State Sen. Jeff Mullis appeared in today's 3 p.m. livestreamed COVID-19 livestreamed county briefing, promising to help Dade officials cut through red tape to get residents up-to-date case information about the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
"I'm not sure why they're not giving the locals information but that's going to change," he said.
Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley, giving the daily numbers, brought up the problem. Dade is still ostensibly where it's been most of this week--two total cases, one of whom died last week. But, said Rumley: "There's a feeling out there that there's more that are not being reported."
He and Dade Emergency Services Director Alex Case worry about that, too, said Rumley. "We feel that the chain of information is not what it should be," he said.
Public health nurse Tammy Franklin has explained the infectious disease reporting process at these daily briefings more than once: When a COVID-19 test comes back positive, the regional office--in Dade's case, Rome--is notified, and is then responsible for notifying any contacts of the sick person. "Just remember, none of us here know names so don't call and ask," she said at Thursday's briefing. The local health department, she explained, is never told who the person is.
Much less the other local officials. That's what needs to change, said Rumley. He respects HIPPA laws as much as anybody, he said, and it's not as if the county would announce names at these livestreamed briefings, but: "We need to know what community these people are from." Also, he said, it should not take three to 10 days after a test is administered for the result to reach the counties.
This is a national emergency, he pointed out. Local officials need to know immediately where the sickness is in their districts so they can alert the residents. "We are the people here talking to you," he said.
He said other county officials are having the same trouble. "It's not just Dade County. It's everywhere," he said. "We're going to get some answers Monday."
EMS Director Alex Case expressed similar frustration. Emergency responders made every effort to sanitize ambulances after each call he said, and they answer each call these days decked out in protective gear--but they would still like to know when and if they had transported a patient who had the virus.
Rumley said in Dade, Case was in fact the person who should be given sensitive information like that. "There's no reason why he should not be notified," he said.
Rumley assured listeners he was passing on the exact information he was able to glean himself and promised to pass on any more he can get as soon as he gets it. "I want you to put your trust in us," he said.
Rumley said he and Case would launch their attack on the bureaucracy on Monday
--"We're going to do some serious calling"--and Sen. Mullis promised to add his voice to theirs. "This is all about relationships at the capital and I have them," said Mullis, a longtime incumbent who is running for reelection in this year's delayed primary.
Otherwise, here are some of the daily numbers Rumley read today: Georgia cases are up to 11,483, almost 1000 up from 10,566 Thursday. Next door, Walker County is up from four to 6, Catoosa from nine to 11, Chattooga down, somehow, from five yesterday to four today. Rumley pointed out that there are currently 1246 cases in the Georgia daily status report listed as from unknown counties.
"Stay calm and try to make the best of the situation," advised Rumley. "We know we're going to be this way until the 30th."
He gave out a quarantine enforcement hotline for those residents concerned that others are violating the lockdown rules: (800) 241-4113. "When you call it, you're going to get some results.
"We're in uncharted territory," said Sen. Mullis, speaking in his turn. "I'm sure this will change our lives forever just like 9/11 did."
The senator answered questions he said he gets frequently:
Do I need to letter to keep working? Answer: No.
What happens if I violate the governor's executive order about sheltering at home? Answer: It's a misdemeanor
Can I still go to church service and funerals? Answer: If you can find one happening, it's not illegal, but please maintain the six-foot "social distancing" between people.
Can I go to state parks or play tennis or other sports? Answer: Yes, if congregations are 10 people or fewer and the social distancing parameters are met, so maybe golf is better than some sports.
Sen. Mullis gave out the COVID-19 hotline and The Planet will repot it here: (844) 442-2681. If you have any questions or emergencies, call that number.
He also encouraged small businesses to look on the county website for information about the new grants and forgivable loans that the Small Business Administration is offering to help self-employed individuals and small firms get through this crisis.
The senator provided his own number as a resource to those with
needs or questions, and The Planet also repeats it here: (706) 375-1776.
These briefings are livestreamed at 3 p.m. each day from the Dade County Ga. Facebook page. "Like" the page and you will be notified when the county goes live, or watch the videos afterward on the county page or from The Planet's, where they are shared. This weekend there may be additional livestreamed sessions if severe weather expected Sunday night into Monday materializes. County buildings will still be open as storm shelters in the event of severe weather.