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Rome City Schools closed Friday and Monday, Darlington extends spring break in COVID-19 response

Classes at Rome City Schools are canceled for Friday and Monday, according to spokesperson Joshua McClure.

Thursday's activities will continue as scheduled, any activities for Friday through Monday are canceled or postponed.

"As a school district, we have planned for this scenario," McClure said in a statement. "It is important to reiterate, currently, that Rome City Schools is unaware of any confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus."

As part of the announcement McClure also stated any students who wish to receive a school meal it can be picked up any school campus on Friday from 10 a.m. to noon or Monday from 10 a.m. to noon. 

After carefully weighing the latest information available about the coronavirus, Darlington School administrators have extended spring break for students to March 23 to allow appropriate time to plan for the remainder of the school year.

All school activities, including athletics and other extracurricular events, will be suspended next week.

“While there are confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Floyd County, we are not aware of any cases in our school community at this time,” said Head of School Brent Bell. “However, as a day and boarding school with students ranging in age from 4-18 on one campus, we are a unique community that must weigh many factors in our decision-making process. While we would certainly prefer to be in school and fully operational, we feel that this action is necessary to ensure the health and safety of our students. We need to be certain that our students will return to a setting optimal for learning.”

Faculty and staff will report back to work on Tuesday, March 17.

“Next week, our faculty and staff will be hard at work putting plans in place that will allow us to have the best possible program moving forward,” said Bell. “As this is a fluid situation, there are many unanswered questions. But rest assured that all decisions are being made with the health and wellness of our students as our top priority, while also ensuring we educate each student to the best of our ability.”

Teachers will be preparing to deliver class content and information in an online format for any student not able to be in the classroom.

Boarding students who are at home or under the care of a guardian or relative should remain at home and not make travel plans until you receive further notice from the school.

Boarding students who cannot return to their parents/guardians while school is closed should contact aod@darlingtonschool.org to help arrange accommodations.

We will ask students/families to complete a screening process in order to return to school. Details about this process will be shared as we move closer to return. In the meantime, everyone would be wise to observe their own health and that of their children.

Families should be on the lookout for communication personalized to their child or children. These communications will likely come from division directors, teachers, the athletic department, coaches and directors.

“During this challenging time, I remain grateful for everyone in the Darlington Community and for Darlington’s crisis response team, in particular,” said Bell. “This group has been actively engaged for weeks in planning for, and responding to, different scenarios. The rapid flow of change, information, and developments makes this difficult. We remain in consistent communication with our local health department and, of course, monitor CDC and WHO guidelines.”

Previously posted:

Floyd County schools has rescheduled their teacher planning day for Monday, March 16 -- students will be off that day. 

"As of Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 10:15 a.m. there is still only one confirmed COVID-19 case of a Floyd County Schools employee," the school system's spokesperson Lenora McEntire Doss.

All Coosa attendance area athletic events which were scheduled for Thursday are cancelled. The Coosa High School prom, which was scheduled for March 21, had been postponed as well, according to the school's Facebook page. 

Armuchee High School has postponed the Little Miss Armuchee event scheduled for Friday, March 13, and the Mr. & Miss Armuchee event scheduled for Saturday, March 14.

"A new date has not been scheduled but we will announce as soon as that decision is made," according to an announcement on Armuchee High School's Facebook page.

The Rome Symphony Orchestra concert originally scheduled for Saturday, March 14, has been postponed. All ticket holders should retain tickets as they will be honored at the rescheduled concert date, once it is announced. The piano and voice recital will be performed as scheduled at Bell recital hall at Berry College at 7:30 p.m. will take place Thursday night.

"Thank you for your understanding and your support of the Rome Symphony Orchestra," a statement from Rome Symphony Orchestra read.

The Floyd County Sheriff's Office announced this morning the jail will only be processing fingerprints for criminal justice agencies and school employment inquiries. The sheriff's office will still be processing background checks but no fingerprints for the general public but, with the exception of adoptions, medical licenses and travelling nurses.

“We are taking every reasonable precaution to protect our staff and inmates. This situation is very fluid, and we are monitoring it closely,” Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said. “Our number one priority is the safety and security of those within our facility and our community.”

Both Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center stated they still only had two patients each, for a total of four in Floyd County, who have been confirmed with a COVID-19 infection.

The 2020 Big Fibbers Storytelling Festival for March 27-28 has been cancelled "in the interest of community health." All events associated with the festival, including the Big Fibbers competition and Young Tales Youth competition are cancelled as well.

Organizer Terrell Shaw said that those who have purchased tickets online will receive a refund.

