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Rowdy teens, fights lead police to ask for more latitude on enforcing curfew restrictions

There were three fights that began after a football game and spilled over to the Town Green last weekend, and police ended up picking up around 20 teens.

This incident, as well as other similar reports recently, led Rome Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney to ask City Commissioners to consider changes to the curfew ordinance.

Officers need to be able to decide when a warning is appropriate, or if other action should be taken, she said.

Currently, the ordinance mandates that police give a warning the first time a teen or minor violates the 11 p.m. curfew. During the board’s retreat on Wednesday, the police chief spoke of large groups of teens cursing and getting rowdy on the weekends.

Downer-McKinney also pointed out that the issues, and the ordinance, aren’t limited to the downtown area.

Once youths are told to leave one area they often congregate elsewhere, City Commissioner Sundai Stevenson said. She noted that large groups are causing problems in the parking lots of Applebee’s and Steak and Shake on Turner McCall Boulevard.

That’s one reason why police have started documenting the verbal warnings they give.

The city adopted a curfew for minors in 2018. After an early enforcement push, most incidents had died down — until recently, Downer-McKinney said.

“The Rome Police Department has received a large number of complaints over the past several weeks of juveniles violating this ordinance, particularly on Broad Street and near the Town Green,” read a public service announcement released last week.

The ordinance states that people under the age of 17 cannot be out unsupervised from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Police also warned that people causing fights, cussing or using obscene gestures can be arrested on a disorderly conduct charge.

At least one business has taken issues into their own hands and hired an off duty police officer to enforce the curfew.

Jefferson’s on Broad Street has enacted its own curfew for teenagers after several incidents, City Manager Sammy Rich told commissioners.

“We’ve got at least one business pleading for us to help,” Rich said.

The discussion centered on what measures the city and police force, which is currently down 16 officers, could take.

“You can’t hold a child accountable for being a child,” Commissioner Craig McDaniel said. “You’ve got to hold parents accountable.”

Most of the commissioners appeared to agree with that sentiment.

Officers reported they’ve overheard parents asking their children why they didn’t run from police when approached, Downer-McKinney told commissioners. There also have been reports of parents dropping off children, some as young as 10 years old, downtown.

“We’ve already contacted Juvenile Court and they can hold the parents accountable,” Downer-McKinney said.

In order to change to the ordinance, it first will be presented to the city’s public safety committee before going beore the full city commission.

Rocco Ball, a student at Glenwood Primary School

Two week COVID-19 infection rate back above 400 mark, positive test rate spikes

The number of Floyd County residents newly infected with COVID-19 in a two week period jumped back above the 400 mark on Wednesday after several weeks of slow declines.

The Georgia Department of Public Health classifies any county that has a rate of over 100 new cases per 100,000 people during a two week period as a high transmission area. With 424 new cases since Sept. 3, Floyd has more than quadrupled the figure required for that classification.

Alongside that number, the county’s positivity rate also rose to 12.1% during that same time period, according to Department of Public Health reports.

WABE Atlanta released the Trump administration’s latest assessment of Georgia’s effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus on Wednesday.

The most recent report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force measured Georgia as having the 14th highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the country in the week leading up to Sept. 13.

That’s an improvement from the prior period — but the report also noted the state didn’t show progress in reducing its positivity rate, which remained flat. One of the issues noted in the report was virus-spread in university towns.

“Georgia is making progress and, to sustain the gains, should continue the strong mitigation efforts statewide and strengthen mitigation efforts in university towns to decrease spread from universities to local (communities),” WABE reported.

Many colleges and universities in the state have seen spikes in cases as students have returned for in-person learning.

Lifting nursing home restrictions

Gov. Brian Kemp late Tuesday lifted restrictions on elderly long-term care facilities that have been in effect in Georgia since the coronavirus pandemic hit the state in March.

Nursing homes, personal-care homes, assisted-living communities, hospices and other elderly-care facilities were allowed to reopen subject to continuing measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“The state has collaborated with appropriate agencies, long-term care associations and other stakeholders on how to responsibly ease restrictions in long-term care facilities while COVID-19 remains in communities across the state,” Kemp wrote in an executive order.

Under Kemp’s order, elderly-care facilities will be allowed to reopen by progressing through three phases, the third phase being the least restrictive.

Decisions on which phase to implement at any given time must be based on considerations including the number of coronavirus cases in the local community or inside the facility, access to personal protective equipment, whether a facility’s staffing is adequate and hospital capacity in the local community.

The governor issued a statewide shelter-in-place order in March with the coronavirus pandemic taking hold across Georgia. He has since lifted the order as it applied to most residents and businesses but left it in place for elderly-care facilities, as they were being hit particularly hard by the virus.

The governor emphasized in his order that the number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia continues to grow and that the virus remains “a severe threat to public health.”

Under the Phase I restrictions, visitation to an elderly-care facility will not be allowed in most instances. Non-medically necessary trips should be avoided, while screening of residents and staff will be conducted three times daily under both phases 1 and 2.

Visitation will be allowed under phases 2 and 3, with outside visits preferred. Limited non-medically necessary trips also will be permitted under the second and third phases. Screening of residents and staff will only be required once a day under Phase 3.

The elderly-care facilities order will remain in effect until the conclusion of the public health state of emergency Kemp declared in Georgia back in mid-March.

PAWS filling up with litters, working on rescue transports and adoption events

At Public Animal Welfare Services, the summer and early fall is known as “puppy and kitten season” due to the large number of litters they receive.

Because of the warm temperatures, animals are breeding more than usual. According to Director Jeff Mitchell, the facility is currently full and they’ve been working hard to organize transports to rescues out of state.

“As soon as we send some out, we fill back up,” he said. “We have a major stray population here in the county, and with people not spaying and neutering, we’ll always have a stray population.”

“We just did a transport last week of 50-something animals and within two days, we filled back up,” Mitchell said.

They try to do around four to six transports to out-of-state rescues a month. Many of these transports go to northern states, where the stray population isn’t as bad as it is here.

“Unfortunately there’s not enough adopters around, so the transports are where the bulk of the animals go,” Mitchell said.

He estimates that they sent out around 100 animals last month alone. Right now, they’re averaging about one transfer a week. Before the animals leave the state, they have to go through vetting to make sure all of their shots are up to date and that they’re healthy enough to travel.

“By the time we rent a van and load up the van and get everything together, it’s about a week,” Mitchell said. “We usually send anywhere from 30 to 60 animals a transport, depending on the location.”

While the director has been working on organizing transports, he has also been reaching out to local PAWS partners to see if they would be willing to host an adoption event soon. However, many places are hesitant because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re in the process of setting up a couple of them, but none of them have been finalized,” Mitchell said.

The only adoption event they have confirmed in the coming months is Howl-o-ween with the Rome-Floyd Planning Department and Friends of the Dog Park on Oct. 22 at Ridge Ferry Dog Park. There will also be a discounted vaccine and micro-chip clinic at the event.

The shelter at 99 North Ave. is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.