New leaders of the Salvation Army in Rome are no strangers to the community. Tim and Paula Blevins have returned.
Tim worked for many years with Bekaert Corp. Paula ran the family business, C&S Trophies, and was very active with the Downtown Development Authority for many years.
In 2010, all three of their children moved out of the house — two got married and the other took a job out of town — so they began to look for something new to do.
“We felt that raising our children was a full-time Christian ministry in our lives, so when the children were gone it was time to seek God for the next phase,” Paula said.
She knew the local Salvation Army leaders at the time, Capt. Tim and Eileen Farrell. They decided to attend a church service at the Salvation Army in Rome and have been Salvation Army advocates ever since.
The call to service came around 2014, when they committed themselves to serving the spiritual and humanitarian needs of others and started the Salvation Army training program. Two years later they were commissioned as lieutenants and ordained as pastors in the Salvation Army. Their first assignment was in Griffin.
“The mission of the Salvation Army is ‘to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination,’” Paula said. “Everything we do through the Salvation Army is done under the emphasis of this mission.”
She said that raising awareness of the complete mission of the Salvation Army is their top priority in Rome.
“We want the community to be more aware of the Salvation Army, why we’re here and how we can come alongside people and meet their physical or spiritual needs,” she said.
The couple has spent their first months since returning to Rome assessing all of the needs that exist in the tri-county service area, Floyd, Polk and Chattooga. Improvements to the shelter on East First Avenue are a possibility.
Tim said that, underneath the primary mission, there are several issues that need to be addressed. Some financial concerns and short-staffing at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, 2511 Redmond Circle, are near the top of his list.
“The store is absolutely essential. And it’s interesting because, for a lot of people, all they know about the Salvation Army is the store,” Tim said. “The revenue from the store is the major component of the funding to keep our programs going.”
He said COVID-19 has impacted people’s income and their spending, so revenue at the store is down and that’s something the couple wants to address.
“Anyone can come in and get food as needed,” Tim said.
Paula said the food pantry at the Salvation Army is in pretty good shape right now.
“We are getting regular boxes of produce from different organization and are getting regular donations of milk from Borden two times a week,” she said.
People can call the office at 706-291-4745 to set up a time to come by to pick up food. To support the work of the Salvation Army of Rome, visit the website at salvationarmygeorgia.org/rome.
An Armuchee man who has been facing a number of serious medical issues is getting a little more help from the Floyd County Home Builders Association.
Floyd County police led a major effort to make significant repairs to Kenneth Acker’s home a few weeks ago, but the public safety volunteers put a call in to the home builders group to construct an access ramp.
Acker suffers from congestive heart failure and cancer and is not physically able to do much around his house, which had fallen into disrepair.
After RHBA President Jerry Rucker and builder Larry Maxey took a look at the property, Phillip Burkhalter sent one of his crews to the residence and knocked out the ramp in about four hours.
“We slammed it,” Burkhalter said.
Mike Mathis of Mathis Builders Hardware & Supply provided much of the material to build the ramp.
“I just can’t believe what has happened,” Acker said Thursday afternoon. “Everybody that has turned out, everybody has really done a lot to help me. I’m just overwhelmed.”
Acker said that, physically, he is doing as well as he could. While the cancer is not under control quite yet, he said he’s feeling better and believes, in turn, that has helped with his heart.
When the police — with help from other first responders — showed up at this home to work, one of the things they did was make sure the residence had air conditioning. Acker said a new refrigerator also has been a blessing and officers continue to check on him.
County police first got involved with Acker when an officer went to serve an environmental court citation for the condition of the home and property. Once the officer, Katy Walters, realized his condition she cleared the citation and was able to convince her fellow officers that Acker needed their help.
The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office began reviewing their COVID-19 response plan and protocols Thursday following the first employee testing positive Wednesday night.
Jail Administrator Maj. Bob Sapp said he believes the plan has gone smoothly so far, but staff are still looking at ways to improve safety protocols and plans in case it happens again.
“That employee is self-isolating right now,” he said. “There’s only a handful of things we can rely on: masking, social distancing, sanitation, disinfecting and mitigation procedures.”
The sheriff’s office keeps a daily contact list of all staff interactions and assignments so that if a staff member tests positive, they can go back and figure out how many people the staff member potentially exposed. In this instance, Sapp said, the employee hadn’t interacted with many other employees or inmates that day, making his risk of exposing others small.
Nevertheless, all employees who worked during the same 12-hour shift are being tested for COVID-19. In the meantime, they’ll continue wearing masks and gloves in the building and performing tasks that require minimal contact with other people. If anyone begins showing symptoms, they will be sent home.
“We’re still at Code Yellow, but we’re adding to our Code Yellow operational plans every day — certain things we might try a different way,” Sapp said. “Our goal is to protect each other, protect the inmates, protect the community.”
According to Logan Boss, communication director for the Northwest Georgia District Department of Public Health, they began testing employees on Thursday at the request of Sheriff Tim Burkhalter and are awaiting results.
“The jail is an indoor environment with a congregate setting, so the risk is higher,” Boss said.
Employees at the jail have their temperature taken at least twice a day, but inmates have not had regular temperature checks every day.