Previously posted:

Floyd County Schools closed all schools for Thursday and Friday, expanding its initial closure of Cave Spring Elementary after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The school system also ordered all employees, except custodians and central office staff, to not report on Thursday and Friday. County schools already had two scheduled days off for students on those days but later extended it to teachers as well.

Sanitation measures have been taken, a FCS release stated. They include adding hand sanitizers as well as fogging once a week with an FDA approved sanitizer.

“Floyd County Schools will thoroughly clean Cave Spring Elementary School over the next two days,” the release stated.

The employee is being treated at a local hospital, according to the system’s spokesperson Lenora McEntire Doss.

Parent-teacher conferences systemwide have been canceled, along with the Cave Spring Pinto Bean luncheon, which was scheduled for Friday.

On Wednesday, when the school system was first notified of the positive COVID-19 case, parents were told they could take their children home without an attendance penalty but the school wasn’t closed.

There were mixed emotions at the elementary school as parents picked up their children.

Melissa Weeks said she wasn’t sure how to prepare.

“To be honest, we’ve never been through anything like this,” she said.

Jessica Baucom, another parent at Cave Spring, said she wasn’t too worried about the positive result.

“Honestly, it’s not as big of a deal as people are panicking about,” she said. “People die from the flu, but people don’t get flu vaccines. We’re a little more afraid of it than we need to be.”

Hospitals

Floyd Medical Center spokesman Dan Bevels confirmed another patient had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning. That patient is being held, along with another patient who also tested positive last week, in medical isolation at the hospital.

Redmond Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Andrea Pitts said there are still two patients at the hospital who have tested positive for the illness. They’re also in medical isolation. It is unclear if any of these cases are related to the FCS employee.

That brings the total cases in Floyd County to four; as of Wednesday afternoon the state has confirmed three of those cases.

Clay Bentley, a Rome resident who is under quarantine for the virus, spoke publicly about his experience. He’s been diagnosed with coronavirus and double pneumonia.

“I feel like I’m in prison,” he told CNN. He said his son who works in law enforcement was sent home from work once people found out about Bentley having the virus. He also said his grandson’s daycare closed completely due to his diagnosis.

Cartersville Medical Center was notified on Wednesday that a patient at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19, and three other patients are awaiting results.

WBHF in Cartersville reported two confirmed positive COVID-19 cases are connected to the Church at Liberty Square services in Cartersville on the Sunday mornings of March 1 and March 8.

Colleges

Local colleges have also responded to the cases in the area.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College sent out a statement saying they are “taking extra measures to regularly clean and disinfect areas that have high amounts of human contact.”

Berry College, according to the school’s website, is prohibiting college travel and “strongly discouraging personal travel to locations where the CDC has issued a Level 3 warning.”

Events

Harbin Clinic has canceled Saturday’s Leprechaun-a-thon due to coronavirus concerns. Registration will be automatically transferred to a new 5K race that will take place on Oct. 10.

Precautions

The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office has designated the new coronavirus a Code Yellow threat and suspended all but essential operations at the jail.

Religious services and community service programs are temporarily halted, although there are provisions for clergy to hold individual visitations.

Additional inmate screening processes also are in place.

Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said the changes are a necessary precaution “to protect not only our staff and inmates but the community as a whole.”

FCS sent out a list of recommended daily actions families can take to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:

Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Cover coughs or sneeze with a tissue.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Adults and children who are sick should stay home from work or school and stay away from other people until they are better.

Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

“If you believe your child is showing symptoms, please call the local hospitals before arriving,” the school system’s release stated.

“We will continue to collaborate, share information, and monitor the situation with local and state health officials to help protect our school communities.”


Local
CDC: Vulnerable populations need to be extra cautious against the coronavirus

When the administrator of the long-term senior care facility PruittHealth-Rome realized COVID-19 was beginning to hit the United States, he knew it was more important than ever to protect his 89 elderly residents and the staff caring for them.

“We’re doing everything we can right now in light of how fast the virus is spreading. We’re even taking the temperatures of all visitors, staff and residents — even though it’s not really required yet,” Lemarr Gass said Wednesday.

“Everything’s very fluid right now. We might have to go to full-on restrictions at some point, but I’m not sure what that would look like at this point other than not allowing visitors.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, no one at PruittHealth has shown signs of infection.

It was such a facility in Kirkland, Washington, that reported the first fatalities from the coronavirus in this country — less than three weeks ago, after an infected visitor brought in the new respiratory illness that originated in China.

Since then, 24 people in the Seattle area have died from COVID-19 — the majority of whom lived at the Life Care Center of Kirkland.

The elderly and those already living precariously with underlying health issues such as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung illnesses and heart disease are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At PruittHealth, off Three Mile Road near Mount Berry Mall, Gass is limiting visiting hours to four hours per day and giving all visitors a CDC questionnaire to assess their health once they enter through the code-locked lobby door.

