,461,837 for Trump (49.25 percent).

Libertarian Jo Jorgensen received 62,138 votes, or 1.24 percent.

Raffensperger has been under fire since Georgia’s presidential vote-counting swung from Trump, who held a 370,000-vote lead on election night, to the slender Biden lead following the absentee counting.

Georgia’s U.S. Senators, Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, demanded his resignation, as the Trump campaign alleged voter fraud in Georgia and several other states that were close—and that all eventually went to Biden.

On Friday, Raffensperger said that even though he’s a Republican and Trump supporter, “the numbers don’t lie” and he has the duty to certify the results.

“The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or of courts or of either campaign,” he said.

In Cobb, Biden got 56 percent of the vote.

Cobb Elections officials will be working at Jim Miller Park through the Jan. 5 runoff for both U.S. Senate seats from Georgia as a well as a runoff for the Georgia Public Service Commission.

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Cobb schools report 106 new COVID cases; 434 since October

For the second week in a row, more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Cobb County School District.Campbell High School lockdown

The district posted this week’s update on Friday noting an additional 106 cases this week, for 721 overall since July 1. All the cases are confirmed by Cobb and Douglas Public Health.

The cases are for staff, teachers and students but aren’t broken down further.

When elementary schools students began returning for face-to-face instruction on October 5, there had been 287 cases to that point.

Since then, 434 cases have been reported as the reopening continued. Here’s how those figures have risen week-by-week:

  • October 9: 324 (elementary return)
  • October 16: 349
  • October 23: 382 (middle school return)
  • October 30: 443
  • Nov. 6: 511 (high school return)
  • Nov. 13: 615
  • Nov. 20: 721

Last week, the first week of reporting since the arrival of high school students, there were 105 new cases at 53 schools.

This week’s 106 cases also are spread out at 53 schools, including most of the high schools.

All of the schools reported 10 cases or less, which has been the case since the district first began reporting weekly totals in October.

Here are the following schools in East Cobb with new cases this week:

  • Elementary Schools: Addison, Blackwell, Davis, Mountain View; Nicholson; Rocky Mount, Sedalia Park, Shallowford Falls, Sope Creek, Tritt
  • Middle Schools: Dickerson, Dodgen, Mabry, McCleskey, Simpson
  • High Schools: Lassiter, Pope, Walton, Wheeler

Only Dickerson Middle School had not previously reported any cases.

On Thursday, Cobb school superintendent Chris Ragsdale said that he’s not planning a return to all-virtual learning, in the wake of rising case numbers in the schools and in the county.

He said Cobb and Douglas Public Health officials told him the virus isn’t spreading in the schools, and any decisions to close classrooms or schools will be made on a “case-by-case basis.”

He said there was a school that caused some concern, but health officials determined multiple cases weren’t related and the school remained open.

No Cobb schools or classrooms have been closed since students returned in October.

“There is not going to be trigger or a number or a level,” Ragsdale said to the school board, prompting an exchange with board member Jaha Howard.

Ragsdale said over the summer, when the county’s 14-day average of cases per 100,000 people was spiking extremely high—nearly 400—that was his baseline for deciding to start the year all-virtual.

The reopening began after that number dropped close to 200, and for a while in Cobb it hovered around 100, which is considered “high community spread.”

That average is now back in the mid-200s, and Ragsdale said Thursday that “we are in a different time than we were in the summer.”

Since face-to-face learning resumed, teachers have had to instruct students in their classrooms and those at home simultaneously.

Connie Jackson of the Cobb County Association of Educators told school board members Thursday that “right now, our teachers are so overworked. They are at their breaking report.”

She asked that the district provide a written policy about how it’s following data during the pandemic, giving teachers the option in the second semester of teaching all-virtual if they have medical conditions that make it unsafe to teach from school, and provide bus drivers with masks for students who don’t have them.

Parents of Cobb school district students have until Nov. 29 to choose their child’s learning option for the spring semester, and Ragsdale said it’s possible a second window could open up for that purpose depending on any possible COVID case spike over the winter.

On Friday, the district is sending home with students a “symptom letter” written by Cobb and Douglas Public Health advising families on how to reduce the spread of the virus and stay safe during the Thanksgiving holidays.