According to Sapp, they may incorporate that into their new plans.
After staff found out about the positive test, they began sanitizing all areas with proper chemicals in gear. For about an hour on Wednesday, staff instructed 911 not to send anyone to the jail, unless an arrestee was violent.
“Sheriff Burkhalter made sure we got out in front of this thing,” Sapp said. “We just enacted our plan yesterday and, knock on wood, everything went very smoothly.”
He won’t find out if other employees were exposed for a few more days, when they receive their test results.
As cases rise in the community, Sapp said the jail has seen more people coming in who have interacted with someone who has tested positive. In those instances, the inmate is placed into an isolation area for 12 to 14 days or until the person is bonded out.
While deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are mounting rapidly, public health experts are seeing a flicker of good news: Nationally the second surge of confirmed cases appears to be leveling off.
However, Floyd County continues to see double digit gains in new infections daily.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that 30 more Floyd County residents tested positive Thursday for the disease caused by the coronavirus.
That brings the 14-day total of new cases to 327, making 1,168 cumulative cases — the total number of confirmed cases since March. The state reported 4,045 new cases on Thursday with a seven day average of just over 3,000 new cases per day.
Overnight, 30 Georgians died as a result of a COVID-19 infection. Since the first deaths were reported in March, 3,671 Georgians have died from the disease. Floyd County has not seen a COVID-19 related death since late May.
Locally there were 65 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Thursday and another 14 people hospitalized who are awaiting a test result.
The trend nationally has primarily been driven by four big, hard-hit places — Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — and cases are rising in close to 30 states in all. The outbreak’s center of gravity is seemingly shifting from the Sun Belt toward the Midwest.
Some experts wonder whether the apparent caseload improvements will endure. Nor is it clear when deaths start coming down. COVID-19 deaths do not move in perfect lockstep with the infection curve, for the simple reason that it can take weeks to get sick and die from the virus.
The future? “I think it’s very difficult to predict,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious-disease expert.
The virus has claimed over 150,000 lives in the U.S., by far the highest death toll in the world, plus more than a half-million others around the globe.
Over the past week, the average number of deaths per day in the U.S. has climbed more than 25%, from 843 to 1,057. Florida on Thursday reported 253 more deaths, setting its third straight single-day record. The number of confirmed infections nationwide has topped 4.4 million.
In other developments:
The collateral damage from the virus mounted, with the U.S. economy shrinking♦ at a dizzying 32.9% annual rate in the April-June quarter — by far the worst quarterly plunge on records dating to 1947. And more than 1.4 million laid-off Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, further evidence that employers are still shedding jobs five months into the crisis.
♦ Amid the outbreak and the bad economic news, President Donald Trump for the first time publicly floated the idea of delaying the Nov. 3 presidential election♦ , warning without evidence that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud. Changing Election Day would require an act of Congress, and the notion ran into immediate resistance from top Republicans and Democrats alike.
♦ Herman Cain, the former pizza-chain CEO who in 2012 unsuccessfully sought to become the first Black candidate to win the Republican nomination for president, died of complications from the virus at 74.
Surge tapering off but ...Based on a seven-day rolling average, daily cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. fell from 67,317 on July 22 to 65,266 on Wednesday, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University. That is a decline of about 3%.
Researchers prefer to see two weeks of data pointing in the same direction to say whether a trend is genuine. “But I think it is real, yes,” said Ira Longini, a University of Florida biostatistician who has been tracking the coronavirus and has been a source of disease forecasts used by the government.
The Associated Press found the seven-day rolling average for new cases plateaued over two weeks in California and decreased in Arizona, Florida and Texas.
The trends in Arizona, Texas and Florida are “starting to bend the curve a bit,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins public health researcher. Those states, along with California, have been pouring large numbers of cases each day into the national tally. So when those places make progress, the whole country look better, she said.
Also, in another possible glimmer of hope, the percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the virus across the U.S. dropped from an average of 8.5% to 7.8% over the past week.
But with the outbreak heating up in the Midwest, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers ordered the wearing of masks statewide because of a spike in cases, joining some 30 other states that have taken such measures.
The latest surge in cases became evident in June, weeks after states began reopening following a deadly explosion of cases in and around New York City in the early spring. Daily case counts rose to 70,000 or more earlier this month. Deaths, too, began to climb sharply, after a lag of a few weeks.
Some researchers believe that the recent leveling off is the result of more people embracing social distancing and other precautions.
“I think a lot of it is people wearing masks because they’re scared,” Longini said.
But Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health said the trend could also be due to natural dynamics of the virus that scientists to do not yet understand.
Without robust testing and other measures to keep the virus in check, a third peak is possible — or even likely — given that only an estimated 10% of Americans have been infected so far, experts said.
And there’s no reason to believe the peak can’t be larger than the first two.
“This disease will continue to hopscotch around until it finds tinder — susceptible individuals — like any good fire,” said Khan, a former top infectious-disease outbreak investigator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fauci said he is “somewhat comforted” by the recent plateau. But a stabilization of cases at around 60,000 is “still at a very high level.” He said he is also worried about rising percentages of tests coming back positive in states like Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.
“That’s a warning sign that you might be seeing a surge,” Fauci said. “They’ve really got to jump all over that.”