The Planet had stopped synopsizing the Dade County government's daily 3 p.m. COVID-19 briefings, but there were so many important announcements at today's version it seemed time to make an exception.
First, the state Department of Motor Vehicles has recommenced its two days a month in Dade. Those needing driver's licenses may once again report to the Justice Building on alternative Mondays. The office is open today, said Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley. "They'll get right back on the regular schedule," he said.
Here's the schedule for the rest of the year:
May 11 & 18
June 8 &22
July 6 & 20
Aug 10 & 24
Sept 14 & 28
Oct 5 & 19
Nov 2 & 16
Dec 7 & 21
The one caveat is that DMV requests you first go to its website and make an appointment. You can no longer just show up. "They are allotting just so many slots when they're here," said Rumley.
That website is https://dds.georgia.gov/
Here's another anxiously-awaited piece of reopening news: Trenton Mayor Alex Case announced the city pool will open at noon Saturday. A loosening of the COVID-19 shutdown allows this important part of summer to proceed but not, Case warned, precisely as before. Social distancing rules still apply. "If you come in as a family you can stay as a family, but the next group has to be six feet away," said Case.
So kids can swim this summer, but not in big groups--Case added that the pool will not be able to rent itself out for parties after regular hours as usual. "We will be allowed to do swimming lessons, but it's probably going to be only in the month of July," said the mayor. More information should be available on lessons by June.
Other changes are that the pool will no longer be able to hand out pool noodles-- "Bring all your safety measures for your children," said Case--and will need more employees to keep common areas sanitized.
Answering a viewer question about whether COVID-19 can be spread in swimming pools, Case said no, so far there are no cases of that happening he knew of, but if your children are exhibiting any symptoms at all, please keep them home; don' t bring them to the pool.
Otherwise, the city playground is still closed and so is the Trenton Civic Center. "We're hoping maybe by the end of the month," said Case.
Here's yet another significant change on the COVID-19 front: You can now be tested for the virus for free at the Dade Public Health Department six days a week. As has been done for the past couple of weeks at the Four Fields sports complex, the testing is done in a safe drive-through process. The difference is that now it is done at the health department, which is on the bottom floor of the Administrative Building. Driving up to the buildings you should see signs and directions for how to proceed, but if you have questions you can call (706) 657-6181.
The free nasal swab test is being administered Monday-Thursday 1-4 p.m., Friday 9-10 a.m., and Saturday 9 a.m.-noon.
Otherwise, blood antibody tests are offered for a fee at Lawson Medical Group in Trenton or by the Ready Clinic in Walker County.
Another interesting bit of information imparted by County Executive Rumley concerns Cloudland Canyon State Park. During the height of the pandemic crisis, Rumley had wrestled with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp about getting the park closed down to avoid infection of comparatively virus-free Dade by tourists from hot spots such as Atlanta. Rumley lost that fight, but the governor imposed a compromise car limit of 150 and the park has been shutting down for several hours at a time after the limit is reached.
This weekend, said Rumley, the park had reached capacity by 10:30 a.m. but visitors had learned to circumvent the governor's limit rule by parking along Highway 136 and walking along the busy road into the park. Rumley said there had been 200 to 250 people walking down 136, causing fears that someone would be killed. The park is reconsidering its options, said Rumley. "They have to do something," he said.
Perhaps the best thing to do at this point is scrap the compromise and open Cloudland Canyon all the way back up, conjectured the county boss. "It looks like people are going to come whether the park is open or not," he said.
One more announcement: Early voting has started in the Administrative Building for the June 9 general primary. Rumley said many precautions had been put in place to guard voters from infection and that people seemed to feel safe voting. Apparently so: Deputy Dade County Clerk Carey Anderson said 91 people had voted by 3 p.m., which is very good indeed for Dade County.
The Planet has listed early voting times before but here they are again: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday. Saturday voting is Saturday, May 30, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Election Day is June 9.
Here are some of the pandemic numbers Rumley read today: Dade is up to 20 cases today on the Georgia Department of Health Daily Status Report. He reminded as he always does that that figure includes 11 antibody-only cases that the state has since decided not to count as they do not represent active infections. And he warned that Dade's numbers will probably begin to climb now that testing is so much more available. No reason to panic, said Rumley, just keep up the social distancing rules.
Statewide, the Daily Reports shows 38,081 COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 1642 deaths. Surrounding counties continue to add a few cases a day--Jackson County, Ala., went from 60 to 64 overnight, DeKalb 185 to 196. Tennessee counties are behaving similarly.
And Alex Case as well as Rumley reminded all it's Emergency Services Appreciation Week. This pandemic crisis makes paramedics' and EMTs' jobs more stressful than usual, they reminded. So don't hug 'em or shake their hands, that's verboten these days, but stand six feet away and shout out your thanks, they encouraged.