Here’s the test of that message:

Dear Parents and Caregivers of Cobb County School District Students:

The Fall season has brought cooler weather, but also a rise of 100% over the last few weeks in COVID 19 cases in our county. We were already in the high transmission category, but this new rise in cases jeopardizes all the progress that has been made to this point. Not only are we seeing very high transmission rates, but our hospitals are now nearing capacity. Surges in many states throughout the nation show us that we have not yet controlled this virus. We in public health are deeply concerned with cold weather moving us indoors, the anticipated holiday travel, and the COVID fatigue that has made our community to be less likely to wear masks or keep our distance from others.

The importance of keeping our children in school is indisputable. At this critical juncture, we need to work together to keep that a reality for us all.

Cobb and Douglas Public Health (CDPH) is working with the school staff and parents to contain isolated cases of COVID-19 throughout the schools. Due to federal HIPAA laws, we try our best to protect the privacy of the affected individuals in each case. We wanted to take this time to remind of you of best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please remember, DO NOT send your children to school when they have symptoms of COVID- 19. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Congestion/runny nose
  • Diarrhea

We have received multiple reports of parents sending their children to school while sick. We understand the burden of having to keep children home when they are sick, but sending sick children to school can endanger other children and staff, as well. Free Covid-19 tests are provided by CDPH in the form of nasal self swabs and results are available within 1-2 days.

Also remember that any child who is in direct contact with a family member positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes ACCUMULATED, over 24 hours during the isolation period is a close contact and should not be sent to school. They must quarantine. Not doing so, endangers the health of other children and the community at large.

These orders are in accordance with O.C.G.A. §§ 31-2A-4(4) and 31-12-4, Chapter 511-9- 1 of the Rules of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

We also ask that you all help us to contain the spread of COVID-19 within our community. Wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, and avoiding crowds of people will go a long way in winning this battle.

Please contact us at www.cobbanddouglashealth.org for more information on COVID-19 or to sign up for a free test.

For additional information, please visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website:

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East Cobb food scores: Camp’s; Barista’s; schools; more

Camps Kitchen and Bar, East Cobb food scores

The following East Cobb food scores from Nov. 16-19 have been compiled by the Cobb & Douglas Department of Public Health. Click the link under each listing for inspection details:

Barista’s 
4932 Lower Roswell Road
November 16, 2020 Score: 83, Grade: B

Camp’s Kitchen and Bar
255 Village Parkway, Suite 310
November 18, 2020 Score: 80, Grade: B

Hightower Trail Middle School
3905 Post Oak Tritt Road
November 17, 2020 Score: 100, Grade: A

Pope High School
3001 Hembree Road
November 19, 2020 Score: 100, Grade: A

Pope HS Culinary Arts Department
3001 Hembree Road
November 19, 2020 Score: 88, Grade: B

Starbuck’s Coffee
1207 Johnson Ferry Road
November 20, 2020 Score: 96, Grade: A

Walton High School
1590 Bill Murdock Road
November 20, 2020 Score: 96, Grade: A

Willy’s Mexicana Grill
2900 Delk Road, Suite 8
November 17, 2020 Score: 83, Grade: B

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Cobb school board member rips colleagues for ‘systemic racism’

A strongly divided Cobb Board of Education engaged in more vitriolic rhetoric Thursday after the board’s Republican majority approved two measures a black Democratic member said were examples of “systemic racism.”

Jaha Howard, Cobb school board member
Jaha Howard

During a board work session Thursday afternoon, the board voted to abolish a newly-approved committee to examine naming policies for Cobb school district schools and buildings.

The board also approved a measure requiring a four-vote majority for board members to place items on the meeting agenda.

The votes were both 4-2, with the four Republicans—all white males—voting in favor: Chairman Brad Wheeler, vice chairman David Banks, David Chastain and Randy Scamihorn.

The two voting against were Charisse Davis and Jaha Howard, both black Democrats.

Board member David Morgan, a black Democrat from South Cobb, was absent from the work session.

The naming policy committee was approved by a 4-3 vote in August at the behest of Morgan, who said there is not a school in the 113-school Cobb district named after an African-American.

His proposal came after online petitions were started over the summer demanding name changes for Walton and Wheeler high schools in East Cobb. Davis, who represents the Walton and Wheeler clusters, signed the Wheeler petition.

