In live-streamed reports today and Tuesday, Dade County officials continued sending out the message that there are no cases of COVID-19 yet in Dade County but that more and more local institutions are closing down to prevent any spread of the dread coronavirus.
Judge Brian House has canceled all criminal jury trial and civil jury trial matters in Dade County Superior Court for the month of April. Essential criminal matters will be heard this Thursday, March 19th, in Dade's regular circuit session. County boss Ted Rumley said those with court business for Thursday should check with their attorneys to make sure their case will be heard.
Trenton Mayor Alex Case said during Tuesday's live update that Trenton City Court will skip a month. The April 14 session is canceled, so that the next court date is May 12.
And Maj. Tommy Bradford of the Dade County Sheriff's Office said at today's update that after today regular visiting hours at the Dade jail will be suspended. Video visits will still be permitted.
County Executive Ted Rumley reported at today's session that six of the 15 northwest Georgia counties have reported cases of the new sickness. If you'd like to check the Georgia Department of Public Health's running tally, click the its logo at right to go direclty to DPH's daily report of cases by county.
Rumley said by this time next week the local public health office should have tests for the virus, and that when that happens he expects the count to go up.
He said Trenton's Southeast Lineman Training Center has not closed because its current class is so close to graduation. But, said the boss, the school is observing all possible safety guidelines inside and a good many of its classes are outdoors.
Rumley said he'd received call from people frustrated that they can't visit their loved ones in the county's nursing homes. "That's something that has to happen," he said. Nursing homes have to keep their residents safe from infection. "That's just protocol," said Rumley.
Rumley said the county is staying open for business unless or until the governor orders county offices to close. If that happens, and you call the county (706-657-4625) and no one answers, the voice mail system will direct you to his own cellphone number. "You'll always have someone, a human, to talk to," he assured.
Trenton Mayor Alex Case announced that City Hall is closed to the public to protect the staff, but that all city services are still functioning and can be accessed by telephone--call (706) 657-4167. You may also be able to pay fines at the city website. That's trentonga.gov. The mayor also indicated the city may be inclined to listen to hardship stories during this unusual time.
Speaking of hardships, he said this stay-at-home time is turning into a tough break for Trenton's restaurants. Taco Bell and McDonald's have gone to take-out only. Other restaurants--he specifcally mentioned Jefferson's--are still open and have assured him they're taking steps to sanitize their chairs and guard customers from infection in every way possible.
Dade Superintendent of Schools Jan Harris said Tuesday the state superintendent had closed all Georgia schools until March 31, a few days longer than Dr. Harris had closed Dade's herself. She said school buses continue to drop off meals for children at their regular bus stops, roughly four hours after their regular morning pickup time. Alternately, parents may pick up their kids' meals at Dade or Davis Elementary 10 a.m. 2 pm. on Mondays and Wednesdays.
She said Georgia had also suspended the dreaded statewide spring testing this year. She urged students to do their remote learning on time and said she and the teachers were working to keep education going during this strange period. "We're taking out school business one day at a time," she said.
Local health department nurses Tammy Franklin on Tuesday and Lindsey Ryan today continued the health department's abiding message that their department was not testing for the virus at present but that probably most people didn't need the test anyway. There's a lot of cold and flu out there, said Ms. Franklin, and the big difference between those and COVID-19 is that in the latter the sufferer has severe shortness of breath.
She said Dade's health department, in order to keep staff safe, is offering only essential services and that people should call ahead to see if what they want is essential--that's (706) 657-4213.
And don't ask the health department for masks, either, said Ms. Franklin--if you haven't been fitted for a mask, it wouldn't do you any good anyway.
She directed all to cdc.com, the Center for Disease Control's website, for information on the coronavirus, and otherwise stressed the importance of washing hands long enough--keep washing until you've sung "Happy Birthday," she advised.
Lindsay Ryan reinforced that message on Wednesday. "Don't just show up at places," she said. If you think you have the bug, call your physician for further instructions. If you don't have one, the state COVID-19 hotline is (844) 442-2681. If you're a WIC client, vouchers will be sent out by mail, she said. "The best thing for you guys to do is just stay at home," she said.
Which is the message coming from all corners--Trenton First Baptist has suspended services until March 29, and members of other congregations should check with their religious leaders before assuming their churches are open for business.
For those stuck at home, Trenton Telephone/TVN has set up free wi-fi spots around the county--in Veterans Park in downtown Trenton and the parking lots of White Oak Baptist Church on Sand Mountain and the New Salem Community Center on Lookout. The Dade County Public Library has amplified its free wi-fi,which can also be accessed from the parking area around the library.
Comcast is providing a complimentary 'Internet Essentials' package free for low-income customers for 60 days with no contract (normally $9.95 a month). You can apply at https://www.internetessentials.com/covid19 or call 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish. Spectrum is offering 60-day free service to households with students for those who do not already have a subscription. Charter will also continue offering Spectrum Internet Assist for low-income households that offers speeds up to 30 Mbps.To enroll in the program, call 1-844-488-8395. The company said that all installation fees will be waived for new student households.
The caveat to these offers is that, like TVN, their services are not available in all areas.
The county will continue its live-streamed 3 p.m. updates Monday through Friday, with weekend updates if deemed necessary. Follow the county Facebook page for livestream bulletins.
And one final word: COVID-19 is highly contagious but has not yet figured out a way to transmit itself telephonically. Alex Case pointed out, and The Planet will here reiterate: Not everybody has or uses the internet. You might not want to risk infecting your elderly neighbors by a home visit but they would probably appreciate a call. Update them on the situation, make sure they're all right, and offer help if needed.