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First Polk County vaccine clinic gets 100 shots in arms

One hundred local residents got a shot instead of a pinch on St. Patrick’s Day in Polk County this year as part of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Redmond Regional Medical Center partnered with the Polk County government to hold a one-day COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Wednesday, March 17, at the Nathan Dean Community Center in Rockmart, providing the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 100 people.

Even though people were given an appointment time when they called the number to sign up for the vaccination, Redmond EMS Director Marty Robinson said they still had a small number of people in line at 7:15 a.m. ready for the clinic, which did not start until 9 a.m.

“Some people like to be early so we expected a couple of people, but between 9 and 9:45 we administered a little over half of the entire vaccine that we were given, so it’s been great,” Robinson said. “I appreciate people coming out. This is our way back to being normal again, and I’m just ecstatic that people are coming out to get the vaccine, I really am.”

The COVID-19 is being given by county health departments, healthcare providers and pharmacies across the state free of charge to all people who meet the Georgia eligibility guidelines. Those eligible as of Wednesday included anyone 55 or older, teachers, school system employees, first responders, healthcare workers and anyone with certain medical conditions.

Robinson said Wednesday’s clinic served as a test to see if they could organize an off-site clinic and what the interest would be for one. With all 100 of the available doses registered for and given, he said they were pleased with the response.

“We’ve been running weekly vaccine clinics at the hospital, and luckily we were able to come out and do a community clinic. That’s the biggest way that we’re trying to contribute, just to get the vaccine in as many arms as we can,” Robinson said. “And we believe in it. We’ve had a huge population of our own healthcare workers who have taken it, so it’s a good thing.”

Jerry and Leanne Hornsby were two of the 100 people to get their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. They were observed for about 30 minutes after getting the shot to make sure there were no side effects and given a card to come back to the center for the final shot in early April.

“I’m glad that they had this because it seems almost impossible to get it in Polk County anywhere,” Leanne Hornsby said. The couple said their son is a doctor working his residency at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga and had encouraged them to get the vaccination.

Still lagging

Getting the vaccine to Georgia residents hasn’t been easy. Logan Boss, spokesman for the Northwest Health District, said that being put on hold or having to wait for an adequate supply to arrive at local county health departments has been frustrating for both the public and the public health employees.

“Our supply of vaccine still remains erratic, and at this time still inadequate to meet the overall demand we’ve seen in Northwest Georgia,” Boss said. “However at other times, as more vaccine providers come online, on any given day, one health department may have vaccine available but no appointments. That’s when we put out public alerts about having vaccines at certain locations.”

As the state works on not only distributing vaccines to the thousands of providers around the state but also the nine mass vaccination sites organized by the state, there is an ebb and flow, Boss said, of who gets how much vaccine.

Polk County ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to the percentage of the state’s population who has received at least the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. A total of 8,750 doses had been given as of Saturday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, with an average of 20,879 per 100,000.

That was on par with Bartow County’s vaccination rate as of Saturday of 21,849. Haralson County had 9,369 doses administered for a rate of 32,055 per 100,000, while Paulding County was the lowest of the surrounding counties with a rate of 14,810.

Floyd County, which has a large healthcare community with Floyd Medical Center, Redmond Regional Medical Center and Harbin Clinic all based in Rome, had a robust 47,236 doses per 100,000.

Where are we at

Since the spike in confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in early January, as well as the hospitalizations and deaths contributed to the virus, the transmission and effects of COVID-19 have been drastically reduced. But health professionals are still pleading for people to remain cautious.

“Even though the numbers are going down, which is very encouraging, we’re still seeing cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Boss said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Polk County had an average of 5.3 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day since the beginning of March through Saturday according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, with 13 residents admitted to a hospital with complications and three deaths.

That’s nearly an 81% decrease in the number of cases per day compared to January when Polk County had 862 confirmed cases to go with 80 hospitalizations and 17 deaths. February saw 258 confirmed cases in county residents, with 41 hospitalizations and 10 deaths.