The naming policy committee was to have included school board members and citizens, and Wheeler was the only Republican to vote in favor of it.

But he said at Thursday’s work session that he had “reconsidered” his vote because he thought that naming of schools should be a matter for elected board members, not an appointed committee.

“We shouldn’t delegate board authority,” Wheeler said. Nothing has happened since the August vote, and the committee had not been formed.

Jaha Howard, a first-term Democrat from the Campbell and Osborne clusters, lashed out, saying the board was being asked “to undo something that hasn’t been done.”

Howard said getting rid of the committee amounted to “systemic racism,” and ignored Wheeler’s explanation that he changed his mind after seeking community feedback.

Howard said it was still racism, and pressed Wheeler to say if he thought it was fair that there’s a school in the district named after a Confederate general (Wheeler HS).

Wheeler, who’s generally mild-mannered, took strong objection to Howard’s allegations of racism.

“That’s your opinion, not mine,” Wheeler said angrily. “We can change a vote.”

He also told Howard that “I am not a Confederate,” and ruled him out of order, reminding him he was chairing the meeting.

Matters got more acrimonious from there, when Scamihorn proposed a measure requiring board members to get a board majority before placing items on meeting agendas.

Scamihorn didn’t describe what he was proposing, but said it was needed to streamline the length of board meetings and do away items that that weren’t relevant.

Previously, board business items needed the approval of three members, the chairman or the superintendent to be placed on the agenda.

Scamihorn’s measure was not included in the board’s meeting agenda packet; when East Cobb News asked a district spokeswoman for a copy of his proposal, she said it wouldn’t be available until Friday.

Howard and Davis both objected strenuously to Scamihorn’s proposal, saying it smacked of censorship.

“This board doesn’t want any dissenting opinions,” Howard said, calling Scamihorn’s proposal “a rubber stamp for the superintendent.”

Banks interrupted him, and for a while he and Howard tried to shout over one another.

During his re-election campaign this fall, Banks said in an East Cobb News interview that Howard and Davis “are trying to make race an issue where it has never been before.”

Davis quickly accused Banks of “spewing racist trash” but has not directly addressed him at meetings as Howard has done.

The board also was unable to come to a consensus about an anti-racism resolution this summer after some of the Republican members objected to language demanded by Howard that “systemic racism” exists in the Cobb County School District.

At Thursday’s work session, Howard said Scamihorn’s proposal was “a maneuver to silence the minority.” Banks objected again, before Wheeler gaveled him down.

Howard said the matter was no different than when the Republican majority voted in 2019 to prevent board members from offering comments during board meetings.

He and Davis both then decried what they said was censorship aimed specifically at them.

“This same thing is playing out again,” Howard said, once again accusing his colleagues of systemic racism. “It’s extremely short-sighted and disgusting.”

He said he was disappointed in his colleagues and the superintendent, and said that “all of our voices matter.”

He also noted the timing of the measures, coming right after Wheeler, Scamihorn and Banks were all re-elected, maintaining the board’s Republican majority. Morgan, who did not seek re-election, will be succeeded by Democrat Tre’ Hutchins.

Davis asked of her Republican colleagues: “What are you afraid of?” She cited the school communities of a number of schools—including several in East Cobb—whose interests she said she could not advocate for if Scamihorn’s proposal were approved.

Addressing his response through Wheeler, Scamihorn said “I’m going to take it as a rhetorical question, but I don’t know what we need to be afraid of.”

He added that there was “no attempt to censor” any board member.

After the work session, Howard fired away on his Facebook page, saying that “systemic racism will support a person who doesn’t want to openly discuss safety during a freaking pandemic partially because outspoken Black people are the ones asking tough questions.”

He also said “systemic racism tells a colleague to essentially ‘shut up and dribble.’ ”

Several Wheeler High School students who support changing the school name spoke to board members during their Thursday evening meeting, condemning the vote to abolish the naming policy committee.

“It seems that you are actively working to silence what’s been started,” said Sydney Spessard, a senior. “It’s shameful that you don’t have the decency to follow through” to create the committee.

“Systemic racism is not an opinion. It is a reality,” she said.

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Cobb school superintendent: ‘No metrics’ for COVID closures

Cobb school superintendent COVID closures

Cobb school superintendent Chris Ragsdale said Thursday that decisions on closing classrooms or schools in the district due to COVID-19 cases are being addressed on a “case by case” basis.

