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Eli White, a student at Model Elementary School

Goodbye 2021: A Year of Blessings

As we say goodbye to 2021, many of us would like nothing more than to see a COVID-infested year in the rear view mirror. But life always has its highs alongside the inevitable lows. While we had much to lament this past year, we had much to celebrate as well. We asked readers to tell us about the things they’re thankful for this past year, the blessings it brought and the things worth celebrating. From births to weddings to medical miracles, here’s what you were thankful for....

Lisa King Wood — A new granddaughter, Nora Jane

Becky Smith — My great grandson Asher

Debbie Forcier — Our son we waited 11 years for, born on the prettiest hunter moon.

Kyle Abernathy — After prayer and soul searching, I left a local school system in Rome in search of a better opportunity and found a wonderful home for our family. I have now been promoted to Interim Principal after serving as assistant for six months. God has truly blessed and ordered our steps.

Dawn Wright — I got to see my daughter for the first time in two years thanks to COVID. It was an absolute blessing. I also made a career move which has been absolutely wonderful.

Stacy Pettit — My newest grandbaby Cason.

Heather Nicole — I got sober, got a home and got my kids back from foster care.

Nicole Adam Waters — After a VERY long time of trying for a baby, my husband and I are now blessed to be 24 weeks pregnant with our little girl. God works miracles.

Tiphany Lembcke — The best things that came out of 2021 for me is that my family is still here and healthy and I got a new job in the last month.

Ana Fowler — Starting my career with Floyd county schools and working with the sweetest little pre-K kiddos.

Sandy Cason Flennery — Tara Shuster and Taylor Flennery, my two daughters, got married in 2021. They’ve found their lifetime soul mates and partners and our family grew by two.

Margaret Roper — After two years of waiting and praying, my daughter received a kidney. God is awesome. Thank you, Jesus.

Amanda Johnson — A better relationship with God. I’m not all the way there yet but I’m on the path. And less anxiety.

Kristen Smith-Pittman — Graduated college and became a social worker for adult protective services.

Thomas Kislat — Our entire family received Covid-19 vaccines including booster shots which enabled us to travel internationally and attend live concerts and public events. Yay science.

Michael Colombo — My daughter and son in law moved back to Rome from Baton Rouge with their precious little girl.

Lisa Shelnutt Sheerin — My husband, Rick, received a new liver after waiting three years for the transplant. We grew closer to God and each other through the journey. We are so grateful and blessed.

Hannah Turner — I got married.

Janice Hufstetler Ingram — I was finally able to retire.

Heather Landrum — My new granddaughter, Kensleigh, was born in February. She’s just precious.

Jammi Lynn Vinson — We bought our first home.

Jenneth M Terry — Mom is doing well and I got one of my best friends back in my life.

Dee Barbery Dimou — A beautiful granddaughter that came on her daddy’s birthday. What a great gift

Gussie Bradfield — I gained an amazing son in law. Ryan Pickens, we love you big.

Nicole Jermaine Duncan — For God allowing me to spend another year with my husband and son.

Stephanie Boldin-Specht — Started with a new team at work and moved to Rome.

Donna Michael Douglas — I woke and was able to function each and every day. That’s the best anyone can hope for.

New year, new ELOST: School systems enter crunch time to get proposals on May ballot

Over the next few months, Floyd County Schools and Rome City Schools will begin preparing their new 2022 education local option sales tax packages to put on the May primary election ballots.

For RCS Superintendent Lou Byars, there’s one major project they want to put on their ELOST package: a new Rome Middle School.

While the current middle school on Veterans Memorial Highway is still in good condition, he said the student population has outgrown the facility and is growing every year.

Just last school year, the middle school had a population of 1,080, well over the listed capacity of 975 students.

While the middle school has been using mobile classrooms to help with the overflow, Byars said they’re expecting the school system to grow even more.

Louis Byars

Because of the creek that runs behind the middle school and Rome High School, they can’t expand the current building. However, they already have a plot of land across Veterans Memorial Highway originally purchased to house buses.

If the ELOST package is approved by voters, the school system will shift sixth graders to the middle school in order to free up classrooms at the elementary schools.

Byars said they also plan to use a portion of the ELOST funds to purchase buses and technology.

At the Floyd County school system, Superintendent Glenn White has multiple projects he plans to tackle and has them sectioned off in tiers.

Glenn White

White first put together a district facilities committee with two representatives selected by Floyd County Board of Education members from each district.

The committee contacted principals and faculty estimate the needs and upgrades they would like to achieve.

The first tier of projects will include replacing all roofs and HVAC systems. The field houses at Armuchee High School and Coosa High School are also listed top tier projects.

