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Severe weather on its way by Thursday amidst local Coronavirus crisis

AMERICUS – Sumter County Emergency Management Director Nigel Poole stated on Wednesday, April 22, that severe weather is expected to hit Sumter County on Thursday, April 23. Poole made this statement during a Zoom conference call with several local officials from the city of Americus and Sumter county.

“We have some significant weather heading our way tomorrow,” said Poole. “Starting early morning all the way to evening, we have some severe weather. We have our first round tomorrow morning and early afternoon and round two late tomorrow evening. Our main threat tomorrow will be tornados, damaging winds, hail and flash flooding.” Poole went on to say that people should make their plans accordingly and should be alert to the severe weather that will be going on. He also stated that his department is currently trying to get the weather warning sirens fully activated. “I have spoken with Motorola, the company that services them. They have put up a quote for us and we sent that up, but unfortunately, we are considered non-operational right now.” Poole told the Americus Times-Recorder that the current software that allows the sirens to operate is defective and that he is working with Motorola to get new software installed. In the meantime, being that the sirens will not be working, Poole urged citizens to rely on their cell phones and to download the Code Red app by going to www.sumtercountyga.us and clicking on the Code Red tab to download the app so that they can get local weather information quickly.

Poole continued his conference call by discussing Governor Kemp’s recent decision to allow certain businesses in Georgia, such as various medical and dental practices, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and barbershops to reopen as early as Friday, April 24, as long as they follow the guidelines concerning COVID-19. Poole said that those who would like to know exactly under what conditions businesses can reopen should go to www.gov.ga.gov and look under the Executive Order. “It lists the conditions that are available for you to open your business should you feel the need to do so,” said Poole.

This is a list of 20 conditions that businesses in Georgia who have been allowed by Governor Brian Kemp to reopen must follow and abide by during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Submitted Photo

There are 20 conditions listed under the Governor’s Executive Order and they are mandatory. Included in those conditions are Screening and Evaluating Workers, Providing Personal Protective Equipment, Prohibiting Handshaking, Encouraging Hand Hygiene and Prohibiting Gatherings.

“I will tell you personally, it is a very difficult decision that our Governor has had to make, one with balancing the economy and one with protecting all of us,” said Poole. “Whether you agree or disagree with that, it’s a moot point at this point. We are bound by his directive and some of our businesses will be open.” Poole added, however, that if people still do not feel safe, they should stay home. “Me and my family will be staying home the same way we have been throughout all of this,” said Poole.

Sumter County Sherriff Col. Eric Bryant, who participated on the call, stated that the pandemic is still active in Sumter County. “We do realize that the Governor’s order will change some things up Friday, but we are still here from the enforcement side to remind citizens that this Coronavirus is still a very serious virus that’s affecting this community,” said Col. Bryant. “We’re encouraging you all that must get out, please do so and exercise extreme caution when doing so.” Col. Bryant went on to urge those that must be out to wear protective equipment and maintain social distancing. He also stated that Sumter County Police have had to issue citations to four business owners for opening their businesses without practicing social distancing. “As Friday gets here and beyond, we will be also checking businesses to ensure that they have in place those 20 requirements that are listed in the Executive Order,” he said. Col. Bryant continued to urge the citizens of Sumter County to stay safe so that the number of confirmed cases and fatalities in the county does not go up any further.

Engineer Chris Holloway of the Americus Fire Department stated that the AFD wants to make sure that it is doing the right thing and that the citizens of Americus stay safe. “Try to shelter in place as much as possible,” said Holloway. “If you do have to get out and about, maximize your distances from other citizens as well. We’re here for y’all. We’re trying to do the right things for you and if you need anything from us, make sure you go ahead and give us a call.”

Sumter County Fire and Rescue Chief Jerry Harmon, Americus City Council Member Daryl Dowdell, Americus Police Chief Mark Scott and Middle Flint Regional E-911 Authority Director Jennifer English all echoed the sentiments of staying safe, practicing social distancing and doing what it takes to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

“Guys, we’ve got to take this serious,” said Chief Harmon. “Continue to shelter in place when we can. I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon. We’ve got to continue with the safe practices.” Chief Harmon added that the pandemic has changed the way that SCFR answers calls to not only protect the citizens, but personnel as well. “We’re still running the Cardiac Arrest with Sumter County Fire. We’re still running the COVID calls,” said Chief Harmon. He added that the response time for the Emergency Management system (EMS) to get down to the Lake Blackshear area is about a 24 to 25-minute response time that there is a 15-minute response time to get over to Plains. “We’re currently asking the patients, if they’re able to, to meet us at the front door so we can communicate with them,” said Harmon.

Poole added that due to the COVID-19 crisis in the county, first responders have to respond in a different way than normal. “Our first responders, that number of people is a finite number,” Poole said. “If they came into contact with COVID, it’s detrimental to the entire department. A lot of these departments work together closely. They share a common area, especially these types of calls that aren’t specific to severe difficulty breathing or fever.”

To sum it up, Director Poole, along with the other local officials participating in his conference call, pleaded with the citizens of Americus and Sumter County to follow the COVID-19 guidelines (shelter in place, practice social distancing, wearing masks while in public, etc.) so that the first responders can do their job during this extremely difficult time.