During a Cobb Board of Education work session, Ragsdale said “there are no metrics” for determining those decisions, unlike countywide public health data he relied on this summer.

No classrooms or schools in the Cobb County School District have closed since students returned for face-to-face learning in October and early November.

Ragsdale said “I’m not looking to take the district back to 100 percent virtual,” a reference to some online speculation that such an option was being considered.

He said there was a school that posed enough of concern about COVID cases that Cobb and Douglas Public Health was asked examine case data there.

He said when contact tracing details revealed no “linkage” between cases, the decision was made to keep open the school, which he did not identify.

“There is not going to be trigger or a number or a level,” Ragsdale said in response to a question by school board member Charisse Davis about how possible closings are being addressed.

He said that he’s in regular contact with Cobb and Douglas Public Health, which has concluded that the schools are not spreaders of the virus, compared to restaurants, churches and other activities and events indoors.

A case-by-case approach is a different criteria than what Ragsdale had used in keeping schools online at the start of the school year, and then gradually reopening for in-person learning.

In the late summer he said that overall COVID cases in Cobb needed to drop to a 14-day average of 200 people per 100,000 population. At that point, that average was in the 300s.

“We are in a different time than we were in the summer,” Ragsdale said. “We have to be adaptable in this process.”

The district has been updating COVID-19 case figures every Friday. As of last week 328 of the 610 reported cases since July 1 have occurred since students returned to schools.

Last week’s total of 105 cases was the biggest one-week jump since students returned, and came two weeks after the return of high school students, the final phase of the reopening.

There were 53 schools that had reported cases last week, including 13 of 17 high school campuses.

The school district updates those figures at this link every Friday.

Ragsdale didn’t refer to any of that in his remarks, but urged parents to visit the district’s website for “factual” information about COVID information and protocols, instead of social media.

That sparked a testy exchange between Ragsdale and board member Jaha Howard, who thought that suggestion “does not seem sufficient, not by a longshot.”

Parents of students in the Cobb school district have until Nov. 29 to decide spring semester learning options, and Ragsdale said there could be another window in the spring due to rising cases expected over the winter.

“We’re seeing cases spike up but not in the schools,” Ragsdale said.

Earlier in the fall, Cobb’s overall 14-day average of cases per 100,000 fell briefly to under 100, which is considered high community spread. But that number has been steadily been going up since October, and as of Thursday it stood at 244.

Howard said this was the first he was hearing “that we’re not using those data points” and asked that board members get communications with data that is being utilized, instead of just going to the district’s website.

Then board member Randy Scamihorn interrupted, and Howard objected, and chairman Brad Wheeler upheld Howard’s complaint.

Howard said he was frustrated that not only as a board member but as a parent that he didn’t know more than what was on the district’s website.

Ragsdale told him that “there is a lot of uncertainty that we’re dealing with on a daily basis,” and that he was reluctant to disclose the possibility of another choice window in the spring, since that information that will be bandied about on social media and elsewhere.

He said while no decision has been made about that, it is still being considered, and that not all discussions within the superintendent’s cabinet are for public consumption.

Ragsdale has been a frequent critic of social media, and in recent days chatter on some social media platforms has included claims that the district’s COVID-19 case counts are being underreported.

At every school that has reported COVID cases, the district maintains that fewer that 10 cases have occurred in each week of reporting. The only exception is Harrison High School, which reported exactly 10 cases last week.

Ragsdale said that with Thanksgiving coming up next week and the holiday season approaching, all school district families will be getting a “symptom letter” on Friday written by Cobb and Douglas Public Health urging students and staff who have COVID symptoms to stay home.

It’s part of a message of caution Ragsdale said is needed “to maintain our due diligence during the holidays.

“We can be thankful but at the same time we need to be cautiously thankful.”

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Empty Bowl Gift Bags sale replaces Empty Bowl Brunch event

The Empty Bowl Brunch holiday event that takes place every December at The Art Place isn’t being held due to COVID-19 reasons, but the fundraiser is still taking place in a different form.

Here’s what The Art Place is doing instead; the gift bags will go on sale starting Friday at 4 p.m.:Empty Bowl Cook Book flyer

In order to maintain our Empty Bowl tradition, and keep our patrons safe, we’ve decided to make Empty Bowl Gift Bags.

