Curve Balls & Motherhood

There’s a dose of bittersweet about Mother’s Day this year. Missing are the usual celebratory brunches, ornate corsages proudly worn at worship services, and lively family gatherings. Yet I can’t recall a year when it’s been more important to love our mothers, as the last few months have sent many of them a curve ball. Those in long term care facilities suddenly stopped getting visitors. Homeschooling became the norm for moms who didn’t sign up for it. Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of slain Ahmaud Arbery, grieves this Mother’s Day, along with all the other moms whose sons have been murdered for being black. Many of our mothers and grandmothers have recently departed. But held within all this bittersweetness, there’s more love than any corsage can hold. Reach out to a mom today, even if she’s not yours, and shower her with love. She needs it.

Asiatic Dayflower

 In honor and memory of our moms, who love and care for us even when we don’t know it.

You have to be quick to catch a glimpse of this small, yet powerfully blue flower, known as the Asiatic Dayflower. It only shows its glory for one short day — truly bittersweet.Photo credit: Marc Merlin

Batting Average

Testing Update: When I first started tracking Georgia’s testing, we were testing about 800/day, while New York was at 18,000/day. Now Georgia is averaging about 10,000/day and has over sixty test sites across the state. In the early days, it took up to 10 days to get test results. Now rapid tests get results in 30 minutes and tests that require lab processing are available in a day or two.

All Georgians Can Get Tested: This week the Governor announced that anyone can get tested — no symptoms required. Unfortunately, the media made it sound like everyone should get tested, which is not the case. While we have enough tests to meet the need, we don’t have enough tests for 11 million Georgians to get tested on a regular basis. But if you want to visit someone who is medically vulnerable, and are willing to quarantine yourself while you wait for results, getting tested could give you some assurance that you won’t unknowingly share the virus.

Hospitals Take A Seventh Inning Stretch

Except for hotspots like Albany and Gainesville, and possibly a new one in Hancock county, hospital admissions have continued to decline. Administrators are very cautiously opening up essential and elective procedures that were put on hold during the surge. Every new patient is being tested for COVID prior to undergoing procedures. For the Atlanta based WellStar system, this means 300 potential patients were tested last week — four unexpectedly tested positive.

May 8 Capacity In Use Available
ICU Beds 2,976 2,089 887
ER Beds 3,348 1,010 2,338
General Beds 15,137 10,259 4,878

source- Georgia Hospital Association

Extra Innings

Contact Tracing: Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, calls Georgia’s contact tracing program a “logistical deployment.” In an effort to build a team of 1000 tracers, 300 new jobs have been posted, 1000+ people have applied, and a second wave of 300 more jobs will soon be posted. Since traditional tracing approaches prior to the shut-down failed to keep up, this new tracing program will employ non-traditional approaches in order to embrace the massive task. Georgia has entered a contract with the MTX group, in coordination with Google, to assist with voluntary symptom self-reporting, which will free up valuable time for contact tracers to do other things. The Google app Georgia is using does not include location tracking.

Augusta University Health*: Here’s something I need your feedback on. During Gov. Kemp’s press conferences, he has spoken proudly of a partnership with Augusta University Health Express to provide free, statewide COVID-19 video and telehealth screening and referral to testing through a downloadable app. Legislators have been asked to share this app with the public, so I tried it out myself several weeks ago. For various reasons, I was not comfortable with it. The app asks for a very detailed medical history, including security information like birthdate. You’re then asked to choose a provider based on a photo, and finally, you are asked to create a log-in for a health portal to store and access your records. At Gov. Kemp’s most recent press conference, he announced a 1 million dollar contribution in private funding from Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl to support this service. A recent AJC article describes some start-up problems. If you are interested and can look at the app, I’d love to know what you think about its usefulness to the general public.

*Augusta University is the new name given in 2015 to the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta State University, which merged in 2013.

Play Ball! – or Not? (stay tuned)

As spring rolls into summer, the question of summer recreation comes up. Will summer camps meet? Will swim teams swim? The Governor’s office recently clarified that only government run swimming pools are closed, along with amusement parks and live entertainment venues. We’re still waiting to determine the impact of all this activity — will the lack of social distancing cause another surge?

