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Winter weather forecast still up in the air for Floyd County, impact expected further east

A wintry mix of snow and rain is expected to hit Floyd County this weekend, but as of Thursday evening, meteorologists are predicting a less than severe impact.

According to the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City office, they’re forecasting a mix of snow, rain and ice. More snow and ice is expected in Northeast Georgia, but that weather could move west.

Meteorologists are monitoring the storm and will have a clearer picture of this weekend’s weather over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Friday is expected to be mostly sunny, with a high near 51 degrees — but temperatures will start to drop in the evening.

The National Weather Service was predicting mostly cloudy skies Saturday morning and a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon. That chance of precipitation will increase to 90% Saturday night and the temperature is expected to drop to 32 degrees.

On Sunday, a mixture of rain, snow and freezing rain is predicted, with a high around 34 degrees and a low around 27 degrees.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said it is preparing its brine operations, equipment and staffing plans to respond to the pending threat. It plans to treat thousands of miles of interstates and state routes across North Georgia.

In addition to mustering all local resources across the northern part of Georgia, crews and equipment are being brought in from South Georgia to assist with the response.

Locally, Floyd County Public Works teams have a brine treatment prepared in case of ice and the Rome Street Department will begin their brining operations on Friday.

The forecast for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Freedom March in Rome on Monday is mostly sunny, with a high near 44 degrees.

Going home: Covid patient back home after 115 days at Floyd Medical Center

Cecilio Cervantes is glad to be back at his Cedartown home after spending 115 days in the hospital with a serious COVID-19 infection.

The 44-year-old was admitted to Floyd Medical Center with covid in September and spent weeks on a ventilator, but was recently discharged. Cervantes said he is still weak, and walking remains an effort.

He said one of the hardest things he had to do was climb stairs during the rehabilitation process to build up his strength.

“That was very tough,” he said. “The first time I tried I couldn’t do it, but I think the second time I made it all the way up.”

Floyd physical therapist Carolyn Rusiecki said Cervantes never complained about his sessions.

“I was impressed with his dedication and willingness to participate,” Rusiecki said. “Not all patients react in the same way. Sometimes therapy is not comfortable, but he really accepted the challenge.”

Cervantes’ girlfriend, Margoth Reyes, chronicled his stay, keeping track of milestones, good and bad. She said it was hard not to be able to be in the room with him while he was sick. Because he was often sedated, even the use of a cellphone or tablet to communicate was not often possible.

She said the nurses were determined to keep her updated on his progress.

“They were just so sweet to me,” Reyes said. “They would say ‘You can call us anytime and we will tell you how he is doing.’” She said the nurses would always say “We are here for you.”

Cervantes was hospitalized during the last spike in cases caused by the delta variant. Since that time, the number of cases dropped but spiked again, mainly fueled by the highly virulent omicron variant and large unprotected gatherings over the holidays.

The resulting hospitalizations have continued to increase following the latest surge. On Thursday, there were 72 covid patients at Floyd Medical Center and 68 at AdventHealth Floyd.

For comparison, two weeks ago, on Dec. 30, there were 37 covid patients at Floyd and 21 at Redmond.

So far, the death toll hasn’t matched the toll from the delta spike. In 2022, four Floyd County residents have died from a COVID-19 infection, according to Department of Public Health records. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, 330 Floyd County residents have died from covid. Another 86 deaths in Floyd County are listed as suspected to have been caused by the disease.

Kemp proposes more spending on education, health care, law enforcement

Gov. Brian Kemp asked Georgia lawmakers Thursday to use a record budget surplus to raise the salaries of teachers and state employees and hire more nurses and state troopers.

In his fourth and final State of the State address of a four-year term, Kemp told a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate that education, health care and public safety will top his agenda as he seeks reelection.

“It invests historic levels of resources in our students and educators,” the governor said toward the end of a 26-minute speech about his budget proposal. “It reduces the cost of health insurance for Georgia families (and) recruits 1,300 new nurses and doctors into communities where they’re needed most.”

Kemp recommended a $2,000 raise for Georgia teachers, the final installment of a $5,000 increase he promised four years ago on the campaign trail.

“Teachers are asked to do more and more every year,” Kemp said. “And the need for a world-class K-12 education to prepare our children for an ever-changing workforce has never been greater.”