Empty Bowl Gift Bags will go on sale for $30 at Artplacemarietta.org/store.

Each bag will contain 2 bowls (made by the TAP pottery department), 2 coupons to GreenWise Market to get soup from their amazing soup bar, and 1 cookbook.

The cookbook is filled with recipes from 20 years of empty bowl including some of the most popular soups!

Bags will be ready for pick up December 7th-18th. They are the perfect holiday gift, or a great way to carry on the Empty Bowl tradition until we can be together again.

We only have 75 bags available for sale, so make sure you order early! All proceeds benefit the Mountain View Arts Alliance this year to help support Arts Programming during this difficult time.

More about the MVAA can be found by clicking here.

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ARC: 13% of Cobb residents lost jobs/furloughed since COVID

Submitted information:ARC Cobb open house

13% of Cobb County residents who were employed before the pandemic were laid-off, terminated, or furloughed due to the COVID-19 virus, and 14% of residents have received help from a food bank since March, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 2020 Metro Atlanta Speaks Survey, released today [Nov. 13] at the agency’s virtual State of the Region Breakfast.

These were among findings from new survey questions that gauged how the pandemic and related economic downturn has affected the Atlanta region. Highlights include:

  • 42% of all responding said that they either had hours or waged reduced or had to quit for safety reasons.
  • Half of Cobb residents said they knew someone who had contracted COVID-19.
  • 43% of Cobb workers said they had worked from home as a result of the pandemic — the highest percentage of any of metro Atlanta’s ten counties.

This year’s survey also provided insights into the state of race relations in metro Atlanta, a topic that drew heightened attention during this summer’s demonstrations. On a new question this year, 71% of Cobb residents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Discrimination against Black people in the United States is a serious problem.”

Other Cobb highlights included:

  • Residents named public health (18%) the biggest problem facing the region, followed by crime (17%).
  • 11% of Cobb residents are only slightly or not at all confident in their ability to make their next mortgage or rent payment.
  • 28% of Cobb residents wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 financial emergency could do so only by selling something or borrowing money or didn’t know how they would pay.

Regional Results:

  • One in four respondents said they had been laid-off, terminated, or furloughed because of the virus.
  • Nearly half (45%) of responses indicated they’d experienced reduced hours or wages or had to quit their jobs for safety reasons.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) received help from a food bank since March.
  • Nearly 58% said they knew someone who had contracted COVID-19.
  • One-third of respondents said they had worked from home as a result of the pandemic.

Nearly 12% of survey respondents named race relations as the region’s biggest concern, compared to just 4% in 2019. And more than three-quarters of respondents (77%) either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Discrimination against Black people in the United States is a serious problem.”

Race relations is a particular issue of concern to young adults ages 18-34, the survey showed. Among respondents in this age group, 90% said they agreed or strongly agreed that discrimination against Black people is a serious problem, compared to 64% of those age 65 and older.

“This year’s Metro Atlanta Speaks Survey demonstrates how the pandemic and related economic fallout have exacerbated long-standing disparities in our community,” said Doug Hooker, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission. “Now, more than ever, we need to come together, actively listen to one another, and forge solutions to act upon, so we can build bridges of understanding and pathways toward progress, which create a region that works for all residents.” 

The 2020 survey, conducted by Kennesaw State University’s A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service and Research, asked questions of 4,400 people across 10 counties about key quality-of-life issues.  Survey results are statistically valid for each of those 10 counties and the city of Atlanta, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5% for the 10-county region as a whole and plus or minus 3.8% to 5% for the individual jurisdictions.

The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta is a supporter of the 2020 Metro Atlanta Speaks survey.

For additional information about the 2020 survey, including county level results, please visit atlantaregional.org/metroatlantaspeaks.

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Parkaire update: Moe’s closes; Flying Biscuit opening TBA

Moe's Parkaire closes

A reader alerted us to the closure of the Moe’s Southwest Grill at Parkaire Landing, which occurred in late October, after nearly 20 years in business.

ToNeTo Atlanta reported over the weekend that it’s the second Moe’s in East Cobb to close recently, along with a location at Shallowford Corners Shopping Center.

