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USDA working to stop spread of racoon rabies in Catoosa
Aircraft to distribute vaccine baits by air

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its partnering agencies, including Catoosa County Animal Control, are working to stop the spread of racoon rabies in the region by dispersing oral rabies vaccination (ORV) baits by air.

Beginning Friday, Oct. 9, helicopters will crisscross the skies over Catoosa County to disperse about 120,000 coated sachet baits in the urban and suburban areas. On Oct. 12, fixed-wing aircraft will begin dispersing an additional 270,000 coated sachet baits in rural areas. Operations are expected to be completed the following week, weather permitting.

“If Catoosa County residents find an ORV bait, please leave it alone unless it is on your lawn, driveway or other areas not likely to attract raccoons,” said USDA rabies biologist Daymond Hughes. “If you want to move an ORV bait, wear gloves or use other protective covering like paper towels or plastic bags and relocate them to an area of thicker ground cover where raccoons are more likely to find it.”

The USDA recommends people wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water if they handle ORV baits without wearing gloves or other protection. Damaged or partially eaten ORV baits should be placed in a bag and disposed of with normal trash. Do not try to remove an ORV bait from a pet’s mouth since that may cause an animal to bite.

“The vaccine in these baits cannot cause rabies and has been shown to be safe in more than 60 species of animals, including cats and dogs,” Hughes said.

The aerial operation in Catoosa County is part of a wider, regional dispersion of ORV baits in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Partnering agencies include the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, along with the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The target area covers more than 1,270 square miles including all of Catoosa and Dade counties and large portions of Chattooga, Walker and Whitfield counties.

Catoosa County Animal Control continues its years-long relationship with the USDA to test wild animals, especially raccoons, for rabies and other diseases.

“When citizens bring raccoons to Animal Control that have been trapped, injured or deceased, we hold them until USDA biologists can take them for testing,” said Catoosa County Animal Control Director Sheree Horton. “If a non-exposure wildlife animal tests positive for rabies, USDA will inform Animal Control and either myself or our senior officer will follow up with the citizen.”

What you need to know — how, when and where — to vote in the Nov. 3 general election in Catoosa County

In Catoosa County, the Nov. 3 general election ballot will include one local contested race: Board of Commissioners chairman Steven Henry, a Republican, is facing off against Democrat Ernie Pursley.

However, there are several certified write-in candidates for Board of Commissioners races: Nick Ware for chairman in the race between Henry and Pursley; Greg Bentley for the District 1 seat against Republican Jeff Long; and Terry Crawford the District 3 seat against Republican Vanita Hullander.

The ballot will also include some other high-interest contested races, including the presidential race, the crowded race to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, and the U.S. Senate race between Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and Libertarian Shane Hazel.

Voting via absentee ballot

Voters can complete the request for an absentee ballot from the Catoosa County Board of Elections and Registration. The Catoosa County elections office deadline to mail out absentee ballots is Friday, Oct. 30. The office closes at 5 p.m. and election officials caution that waiting this late is “cutting it close.” The completed ballot must be in the hands of election officials by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Completed absentee ballot applications can be returned via mail, email, fax or in person.

Completed absentee ballots can be returned via mail or dropped off in person; they cannot be returned via fax or email.

♦ By mail or in person: Freedom Center, 5238 Evitt St., Ringgold (where you will find a secure ballot dropbox). If you mail your ballot back, don’t forget to put postage on it: one first class stamp.

♦ By email: catoosaelections@catoosa.com

♦ By fax: 706-935-2538

If someone else delivers your ballot for you, they must be related to you in one of the following ways: mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, spouse, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, individual residing in the same household as the voter, caretaker of the voter if the voter is disabled. No one else can legally deliver your ballot.

You must sign the back of the return envelope on absentee ballots. If you don’t, your ballot will have to be verified. If someone has helped you fill out your ballot, there is a place on the back of the return envelope where they must sign.

Need an absentee ballot? Call the elections office at 706-935-3990 or go online to https://sos.ga.gov/admin/files/Fillable%20Absentee%20Ballot%20Form%2020.pdf.

Early voting

If you prefer to vote in person before election day, there are two precincts open for early voting: the Freedom Center at 5238 Evitt St. near downtown Ringgold and the Westside voting precinct at 3319 Lakeview Drive in Rossville.

Early voting is open Monday through Friday, Oct. 12-30, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — except for Thursday, Oct. 29, when the two locations will be open for extended hours, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The two locations will also be open for early voting on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Election day voting

For those wanting to cast a ballot and who did not vote early or via absentee, you must vote at your assigned precinct on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. If you aren’t sure which precinct that is, you can visit www.mvp.sos.ga.gov or call the elections office at 706-935-3990.

Catoosa has 11 voting precincts, which will be open on Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.:

♦ Blackstock, 773 Gordy Circle, Tunnel Hill

♦ Boynton, 4057 Boynton Drive, Ringgold

♦ Catoosa Keith, 2803 Keith Road, Ringgold

♦ Chambers, 4346 Long Hollow Road, Ringgold (across from Napier’s Store)

♦ Fort Oglethorpe (Constitution Hall), 205 Forrest Road, Fort Oglethorpe

♦ Graysville, 967 Graysville Road, Ringgold

♦ Lakeview, 452 Hudson St., Rossville

♦ Poplar Springs, 479 Rollins Industrial Court, Ringgold

♦ Ringgold, Freedom Center (formerly known as the Nutrition Center), 5238 Evitt St., Ringgold. Office-706-935-3990. Freedom Center also houses the Catoosa County Elections and Voter Registration Department.

♦ Westside, 3319 Lakeview Drive, Rossville (next to Westside Elementary School)

♦ Woodstation, 36 East Nickajack Road, Ringgold

If you change your mind about voting absentee

If you received an absentee ballot and change your mind and decide to vote in person, you will have to bring your blank absentee ballot with you to a polling location or you will have to go to a polling location and request in writing that your unsubmitted absentee ballot be canceled. A poll worker will have to call the elections office to verify that you did not submit a ballot.

For more information

Go online to https://www.catoosa.com/elections, or email catoosaelections@catoosa.com, or call the elections office at 706-935-3990. Or you can visit the elections office is at the Freedom Center, 5238 Evitt St. in Ringgold; the office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Catoosa County COVID-19 testing site moves back to health department

The Catoosa County Health Department has moved its COVID-19 testing site.

Testing is no longer available at Ringgold United Methodist Church on Nashville Street. The county Health Department switched its testing from the health department to the church during September.

It has now returned to the Health Department, which is located at 145 Catoosa Circle in Ringgold.

During October, free testing will be available at the county Health Department on Mondays (Oct. 19 and 26) and Tuesdays (Oct. 20 and 27) from 9 a.m. to noon and from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will also be available on Saturday, Oct. 24, during the same hours.

The new test site will feature drive-up processing. No appointments are needed.

For information about COVID-19 testing, including locations, days and hours, visit the Catoosa County Health Department’s Facebook page (CatoosaDPH). For information about all Northwest Health District COVID-19 test sites, go to https://nwgapublichealth.org.