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Poole warns of bad weather coming and Torbert urges citizens to take COVID-19 seriously

AMERICUS – On Tuesday, April 21, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners (SCBOC) held their monthly meeting via Zoom, the video and audio conference calling system that allows numerous people to communicate and conduct business even though each person is in a different area. At this meeting, Sumter County Emergency Management Director Nigel Poole warned of severe weather that is expected to hit the area on Thursday, April 23.

“I just want to go ahead and give you guys a heads up. We do have another significant weather event headed our way this Thursday that we’re keeping an eye on,” said Poole. “I will keep you guys apprised on that as it continues. As far as the COVID-19 things go, I’m sure you’re all up to date with Governor Kemp’s recent order. We are trying to learn as much as we can about that and make sure that the businesses that do choose to reopen remain compliant with all the guidelines he set forth.” Poole went on to say that his department has seen a steady increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. He also stated that the Sumter County Emergency Management Agency (SCEMA) is still conducting weekly conference calls every Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. He stated that the SCEMA is monitoring the situation and watching to see if there are any changes to the structure of Governor Kemp’s reopening strategy. On Monday, April 21, the Governor announced that certain businesses across Georgia, such as barber shops, tattoo parlors, gyms, fitness centers and message therapy businesses will be allowed to reopen as early as Friday, April 24 and that those businesses must comply with the rules and regulations already established to combat the spread of the Coronavirus.

Commissioner George Torbert told Poole that he looked at www.unacast.com, a site that tracks the movement of people. To his surprise, Torbert said that he found that the county currently has the best rating so far since this pandemic has been going on.

“I’ve got mixed feelings on the Governor’s decision as well,” said Torbert. “This is my two cents on the whole thing. I think people are getting complacent. I think something needed to be done to try to draw more attention to it, whether it was good or bad. I think the more you can kind of stir it up and keep people actively engaged in it and thinking about it, the better off everybody is. In the end, everybody has to do what they feel is best for them, but everybody else needs to realize that they also need to do what’s best for their neighbor too. You may not know you’ve got it, but if you do go out, take the precautions. Wear the mask. Do the things you’re supposed to do.”

Sumter County Fire and Rescue Chief Jerry Harmon told the SCBOC in his report that there have been no significant changes in his department since the Board’s work session last week. “I guess the biggest change is I met with my battalion chiefs this morning (Tuesday morning) and we made the decision to continue the way that we’re operating for the next 30 days and then we will reevaluate in 30 days,” said Chief Harmon. “When I say that, as far as our decontamination of the vehicles and stations and our daily operations, unless y’all tell me to change, we’re going to continue to operate in the way we have this whole month. I think that will be the safest thing for all the firefighters that are responding to these calls and answering these calls.” The SCBOC told Chief Harmon to continuing running the department as he has been doing.

Board Chairman Clay Jones asked Harmon about a situation with 911 in which there has been a discrepancy regarding the addresses of certain citizens when calls have been coming in. Harmon stated that Middle Flint Regional E-911 Authority Director Jennifer English has been trying to get the correct addresses into the 911 database. “When it’s dispatched, they’re letting us know Code 100 so we know what we’re going into,” said Harmon. Harmon told the Americus Times-Recorder that a Code 100 happens when the SCFR answers a call to a residence for a fire or other emergency and the firefighters are notified that someone in the residence has tested positive for COVID-19. Harmon also told the ATR that his department, along with State Senator Mike Cheokas and others, has been pressuring Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey to release the list of addresses of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 so that firefighters and other first responders can know that when they answer a call at a particular residence, they will know that someone at that residence has tested positive so they can use the proper precautions. Harmon said that Dr. Toomey eventually allowed the release of those addresses and that English has been getting those addresses into the 911 database.

Harmon told the SCBOC of a situation where a tree fell through the house of a resident and it was later discovered that the resident had tested positive for COVID-19. “That’s why those addresses were so important to us and we fought to get them,” Harmon told the SCBOC. “Now, anytime we go to an address, they’re going to let us know, ‘Hey! That’s a Code 100’. We know that’s a Code 100.”

However, Harmon explained that there have been instances in which people go to get tested and, instead of giving a physical address, they give their P.O. Box.

“That’s not really helping us,” Harmon told the SCBOC. Harmon also stated that there have been instances in which people who have been tested have submitted bogus or fake addresses that don’t even exist. “The ones that are being truthful when they fill out their paperwork when they’re tested, it’s helping us out a lot,” said Harmon. Harmon also stated that the county courthouse, along with the Sherriff’s Office and the Tax Assessor’s Office, were all sprayed and decontaminated this past weekend.