“We’re also planning on adding some kitchen renovations over at Armuchee. We’re already doing some kitchen work there right now, but we want to renovate the whole kitchen and plumbing,” White said.

At one point, White considered building a large Coosa Elementary School to serve the Coosa district, especially with projected closing of Cave Spring Elementary School this year, but decided that project could be put off for several years.

Other listed projects include turf and field renovations at all four high schools and new lighting and audio equipment for the auditoriums at all high schools.

Next step

The next step is to seek approval for any or all of the projects by an ELOST committee prior to being put on the ballot.

“Our next step is to put together our ELOST committee,” Byars said. “We’ll have representatives from Floyd County and Rome City and then we look for volunteers that would be area representatives. For us, we’d use representatives from our elementary schools and the county would have representatives from their four districts.”

The committee then campaigns for the projects and educates voters about the ELOST and school systems feel they’re needed.

“I’ll also go and speak to the (parent teacher organizations) and if any other organization wants to learn about it, either me or Dr. White can go and talk to them,” Byars said.

The school boards will vote referendums and timelines for the ELOST at separate board meetings in the next few weeks.

“There’s a certain legal process we must follow to get everything on the May ballot,” White said.

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, the next concern is strained healthcare resources

As new COVID-19 infections shattered previous records in Georgia during the past week, the virus appears to once again put a strain on healthcare resources locally and across the state.

The real question when it comes to COVID-19 infections is the ability to treat people who have a serious infection. While many people who are infected have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, an infection in others — especially those with pre-existing health conditions — could lead to death.

The importance of having available hospital resources to treat those badly affected by the virus has been a concern.

Looking at the state as a whole, over 80% of ICU and emergency department beds are spoken for, according to Georgia Geospatial Information Office statistics.

Locally in Region C, which includes Floyd County, the percentage of beds in ICU and emergency departments are somewhat higher. As of Friday, ICU beds are listed at 82% capacity and emergency department beds are listed at just under 96% capacity.

Compared to the end of November the number of patients filling emergency department beds have doubled. The data for ICU beds is more flat, with only minor increases since the mid-to-late December.

Ryan Smith, FMC, File 

In this May 2020 file photo, hospital workers thanked National Guardsmen who came to Floyd Medical Center to assist the hospital during the pandemic. Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week that 200 Georgia National Guard troops will be deployed beginning Jan. 3 in response to surges in COVID-19 numbers.

The percentage of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals remains higher statewide at 17% of the patient census, while Region C is just over 12% of the patient census. But those numbers have followed increased infection rates and doubled since Dec. 25 from 73 patients to 130 patients with COVID-19.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday the state will spend $100 million to fund up to 1,000 additional health-care workers in order to assist hospitals with the expected patient overload.

Up to 200 Georgia National Guard troops also will be deployed beginning Jan. 3, Kemp said this week. Half of those 200 will be sent to hospitals, while 96 will be assigned to help staff testing sites across the state operated by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Record breaking numbers of infections

The number of reported coronavirus infections in the United States has reached a new high, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week, recording an average of 316,000 infections every day for the past seven days.

That trumps the COVID-19 wave of the same time last year, which was approximately 250,000 new cases reported per day, according to the CDC.

Locally, the numbers of new infections have quadrupled over the past two weeks. Also, that number is likely underreported with a scarcity of tests compared with recent demand.

Public health officials have attributed the rise in cases to the extremely contagious omicron variant of the virus. However, the delta variant continues to exist and remains the dominant variant in several portions of the country. It’s not clear at this point which variant is to blame locally.

Another concern is how the disease caused by the coronavirus will affect vulnerable populations as well as the unvaccinated.

John Bailey, File 

This May 2020 file photo shows a Georgia Emergency Management Agency 20-bed mobile intensive care unit that has been in use at Floyd Medical Center.

“Our COVID vaccines are safe and effective and can prevent severe illness and death from COVID,” Kathleen E. Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said in mid-December. “If you are someone who wanted to ‘wait and see’ about the vaccine, please don’t wait any longer. As long as people are not vaccinated, COVID will continue to spread, and variants will continue to emerge.”

However, vaccination campaigns in Northwest Georgia and the state as a whole have only produced mediocre results.

According to CDC data, 62% of the approximately 330 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. Only a third of the population also received a booster vaccination. In Georgia, 53% of the population is fully vaccinated, with 30% having received a booster dose.

In Floyd County, 43% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and of that number 32% have received a booster shot. That’s slightly higher than other counties in the region, like Bartow, Chattooga, Gordon and Polk, which have yet to or barely broken the 40% vaccination threshold.