A constituent brought to my attention a huge Girls Softball Tournament that is planned for next weekend in Dalton. We’re talking upwards of 5,000 people from various states crowded into four ball-parks — many very happy to be playing softball in Georgia, since they can’t yet hold tournaments in their own states. Crowded bathrooms, dugouts, and spectator areas that don’t allow for social distancing. Cash being passed around for concessions. Hands reaching for ketchup and mustard in common condiment areas. You get the picture. Lots of germ sharing.

I brought this to the attention of the Governor’s office, inquiring as to whether this activity falls under the still closed “live entertainment venues”. Friday I got a response: “The Governor will be announcing a clarifying Executive Order next week.” Stay tuned.

Voting During a Pandemic, Addendum

I received lots of follow-up questions about elections last week. Between elections being postponed, recommendations to Vote-by-Mail, and new voting machines for in-person voting, there’s a lot to be confused about.

Voter Registration Deadline is May 11 (Monday) for the June 9th Primary. Most voters can update their registration online at “My Voter Page.” (did you bookmark it last week?)

Early Voting: In-Person voting begins May 18th. You can vote at any early voting location in your county. Find a list of times and locations here as soon as they become available.

Democratic Party of Georgia Voter Protection Hotline: 1-888-730-5816

Do I Need to Vote in June? For those of you who voted in March, yes, you need to vote again because the June 9th election has lots of additional races. Everyone needs to vote in the US Senate primary, and depending on what county you live in, there are other races such as US House, county commission, school board, sheriff, and lots of judges and offices of the courts. If you voted in March, your previous votes in the Presidential Preference Primary still hold and you will not need to cast those votes again (and they should not be on your ballot).

How Do I Know My Vote-by-Mail Ballot Will be Counted? Trust in our election system has been eroded no matter which way you choose to vote. All I can say is that there are lots of people working to make sure your vote is safe. Voting-by-Mail keeps YOU safe. The Democratic Party of Georgia is recommending everyone Vote-by-Mail for the June 9th election.

How Do I Request a Vote-by-Mail Ballot? If you have your Red, White & Blue “Secure the Vote” application form that was mailed to you over a month ago, you can still use that. If you don’t have that, print a copy off the Secretary of State’s website. If you don’t have a printer, call the Democratic Party of Georgia Voter Hotline at 1-888-730-5816 and they will mail you a ballot request form.

How do I complete the Application to Vote by Mail? The Democratic Party of Georgia has several resources available to guide you through the process, including a step by step guide and an instructional video.

Where is my Ballot? Many people requested a ballot over a month ago but still have not gotten it. Ballots are being mailed by an outside mailing house, after the requests are processed by the counties.  We are seeing delays in mailing out the ballots and status updates on My Voter Page are not necessarily in “real time”.  Call the Voter Hotline at  888-730-5816 if you think your ballot should have arrived by now.

How many stamps do I need? Ballots in different counties weigh different amounts. I understand Gwinnett’s is heavy enough to require two stamps. DeKalb’s is light enough for only one stamp. It has been widely reported that ballots will be delivered even without postage, but I wouldn’t depend on that. I’ve already heard reports that Gwinnett might not deliver them if they don’t have any postage. If you want to be super safe, call your Local Elections Office to find out where they have Ballot Dropboxes. You can find that number here.

Inner Envelope/Sleeve: Once you receive your Ballot, the instructions tell you to seal your ballot inside the “inner envelope.” These instructions are not accurate. Instead of an envelope, there is a privacy “sleeve,” and you do not need to seal it. Here’s some additional information on this topic.

DeKalb Sheriff’s Race: If you live in DeKalb and did not vote in March, there will be two separate Sheriff races on your ballot and they will look pretty much the same. This is actually correct. One race is to elect a sheriff to fill an unexpired term (from the election until the end of the year) and the other one is to elect a sheriff to the term that starts in January.

What if I request a ballot but later decide to vote in person? If you still have the ballot, try to take it with you to your polling place so the poll worker can cancel it. If you forget to take your ballot, or have not received it yet, the poll worker can still cancel it. You will need to sign an affidavit saying you have not already voted.

Get in the Game!

Here’s a fun challenge. During the next three weeks, see how many people, especially young people, you can get to apply for a Vote-by-Mail ballot. Go ahead and print out the application, get some envelopes and stamps, and make it easy! Once people get in the habit, they’ll be more likely to Vote-by-Mail in November. Make a point to follow-up so you can help at each step of the process. Every year, there are too many registered voters who don’t vote, especially people under forty. This is not the year to skip the election!