With the COVID-19 pandemic a year old this month, Boss said the country is still seeing 40,000-45,000 new cases each day.

“That’s still higher than we want to see,” Boss said. “People just need to keep practicing physical distancing and non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as mask wearing and hand sanitization, when they can, and get the vaccine when they are eligible.”

Autopsy shows Cedartown man held at the jail died of natural causes

No foul play is suspected in the death of a Cedartown man who was being held in the Polk County Jail, according to local authorities.

Douglas Ray Colvin, 60, was discovered unresponsive in his cell by an inmate worker at around 5 a.m. on Monday, March 15, according to jail reports. Deputies and staff immediately responded to the scene and could find no pulse or signs of life.

After notifying 911, EMS and the Polk County Coroner’s Office responded to the jail, where Colvin was officially pronounced dead.

Polk County Coroner Norman Smith said the autopsy indicated Colvin died of natural causes. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying no foul play was suspected in the death.

Colvin, who was also an inmate worker, had been in jail since March 9 after being arrested by Cedartown Police and charged with failure to appear and a probation violation according to jail records.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to investigate the incident and are also conducting a parallel investigation of its own, according to a release.

While neither investigation was complete as of Friday, PCSO Chief Deputy Jonathan Blackmon said GBI investigators traveled to the jail last week and conducted interviews with jail staff and inmates concerning the incident. He said sheriff’s office administrators have already pulled reports and checked surveillance footage to make sure all police and procedures were followed.

Smith said Colvin died sometime during the night as he was accounted for during roll call on Sunday, March 14. The exact time of death has not been determined. Blackmon said jail staff was aware that Colvin had previous health issues and all inmates get a health check by the jail’s medical staff when they are first booked in.

Blackmon, Smith and Sheriff Johnny Moats made contact with Colvin’s family the morning he was found for a death notification and to offer respects and prayers for the family.

A memorial service for Colvin was held Saturday at New Bethel Baptist Church in Rome according to an obituary provided by F.K. Jones Funeral Home in Rome.

Rockmart police ask for help in funding K-9 unit

Improving the tools and resources to help keep citizens safe is a continuing challenge for law enforcement agencies everywhere.

The Rockmart Police Department is asking the people it protects to make a personal investment in helping it in that fight.

Chief Randy Turner said they have restarted a fundraising campaign for the department to get its own K-9 program through donations from both private citizens and businesses.

“The goal, ultimately, is for us to have our own K-9 so we don’t have to rely on another department when we have a need for one,” Turner said. “But really it’s to serve our citizens. it’s not just all traffic stops. It would be a way to help us locate a missing child or person and locate drugs.”

Polk County Police and Cedartown Police both have a K-9 program, with each consisting of one handler and one dog. Turner said if his department starts a K-9 program it would ease the burden on the other K-9 units in the county and allow them to not be on call so often.

Turner said the campaign to raise funds for the new program is a way to have the community directly involved in bettering a public service instead of having to go to the city council and asking for more funding through the budget and, in turn, possibly raising taxes.

“We don’t want to burden every taxpayer with this and we would love to have people come out for this who want to help and are glad to help by donating what they can,” Turner said. “We appreciate any help we can get.”

Turner said they have estimated the cost of starting the program at around $25,000, which would include the price of the dog, training of both the dog and the handler, equipment such as a kennel, required patrol vehicle upgrades for transport of the K-9 and veterinary services.

Many departments have K-9 programs funded by money seized in drug arrests and drug busts that are due to a K-9 unit. Turner said he believes that would be the end goal for their program, but without that to start with they are taking this approach

The department actually began pursuing the idea of raising money for a K-9 program about a year and a half ago, Turner said. But when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the country last March they decided to put it on hold.

“We didn’t feel comfortable going out and asking for donations when people were in jeopardy of losing their jobs and having to deal with all of the hardships that came along with the pandemic,” Turner said.

