The President’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again captured the headlines at the end of last week. He has established 3 phases for this process. Before we can exit Phase 1, the County has to demonstrate a steadily decreasing rate of infection, a health system capable of absorbing the effects of reopening, and the public health system being able to identify and rapidly contain any spread of the virus. Below is the link if you want to review the Guidelines

https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/

Although the virus is still spreading in the County, since April 1 the time required for the number of cases to double has slowed from every 7 days to every 12 days. I believe that there at least 2 reasons for his. One is the effectiveness of my Declaration of Emergency on 24 March which included a shelter in place provision. More importantly, it demonstrates the cooperation of the public in taking the necessary measures to practice social distancing and other measures.

On the second requirement, Wellstar has indicated that they still have capacity. We should make every effort to ensure it remains that way. “Flattening the curve” still remains the primary reason for all the steps we have been taking.

The third requirement is dependent upon the appropriate number of test kits and personnel to perform contact tracing. Insufficient numbers of test kits are a recognized problem in Georgia. The Governor has his plate full and I am confident that this is on it. From where the people will be sourced to meet the need for contact tracing is in the hands of the Department of Public Health.

The Governor’s Executive Order requiring sheltering in place is still effective until April 30th. As much as possible I want to complement the County’s actions with his. The County will be reviewing its policy on use of the parks this week. Now that we have a much better understanding of what we can do to mitigate the spread of the virus, there may be an option for limited use of the parks. I know that would be welcomed by many.

Finally, Judy and several of her friends have been making face masks for our public servants. I can’t count the bags of masks that I have delivered to employees at Cobb Public Health, Elections, and Public Safety. I know many of you are making a similar contribution in your own way. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It is that attitude that exemplifies the spirit of America and what makes our nation so special.

For those in our Cobb family who celebrated Easter yesterday, it will certainly be one they will all remember. The message of Easter is one of hope. In the autumn of my years I have been guided by the words that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. What I hope for every day is our community working together to forge through this pandemic. What I am certain of is that we shall overcome this adversity because of the many acts of courage and kindness by people and groups.

I visited some of our first responders last week and was reassured by their confidence in continuing to perform their duties. They are joined by many other public servants who come to work daily and keep your government working in the background. The quiet dedication of our newest heroes in the health care community is inspirational. They are probably the most at-risk members in this pandemic and yet continue to show boldness and fearlessness by their actions. The countless volunteers in the faith and non-profit universe also put themselves in jeopardy by delivering food and services to those in need. Yet we see pictures of young and old distributing products. Sewing and knitting circles have redirected their efforts to make face masks. Members of our community who are in the National Guard are once again demonstrating the sacrifices that our citizen soldiers make. The Chamber of Commerce and similar associations are working to connect the business community with the benefits provided by federal government. I especially appreciate those members of the public who are staying at and home as much as possible and implementing social distance measures and health precautions. I am certain that I have omitted some deserving members. But the message is that we are all in this together.

For those who have lost loved ones during his time, we mourn for them. May they always find comfort in their many memories of them.

My faith in the people of Cobb has never been stronger. Their compassion is what gives me confidence in hope for a brighter future. There will come a day when we shall emerge from this pandemic and celebrate. Many of our acts of kindness will be unheralded. However, those may be the most meaningful because they came from the heart, knowing that when we were called, we answered.

The Director of Cobb Public Health, Dr Janet Memark, was in a very informative video recently. Below is the link to that interview.

To once again emphasize the most important measures to mitigate the spread of this virus (1) Stay home (2) practice social distancing (3) if you leave home, wear a face mask (4) when you return home, wash your hands for 20 seconds.

Friday the Governor moved from a position of letting local governments determine their approaches to the COVID 19 pandemic to one of establishing the dimensions of a state-wide sheltering place. On Thursday, I had signed an amendment to the County’s Declaration of Emergency. The highlights of the amendment were (1) an extension of the Emergency to April 24th, the maximum length that I could issue the declaration without requiring authorization from the Board to extend it, (2) further definition of which non-essential businesses could operate and, (3) establishment of social distance requirements on food stores and encouraging other measures. Below is my message to the public after I signed the amendment.

The Governor’s Executive Order was effective until April 13th and superseded my extension of the Emergency Order. All other measures of my amendment were in line with the Governor’s order and remained in place. There were some who believed that the Governor’s order re-opened the County parks. However, our park closures were a separate action that were not part of the County Declaration of Emergency and not addressed by the Governor’s order. His order did not override all aspects of local control which is how some read his actions. In short, the State has oversight over state parks but not county amenities. That’s not to say that the State cannot do so; it just has not done so yet.

So, where are we? From my perspective, the County has taken significant steps to emphasize the essential action to mitigate this pandemic: Stay home. If we want to stop the spread of this virus, then people have to limit travel outside their homes, practice social distancing when they don’t, and appreciate that the virus still has the initiative and momentum, We don’t know who has the virus and how they are transmitting it. A clear example of this is the worrisome increase in the number of COVID 19 cases in nursing and long-term care homes. Despite the fact that most of them imposed severe access restrictions weeks ago, the virus has now found its way into many of them. This spread of the virus in these locations can have potentially catastrophic implications not only for those in those homes but also in overwhelming the capacity of our health care system.

It is now clear that from day one we should have been encouraging people to wear face masks. So not only have I limited my movements but I am also wearing a face mask when I leave my house. It has been wonderful to see the response of the public, including my wife Judy, in directing the efforts of their social circles to sewing masks. This effort is but one of the many ways that we can say that during the COVID 19 Pandemic we did our part.

April is going to be a month that tests our faith. Any thought that we shall emerge from this before the end of the month is whistling in the dark. I have little doubt that the Governor will extend his shelter in place beyond April 13th for one reason: the projected date that the virus will peak in Georgia is April 23d. I encourage you to seek your information from trusted web sites, not comments on social media. From my point of view, the vast majority of people in the County are taking the necessary precautions. But everyone needs to be doing so. By uniting in this common effort, we can begin to find our way back to a better time.