The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed updates on the county’s situation in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in a work session Tuesday evening. Topics included the county’s case numbers, mask enforcement and community support efforts.
Dr. Stephen Goggans, Interim Health Director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Northeast Health District, discussed some challenges the DPH has had in reporting positive cases with the mayor and commission. He said since many patients are getting tested at several private care centers, the “flow of information” on cases to the DPH has become more complicated.
Goggans also said every positive case requires an investigation, including contact tracing. He said performing the tracing for every case has been a challenge, but that the district staff is doing an “incredible job” at keeping up with reported cases.
Goggans showed a graph of daily confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the Northeast Health District, which includes Athens and 9 surrounding counties, between Feb. 1 and Aug. 31. The graph showed a large decrease in cases in the last days of August, but District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson noted that the DPH’s own website had an updated graph showing an increase in cases at the end of August and beginning of September.
Goggans said two of the days on the updated graph were “data dumps,” meaning a particular testing entity had reported several hundred positive tests over a short period of time, adding several hundred cases to the graph.
ACC Manager Blaine Williams provided an update on safety mandate enforcements in the county, noting that the Athens-Clarke County Police Department distributed 1,597 masks to residents who did not have them over the weekends of Aug. 29 and Sept. 5. The ACCPD also issued citations to 14 people for failing to wear masks.
Williams also provided an update on the county’s efforts to support the community during the pandemic, noting that several community organizations are set to receive funds totaling nearly $3 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These organizations include the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, Casa de Amistad, Habitat for Humanity and Advantage Behavioral Health Systems.
Williams did not say exactly when these organizations would receive the funds, but said the county was “at a point to send the contracts over” to the organizations this week. Williams also noted the $6.6 million that ACC received in the first phase of the CARES Act represents only 30% of a potential $22 million award. The remaining $15 million could be distributed all at once, or in two increments.
The Joint Development Authority between ACC and the city of Winterville has also opened applications for grants and loans to small businesses. The deadline for application is Tuesday, Sept. 22. The application is available on the JDA’s website.