“If anybody is showing signs or symptoms of the virus, we will not allow them access,” Gass said.

At some point, he said, they may have to set up a way friends and family members can visit loved ones remotely through Skype or FaceTime.

If staff show signs of illness, they will be asked to stay home and will have the option of using company-provided personal time off, Gass said.

He said that in addition to staff being scanned on a regular basis for symptoms, they are using universal hand-washing guidelines or using alcohol-based gel continually.

They also are being kept updated on the latest COVID-19 developments and best practices, he said.

“They’re going through a lot of supplies,” Gass said. “All we can do is continue on and do due diligence with infection control.”

For those in the high-risk category still living at home, the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health recommend:

♦ Stocking up on supplies and medications in case an outbreak requires staying home;

♦ Keeping a distance of at least three feet from others, especially those who appear sick;

♦ Avoiding crowds as much as possible;

♦ Washing hands often for at least 20 seconds (including the backs of hands);

♦ Avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands; and

♦ Avoiding touching elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, etc.

Gass said he thinks it’s only a matter of time before there’s a community-wide COVID-19 outbreak in Rome.

“In a perfect world, God would just say ‘Enough of this,’ but we don’t live in a perfect world,” he said. “As things change, we will change, also.”


Octavion Mallory, a fifth-grader at West Central Elementary School


Police_fire
Chattooga trooper named Georgia's top Trooper

A Georgia State Patrol officer based in Rome has been named the state’s Georgia State Trooper of the Year.

Trooper First Class Stan Smith is a veteran of more than 30 years in law enforcement.

Sgt. Logan Gass, commander of Rome Post 38, said Smith has served the Northwest Georgia law enforcement community his entire adult life.

Prior to joining the GSP, Smith was a deputy sheriff in Chattooga County for 22 years.

“It’s really something to be proud of,” Gass said. “By the time people have reached the point in their career where they’ve been working for more than 30 years, they kind of slack up. But he’s still trucking along and leads the post in enforcement efforts just about every month.”

While Smith is a leader in terms of enforcement activity, Gass said he also understands that traffic enforcement is not the only way to make a positive impact.

Last year Smith made more than 1,100 contacts — surpassing the next closest trooper by more than 400.

“Considering the changes in Georgia’s distracted driving laws, Tfc. Smith put particular emphasis on educating the public on the dangers associated with distracted driving and made more than 500 contacts with drivers who were driving while distracted,” Gass said. “The motorists were either warned, cited appropriately, then educated as necessary.”

Smith is often identifying problematic travel corridors and presenting ideas to his supervisors as to how improvements could be made.

“He not only identified areas where existing traffic control measures were lacking, but he proposed avenues of change that would be beneficial and safer for the motoring public,” Gass said.


Business
Kerry reveals major upgrade of Rome plant

The Kerry Group revealed plans Wednesday for a $125 million investment that will more than double the capacity of its Rome plant at 5 Douglas St. in Lindale.

The company took over the former customized seasonings and coatings division of Southeastern Mills in a deal first announced in December 2018.

It is Kerry’s biggest capital investment in its North American division and will result in the addition of more than 100 new jobs at the Rome plant.

In a press release from the office of Gov. Brian Kemp, Gerry Behan, the CEO of Kerry Taste & Nutrition North America, said North America is Kerry’s largest market.

“As such, it is fitting that it is here that we announce our largest-ever capital expenditure investment,” Behan said.

The upgrade will facilitate the company’s expansion of product line in the poultry and seafood markets, doubling its product capacity.

Construction is slated to begin immediately and is expected to be complete in early 2021.

The massive upgrade is expected to be done within the existing footprint of the facility on Douglas Street. During the construction phase, company officials expect close to 400 people working on the expansion

A commitment to sustainability means that the new facility will be powered by 100% renewable electricity along with initiatives that include zero waste to the landfill, bulk receiving and energy-efficient equipment.

Southeastern Mills moved its seasonings and customized coatings division from East First Street in downtown Rome to the Lindale location in 1999. It included a state-of-the-art Center of Innovation, a premier research and development kitchen complex.

“It has been great working with the leadership of Kerry Group as they made their decision to choose Rome for their coatings expansion,” Rome Mayor Bill Collins said in the press release.

Jimmy Byars, chairman of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority, pointed out in the statement that existing industry remains a strong driver in the creation of capital investment and jobs for Rome and Floyd County.

The addition of more than 100 new jobs would take full-time employment at the plant over the 230 mark.

Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said that much of economic development is based on relationships.

“I am grateful to Ireland’s Consular General Shane Stephens and our area economic development partners for making opportunities like these possible,” Wilson said.