Kemp also announced his fiscal 2022 mid-year budget will include $425 million to fully fund the K-12 school funding formula, doing away with “austerity” cuts that have plagued Georgia school systems for most of the last two decades.

Legislative Democrats praised Kemp for recommending additional funding for education but said that the governor could do more.

State Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler said Democrats will continue pushing for a full-blown expansion of Georgia’s Medicaid program through the Affordable Care Act and a statewide minimum wage of $15 an hour.

“With a record-breaking budget surplus, this is the best time to invest in Georgia, not maintain the status quo,” said Butler, D-Stone Mountain.

The governor also endorsed legislative efforts to enact a parental bill of rights to ensure parents are involved in their children’s education and a bill prohibiting the teaching of “critical race theory” in Georgia schools. The study of the effects of racism in American culture is not part of the K-12 curriculum.

“I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly this legislative session to protect our students from divisive ideologies — like critical race theory — that pit kids against each other,” he said.

On health care, Kemp asked for $1 million for the University System of Georgia to expand nursing programs to support up to 500 students a year for five years, and funds for the Technical College System of Georgia to add up to 700 nursing students.

“Physicians and nurses are in short supply across the country, but especially in rural Georgia,” he said.

The governor also proposed a $5,000 pay raise for state employees to make it easier to hire and retain workers, including law enforcement personnel, and requested $3 million to support an additional state trooper class of 75 cadets during the coming year.

“With many urban — and some rural — counties facing alarming levels of violent crime, we have the responsibility to act,” he said.

Kemp also used the State of the State pulpit to tout his efforts to keep Georgia’s economy open during the coronavirus pandemic, a stand he said has played a key role in the recovery Georgia is now enjoying.

“Because Georgia protected both lives and livelihoods, our best and most prosperous days are ahead,” the governor said. “Georgia is on the move because we chose freedom over government shutdowns.”

Lily Mitchel, a student at Johnson Elementary School

Covid: Rome, Floyd schools take long weekend due to staffing shortages

Both Rome City and Floyd County school systems will be taking a long weekend to recover from the rise in COVID-19 infections, especially in staff.

“A recent increase of staff absences due to COVID-19 and other reasons has greatly impacted the number of employees who are able to work,” a statement from the city school system read.

A similar sentiment was expressed in a statement by the county school system. They’ll both be closed Friday.

“We have tried to cover classes and keep activities going, but unfortunately, due to a recent increase of staff absences due to COVID-19 and other reasons, we are being greatly impacted by the number of employees who are able to work,” FCS spokesperson Lenora McEntire Doss said.

The week has seen increasing covid infections in students and staff in both school systems, and the decisions were made in part because of lack of staffing and in part to stem that spread.

Rome City Schools declared the system would move to Phase 2 of their COVID-19 protocols earlier this week, even before some schools reached their set 1% rate of infection.

The county school board’s policy is to enforce masking at schools that have passed a 2% infection rate and to go to virtual classes for schools that pass a 5% infection rate.

By Wednesday, Armuchee High School and Alto Park Elementary School had already moved toward the 3% infection rate mark and several others were near the 2% mark.

The city school board set a lower benchmark than the county schools to enact masking protocols and other precautions. Each city school immediately adopts their covid precautions when they bypass the 1% rate of infection.

The county schools look at the infections each week, resetting the gauge, and make a determination on Fridays.

As of the announcement Thursday, the plan is for Rome to return to classes on Tuesday and Floyd County to return to classes on Wednesday. The county school system has all previously scheduled extracurricular activities proceeding as normal.

The rise in school infections mirrors what’s happening in the community. Floyd County is continuing to hit new covid records every day. In the past two weeks 2,997 Floyd County residents have tested positive for the virus, according to Georgia Department of Public Health records.

The Dalton Daily Citizen is reporting a similar situation in Whitfield County Schools. The number of COVID-19 cases among students and staff is “like an avalanche right now,” said Deputy Superintendent Karey Williams.

Since the school system returned from holiday break last week, they’ve been using support staff to cover positions. Still, as of Wednesday, the school system had no plans to move to remote instruction.

“We’re trying to keep kids in schools, fed, and safe,” Williams said.

Whitfield County’s rate of 21,254 covid cases per 100,000 residents is third-highest in the state, and the county has seen 2,330 new infections during the past two weeks.