Carlyn Reichel, a Rome High School graduate, has been named to the Biden Administration’s National Security Council.
Reichel will serve as senior director for speechwriting and strategic initiatives under the direction of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, according to a release from the transition team.
The NSC’s primary role is to advise and assist the president on national security and foreign policies, and to coordinate those policies across government agencies. Reichel was on a list of appointees named early this month that includes a number of Obama administration veterans.
“These crisis-tested, deeply experienced public servants will work tirelessly to protect the American people and restore America’s leadership in the world,” President-elect Joe Biden said in the release. “They will ensure that the needs of working Americans are front and center in our national security policymaking, and our country will be better for it.”
Reichel, the daughter of local educators Charles and Sharon Reichel, came up through the Rome City Schools system and was valedictorian of RHS Class of 2001.
“Rome is the place that shaped my values,” she said in a November interview with the Rome News-Tribune.
She’s currently a member of the transition’s National Security Council Agency Review Team. On the Biden-Harris campaign, she served as both director of speechwriting and foreign policy director.
Prior to the campaign, Reichel was the founding communications director for the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
She joined the State Department during the Obama administration as a presidential management fellow and went on to work as a speechwriter for foreign policy and national security officials at the State Department, the NSC, and the Office of the Vice President.
There was plenty of food and plenty of love to go around at the Rome Civic Center as volunteers and members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission served lunch.
The celebration honoring King’s legacy went well, Vice Chair Alvin Jackson said, despite the differences the pandemic caused.
“Not only is it important that we honor Dr. King today, but we should honor him every day,” Jackson said. “He changed the world.”
They had to cancel the traditional Friday talent show, but the prayer breakfast and ecumenical service went on virtually and were livestreamed online. Jackson said he thinks they were able to reach more people by making the events virtual.
Chair Joyce Greene agreed with Jackson, but said they had been worried about getting the word out about the events.
“Some people thought we weren’t doing it this year,” she said.
The annual Freedom March, which for years has gone down Broad Street during the holiday, was turned into a service project to feed lunch to those in need.
The lunch, which included chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes, was catered by Jazzy’s Catering. They were able to give out over 100 to-go boxes before they ran out at 12:30 p.m., an hour and a half after they started.
Jackson said he was sad that they had to cancel the march, but he knew they had to make sure they didn’t spread the virus.
“The march is very important because it gives everyday people a chance to be a part of a legacy,” he said. “But I’m still grateful that we were able to honor Dr. King’s legacy.”
Jackson has been with the MLK Commission for over 30 years and this has been the first time in the celebration’s history that they’ve cancelled the march.
Both Jackson and Greene said they hope to get back to their normal celebration next year.
As part of the service day, Keep Rome Floyd Beautiful organized around two dozen people to pick up litter under the Turner McCall Bridge.
Not too far away, Georgia Power employees supplied healthcare workers with around 500 meals from local restaurants.
Citizens of Georgia Power partnered with Community Foundation for Greater Rome — and the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce reached out to several corporate sponsors for help — in showing support not only for community healthcare workers but also the restaurants that have been affected by the pandemic.
The sponsors are Summit Hill Foods, Toles, Temple & Wright, FP Pigments, Greater Community Bank, The Avenue Wealth Management Group — Raymond James, Synovus, Nichols Cauley, International Paper, and the Rome Floyd Development Authority.
Seems like a lot of Floyd County residents take their recycling seriously.
A weekend recycling event netted 684 cars in what is believed to have been a record number of people who showed up Saturday for the first household hazardous waste collection in a full year.
County Public Works Director Michael Skeen said he thinks the previous high occurred at an event at the old center on Watters Street four or five years ago, when close to 500 vehicles caused a big traffic jam in North Rome.
That particular event is what forced the center to ask people to begin calling ahead and get a time to bring their recyclables.
Not every car that came through Saturday had an appointment, but the facility on Lavender Drive is much better equipped to handle a long line without impacting traffic, Skeen said.
“For the most part, they were in and out in five minutes,” Skeen said. “It went really well.”
Also the number of community service workers, inmate laborers and contract personnel with the recycling vendor, Clean Earth, helped keep the line moving without long delays.
The majority brought liquids because the county has not conducted a liquids recycling event since January of last year.
“We’ve been doing one every four months for several years,” Skeen said. “Then we had to rebid our contract last fall. Fortunately, a lot of people have held onto their stuff. They’ve been calling all year.”
Skeen guessed that as much as half of the liquids, by volume, that came in Saturday were latex based paints.
“We have been pulling latex out of what we ship out because it’s not hazardous,” Skeen said.
The landfill does not take liquids. Crews have been working to dry out and solidify the latex paint and take it to the landfill.
Another possibility is reusing some of the containers, some five-gallon tubs containing what may still be usable paints.
“We’re going to continue to work toward being able to reuse it,” Skeen said.
Skeen said that while liquids were the big draw, they got plenty of electronics items as well.