Now, with vaccines being rolled out and transmission of the coronavirus on a downward projection, Turner is hoping they will be able to see this goal through to fruition.

Donations can be made at the Rockmart Police Department in the Rockmart Municipal Complex at 316 N. Piedmont Ave. Donors will be provided a receipt.

A post on the Rockmart Police Department’s Facebook page last promoted the campaign and its benefits.

“We believe a well-trained K-9 unit will be a great asset to the safety of our community,” the post read. “And in retrospect, what is the monetary cost compared to the first missing child or endangered person that could be safely located with the implementation of this program.”

Standard Journal Area Calendar of Events from the Wednesday, March 24, 2021 edition

Kresge United Methodist Church, 15 Booger Hollow Road, is hosting a community wide prayer time every Wednesday through March 31 from 4-6 p.m. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come and bring prayers of concern and praise. Kresge follows all CDC guidelines.

Tallatoona CAP will begin accepting appointments for the LIHEAP Cooling Assistance Program for households with seniors age 65 or older on April 1 at 8:30 a.m. The general public may call to schedule an appointment on May 3 at 8:30 a.m. Appointments are on a first-come, first-serve basis and can me made online at www.tallatoonacap.org or by calling 770-817-4666 or 770-773-7730 and selecting option 2. Applicants must qualify based on the FY 2021 annual income guidelines.

Kresge United Methodist Church, 15 Booger Hollow Road, is hosting a Drive-Thru Easter Scavenger Hunt on April 3 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Families can can spot Easter eggs, bunnies, chicks and more from the safety of their vehicle while collecting prizes along the way.

Second Baptist Cedartown is hosting a special outdoor Good Friday service at Peek Park in Cedartown on April 2 at 7 p.m. All are encouraged to bring lawn chairs to the amphitheater for special songs of worship and message.

All are welcome on Easter Sunday at Second Baptist on April 4. Both 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services will include the full choir, praise band, and sermon. Social distancing precautions will be in place and a nursery is also available for children up to 3 years old.

Celebrate Recovery of Rockmart will reopen on April 5 at 6-6:45 p.m. for dinner, 7-8 p.m. for the large group, and 8-9 p.m. for the small share group. Everyone is welcome!

The Rockmart Cultural Arts Center is hosting the 2021 Rockmart High School art exhibit through April 29. The theme for this year’s exhibit is “Cyber Quarantine” with works from students done in the 2020-2021 school year a reception and gala will be held April 24 from 6-9 p.m.

Second Baptist Cedartown is celebrating its 100th Anniversary with Old Fashioned Sunday on April 18 at 11 a.m. Gospel bluegrass band The Servers will lead worship service. Men are invited to wear overalls, while ladies wear bonnets or anything old fashioned. Photos and documents from the church’s last 100 years will be on display.

The Rockmart Cultural Arts Center is putting out a call to artists for its Floral Expressions exhibit at the arts gallery, 316 N. Piedmont Ave. Artwork featuring flowers or has flowers in it should be submitted by April 10 in a .jpg image to rcac@rockmart-ga.gov. Up to three separate pieces can me submitted. The exhibit is scheduled for May 6 through June 24 with a reception on May 15. for more information contact Peggy Cline at rcac@rockmart-ga.gov or 770-684-2707.

The Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living holds a COVID-19 Peer Support call every Monday at 2 p.m. via the Zoom website and by phone. For the link and password, or if you need assistance, contact Christina Holtzclaw at 628-246-1825 or choltzclaw@nwgacil.org.

The NWGA Center for Independent Living is offering free Personal Protection CARE Kits to people with disabilities who live in Northwest Georgia. The kits include three face masks, two disposable thermometers, give pair of gloves and alcohol wipes. To request a kit and become a consumer, contact the center at 706-314-0008 or info@nwgacil.org.

Want to get your event or announcement on the calendar? E-mail JStewart@polkstandardjournal.com.