As for the Parkaire space, the standalone building at 688 Johnson Ferry Road, between Tijuana Joe’s and Regions Bank, will soon become a gusto! quick-serve spot.

Based in Atlanta, gusto! has seven restaurants in the area and recently opened at Avalon in Alpharetta. The menu includes salads, bowls and wraps, many with Tex-Mex ingredients.

A long-awaited restaurant opening at Parkaire is reportedly getting closer but there’s still no specific date that’s been announced.

That’s the Flying Biscuit Cafe, slated to open in winter 2020. The restaurant’s social media accounts have been updating with new photos and related postings—chicken and waffles have been added to chain’s menu.

The restaurant received its business license today, but for now the opening date is still TBA.

Flying Biscuit announced its return to East Cobb last August, and was preparing to open  this past spring when COVID-19 came. An old “coming soon” sign has been taken down, and it looks as though some renovating work is still continuing.

They’re updating on their Facebook page.

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Freeze warning issued for Cobb as cooler weather moves in

Cobb freeze warning, East Cobb Park

It was sunny and just around 60 degrees Tuesday afternoon at East Cobb Park when we stopped by for a little break, but with bristling winds that are going to make the next couple of nights seem colder than what’s in the forecast.

The National Weather Service in Atlanta has issued a freeze warning for Cobb County and much of North Georgia from midnight to 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Temperatures will be dipping to just around the freezing mark tonight and overnight, with winds gusting as much as 20 mph in some places.

A freeze warning means plants and pets should be brought in from the cold, and to prevent bursting of outdoor water pipes, they should be wrapped or allowed to drip slowly. In-ground sprinkler systems also should be wrapped or brought inside.

The winds will be calming down after that and dry, sunny weather will resume for the rest of the week.

Wednesday and Thursday will be much like Tuesday, sunny and in the high 50s to near 60 during the day, and into the 30s at night.

Weekend weather will be warmer, with sunny skies and high temperatures Friday-Saturday-Sunday in the high 60s and near 70, and evening temperatures falling into the 40s and low 50s.

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East Cobb resident serves ‘Lasagna Love’ for COVID families

Lasagna Love East Cobb

Kirsten Glaser, newly relocated to East Cobb, jumped into help feed families impacted by COVID soon after moving here in the summer, and now heads the “Lasagna Love” program in Georgia.

It’s a nationwide effort of volunteers who prepare home-cooked meals not just for those medically and financially rocked by the pandemic, but also for health care workers, first responders and teachers. She explains how she got cooking for this cause and how you can get involved or order a meal if you need one:

“My husband and I moved to East Cobb in June from New York. We’re both young, active business professionals that thrive on social interaction. Moving to a new state and starting a new job during a pandemic halted our ability to quickly make new friends and even meet our new colleagues.

“It didn’t seem to matter how many Netflix shows we watched, banana breads I baked, or long walks we’d take with our dog, I still felt bored and most importantly, not connected to our new community.

“On September 28, I saw a story on The Today Show which struck a chord with me immediately. Lasagna Love is a movement started by Rhiannon Menn in May. She, too, was searching for some way to help those around her. Her lone effort of making lasagnas for her neighbors in need has now become a full blown movement in 47 states with 3,000 volunteers and over 6,000 families served as of today. 

“I knew that this was what not only I needed but a way I could immerse myself into my new community, so I signed up to become a Lasagna Mama. I quickly received a response that I was the first in my area and was asked if I wanted to be the Regional Leader. Not knowing what this meant, I accepted the task.

“Each week, we receive requests from families who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19; this might be financial, medical or emotional. We are now reaching out to healthcare professionals, first responders and teachers who are under greater stress than ever because of the pandemic. 

“I match our Lasagna Mamas and Papas (volunteers) to these families to receive a home-cooked meal. Some Mamas and Papas make just lasagna and some provide other entrees and full meals. Each of us does what we can without judgment. 

“I now co-lead Lasagna Love for the entire state of Georgia and we currently have over 100 active volunteers! Each week I spend many hours matching mamas and papas to families as well as cooking lasagnas and delivering in addition to my full-time job. And I’ve never felt more fulfilled. This has given me an opportunity to connect with my neighbors, make new friendships with the Lasagna Mamas, as well as help those in our community in need. 