Even though the county had done an electronics recycling event in November, the public works chief said it’s not unusual to get a lot of electronics right after Christmas because people are getting newer items.
Much of northwest Georgia remains an area with very high COVID-19 transmission levels and deaths from the disease are rising in much of the country.
The number of new COVID-19 cases remained very high on Monday, but did drop below the 700-plus count that has continued through December and January.
There have been 696 new infections reported by the Department of Public Health in Floyd County over the past two weeks. That number is still considered very high and, with a positivity rate over 15%, is likely underreported, public health officials have warned.
Most of the state is struggling and counties in the region are no exception. Whitfield and Bartow counties are still reporting extremely high new case rates and counties with smaller populations are reporting proportionally high numbers as well.
Such is the case in Chattooga, Walker, Dade, Gordon and Polk counties.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported several positive COVID-19 cases recently and one of its own, Sgt. Barry Henderson, has been hit hard by the disease.
“Please pray like you have never prayed before,” Polk Sheriff Johnny Moats posted to his personal social media account early Monday. “Barry Henderson is not doing good today. He needs our prayers. Stop what you’re doing and pray for God’s healing touch for Barry.”
The Associated Press reported that the U.S. government has already curbed travel from some of the places where the new more infectious variants are spreading — such as Britain and Brazil — and recently it announced that it would require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for anyone flying into the country.
The new variant seen in Britain is already spreading in the U.S., and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has warned that it will probably become the dominant version in the country by March.
The CDC said the variant is about 50% more contagious than the virus that is causing the bulk of cases in the U.S.
While the variant does not cause more severe illness, it can cause more hospitalizations and deaths simply because it spreads more easily.
As things stands, many U.S. states are already under tremendous strain. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths is rising in 30 states, including Georgia, and the District of Columbia, and on Monday the U.S. death toll surpassed 398,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University — by far the highest recorded death toll of any country in the world.
According to DPH reports, since the beginning of January 15 Floyd County residents have died from the disease. The deadliest month for the county was December, when over 30 Floyd County residents died.
So far, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 122 Floyd County residents, and likely had a part in 20 other deaths, according to the state.
One of the states hardest it during the recent surge is Arizona, where the rolling average has risen over the past two weeks from about 90 deaths per day to about 160 per day on Jan. 17.
Rural Yuma County — known as the winter lettuce capital of the U.S. — is now one of the state’s hot spots. Exhausted nurses there are now regularly sending COVID-19 patients on a long helicopter ride to hospitals in Phoenix when they don’t have enough staff. The county has lagged on coronavirus testing in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods and just ran out of vaccines.
But some support is coming from military nurses and a new wave of free tests for farmworkers and the elderly in Yuma County.
Amid the surge, a vast effort is underway to get Americans vaccinated, but the campaign is off to an uneven start. According to the latest federal data, about 31.2 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, but only about 10.6 million people have received at least one dose.
In California, the most populous state, counties are pleading for more vaccine as the state tries to reduce a high rate of infection that has led to record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
Although the state last week said anyone age 65 and older can start receiving the vaccine, Los Angeles County and some others have said they don’t have enough to inoculate so many people. They are concentrating on protecting health care workers and the most vulnerable elderly in care homes first.
On Monday, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District sent a letter asking for state and county authorization to provide vaccinations at schools for staff, local community members — and for students once a vaccine for children has been approved.
The death rate from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County — an epicenter of the U.S. pandemic — works out to about one person every six minutes. On Sunday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District suspended some pollution-control limits on the number of cremations for at least 10 days in order to deal with a backlog of bodies at hospitals and funeral homes.
In other areas of the country, officials are working to ensure that people take the vaccine once they’re offered it amid concerns that many people are hesitant to take it. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, in a livestreamed event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, received a shot, and urged other Marylanders to do likewise.
“We’re all looking forward to the day we can take off and throw away our masks ... when we can go out for a big celebration at our favorite crowded restaurant or bar with all our family and friends,” Hogan said. “The only way we are going to return to a sense of normalcy is by these COVID-19 vaccines.”
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state, which has recorded more than 41,000 deaths, as “in a footrace” between the vaccination rate and the infection rate. He said federal authorities needed to improve their efforts to get vaccine doses distributed swiftly.
Similar challenges are surfacing worldwide.
The World Health Organization chief on Monday lambasted drugmakers’ profits and vaccine inequalities, saying it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in some wealthy countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people or health care workers in poorer countries.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus began WHO’s executive board meeting by lamenting that one poor country received a mere 25 vaccine doses while over 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer nations.
“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt: The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” Tedros said. He did not specify the country, but a WHO spokeswoman identified it as Guinea.
Tedros nonetheless hailed the scientific achievement behind rolling out coronavirus vaccines less than a year after the pandemic erupted in China.
“Vaccines are the shot in the arm we all need, literally and figuratively,” Tedros said. “But we now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the worlds of the world’s haves and have-nots.”