“With the upcoming holiday season, Lasagna Love hopes to ease some stress and bring some joy to the families that are served as well as to the army of volunteers.  

“For more info visit: lasagnalove.org. You can sign up to become a Lasagna Mama or Papa or request/nominate a meal.”

Lasagna Love East Cobb

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‘Nexus Gardens’ project proposed for Loop-Powers Ferry area

Nexus Gardens
A rendering of a commercial building included in the “visioning” of the proposed Nexus Gardens project.

A major mixed-use development proposed for the South Marietta Parkway (Loop) and Powers Ferry Road area is scheduled to get its first public hearing in December.

What’s being called “Nexus Gardens” would contain nearly 500 units of apartments, senior-living units and townhomes, as well as restaurant, retail and event space and greenspace amenities on 17.14 acres.

Nexus Marietta, the applicant, has assembled 20 parcels of land, including two big undeveloped tracts fronting Interstate 75 and the Loop and single-family homes in an adjoining neighborhood.

All but one of the parcels is located within the City of Marietta. The rezoning request goes before the Marietta Planning Commission on Dec. 1.

(You can read through the full agenda item here.)

The landowners are RGM Properties Partnership LLLP, McMullan Partners LLC and Rube McMullan. He’s an East Cobb resident, and Nexus Marietta LLC filed as a corporation with the Georgia Secretary of State’s  office in July.

Nexus Marietta has hired prominent Cobb zoning attorney Kevin Moore to request converting the land use from regional retail commercial (RRC), community retail commercial (CRC) and office-industrial (OI) zoning categories to mixed-used development (MXD).

The assemblage includes 17 homes on Meadowbrook Drive and one on Virginia Place that are within the city limits. A home at 492 Meadowbrook Drive is in unincorporated Cobb County.

Nexus Marietta’s application also includes an annexation request for that tract, which is located on Meadowbrook Drive at Powers Ferry Road.

The land doesn’t include a Chevron station and convenience store at the intersection.

Nexus Gardens would include a courtyard and townhomes behind it at the top of a project that slides below the Loop and along the western side of Meadowbrook Drive.

That’s a neighborhood of single-family homes built in the late 1950s that is partly in the city, but mostly in the county.

Nexus Gardens rezoning map

According to a site plan filed with the City of Marietta Planning & Zoning Office, Nexus Gardens would include two five-story apartment buildings totalling 280 units served by a three-story parking deck, a five-story senior-living building with 160 units and 39 townhomes.

A commercial building at the center of the project would have a restaurant with outdoor dining. An “alternate” three-story building would contain more restaurant and retail space, event space and a coffee shop. Two smaller retail buildings would line Powers Ferry at Meadowbrook Drive, the lone access point for the development.

The proposal also calls for a variety of amenities in and around the residential buildings as well as a community walking trail, courtyard areas, “gardenesque” landscaping, a dog park and a reflecting pond with water jets.

The property directly fronting I-75 is in a floodplain, and the proposal calls for separating it from the smaller apartment building with a wild flower meadow.

A total of 100 retail parking spaces are planned, 156 spaces are proposed for the townhomes and 542 spaces for the apartments and senior-living units.

The latter is far less than a minimum of 632 spaces required under the requested zoning categories.

The townhomes would be for sale only, and no more than five percent of the units could be renter-occupied.

They would be at least 1,800 square feet and would have two-car garages and driveway space for two additional cars.

Nexus Gardens color site plan

The Nexus Marietta application includes “visioning” renderings of what the project may look like, and it’s similar to other mixed-use proposals in Cobb and metro Atlanta.

The former “Restaurant Row” area along Powers Ferry Road at Windy Hill Road that’s currently under construction includes apartments and senior-living units and is slated to welcome back the Rose and Crown Tavern that was the sole existing business on that property.

An Atlanta-area apartment builder, Atlantic Residential, is proposing to convert the blighted Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center in East Cobb into a mixed-use development, also with apartments, senior-living units and townhomes, a major grocery store and other retail space.

That proposal, which is tentatively slated to be heard in December, has been delayed for several months and has drawn community opposition, mostly because of the apartments.

The area around Sandy Plains and Piedmont roads is dominated by single-family subdivisions.

Nexus Gardens would be the first development of its kind in an area of East Marietta that includes older single-family housing and scattered commercial uses.

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