Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Tifton, Georgia
Tifton Grapevine
As coronavirus cases spike in Tift County, Tift Regional Medical Center (TRMC) is also seeing COVID-19 patient numbers increase to some of its highest levels.

On Tuesday, TRMC had 78 patients with positive COVID-19 results.

"Over the holiday weekend, we had 76 patients with positive COVID-19 test results and 69 with negative results. There were zero recoveries reported and, unfortunately, there were two deaths," Christopher W. Efaw, Tift Regional Health System vice president for outreach and Development, told the Tifton Grapevine.

On Oct. 14, Efaw told the Tifton Rotary Club that the hospital had 20 patients with COVID-19 as of that date. For about four weeks this past summer, TRMC had averaged 40 coronavirus patients daily, he had said.

Because TRMC is a regional facility, some COVID-19 patients come from other counties.

The hospital now is looking at reinstating a hospital no-visitor policy and reopening its COVID-19 drive-thru testing clinic.

According to the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH), Tift County has reported 250 new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, and 133 new cases in the past week alone. For the past two weeks, Tift's cases translate to 612 per 100,000 population, the DPH said. Also during this period, Tift had a 16.2 percent positive test rate; the state's was 14.9 percent.

Tift County is seeing its average daily cases rise in recent days after experiencing a slight decline, according to data compiled by Emory University. On Dec. 28, Tift had 78 average daily cases per 100,000 population. Georgia's average daily rate was 59; in the U.S., it was 56, Emory reported.

Tift has had 2,855 total cases and 70 related deaths, the DPH said.


Southwell, TRMCs parent health system, has thus far received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Southwell has already administered 432 Pfizer vaccines to its healthcare workers.

Alex Le, Southwell's chief operating officer, said they expect more of the Moderna vaccine to be delivered. While the Moderna vaccine still requires two shots as does the Pfizer vaccine, it does not have to be stored at as low a temperature

“Pfizer has a 95 percent efficacy rate, and Moderna has a 94.5 percent efficacy rate,” Le said.

While the first doses of both vaccines have been designated for Southwell employees, the health system has applied to be a community distribution center once more vaccines are available. 

On Monday, coronavirus vaccine doses began arriving at nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities around Georgia. On Jan. 6, Southwell's 95 nursing home residents at Southwell Health and Rehabilitation in Adel will receive the vaccine. 

Gov. Brian P. Kemp said Monday that 95 percent of the state’s long-term care homes have signed up for vaccinations with CVS Health and Walgreens pharmacies, which are administering those vaccines under a federal contract.

Chris Beckham, executive director of Legacy Village of Tifton, told the Grapevine on Tuesday that the Whiddon Mill Road facility expects to get doses of the vaccine soon "but we have not gotten an official date yet. I am expecting to find out for sure sometime this week."

Rebecca Smith of Crossroads Medical Management, parent company of the Rehabilitation Center of South Georgia on Tifton's Tift Avenue, said their facilities are expected to receive vaccine doses soon. She said their senior living community in Perry will get the vaccine on Dec. 30.

COVID-19 has been especially rampant in senior living and assisted living facilities. According to state data, the coronavirus has killed more than 3,100 Georgia long-term care home residents, including five in Tifton facilities.
The Irwin County High Indians recaptured the Georgia High School Association's Class A public high school football championship Monday night in Atlanta.

Irwin County beat Brooks County, 27 to 19. With the win, the Indians get their second consecutive state title. Last year's championship was Irwin's first in 44 years.

On Tuesday, the Fitzgerald High Purple Hurricanes fell to the Callaway High Cavaliers in the Class AA championship game. The Cavaliers beat Fitzgerald 22-17 in Atlanta’s Center Parc Stadium.
Tifton city residents should have already received new garbage and recycling cans as a new garbage contractor, Ryland Environmental, takes over all residential and commercial solid waste collections inside the city on Jan. 1.

Garbage and recycling collection will continue on the current schedule, the city has said. Ryland's trucks are automated side loaders, so the city said it is important that residential cans are faced in the correct direction, which is indicated on the lid of the can. It is also important that containers are four feet away from any obstruction, such as mailboxes, telephone poles, and other containers. 

For the past six years, Golden Environmental was the exclusive contract provider for garbage and trash pickup in the City of Tifton. "But after a thorough review by the solid waste committee and many discussions about complaints and service-related issues, the collection contract was put out to bid to evaluate comparable services, pricing and value," the city said in a press release.

"During the bidding process, the city provided the service provider (Golden) every opportunity to work out the issues and commit to the value-added services for the community. However, during recent negotiations, a request was made by the service provider to increase the monthly residential rate from $19.41 to $19.91 per household. The elected officials did not feel this was the best decision to make for the residents," the city said in the written statement.

Ryland Environmental, who was the low bidder, agreed to lock in their price of $19.33 per home per month for five years. The price includes once-a-week garbage collection, once-per-week yard trash collection, once-per-week bulk item collection, and every-other-week curbside recycling collection. 

Commercial garbage collection has also been part of the exclusive contract with Golden Environmental for the past six years to protect the city from having multiple haulers and different containers scattered around collection points and to ensure pricing was consistent.

Ryland Environmental will be providing all commercial customers a new container and will be using a new collection vehicle, "so this will be a professional enhancement to businesses and a way to keep our city much cleaner," the city said.  

"The city is working closely with Ryland Environmental to obtain accurate information from commercial customers. Ryland Environmental had to essentially start over to produce customer information, service levels, and costs since no information was provided by the current contractor," the city said in its press release.

Ryland Environmental's office is located on Love Avenue and is considered a local company doing business in Tifton and surrounding cities. Ryland can be reached at 229-382-4411 or call Tifton City Hall at 229-382-6231 for any questions.
Tifton Grapevine
While the unemployment rate rose by nearly 1 percent or more throughout the Tiftarea in November – and rose by 1.2 percentage points in the state – Georgia's labor commissioner says it's more important to look at increases in jobs and employment.

"The fact that our labor force is at an all-time high in the midst of a crippling pandemic is pretty remarkable," said Commissioner Mark Butler.

"The unemployment rate will fluctuate, but we will continue to centralize our efforts on keeping our economy stable and filling the thousands of jobs available on Employ Georgia," the Department of Labor's (DOL) online job resource.

In Tift County during November, the jobless rate was 4.4 percent, an increase from 3.6 percent in October and far above November 2019's 2.7 percent, the DOL reported. But Tift’s labor force grew to 21,037 from the previous month's 20,396. One year ago, Tift’s labor force was at 19,937.

Statewide, Georgia’s labor force reached an all-time high in November of 5.17 million. Additionally, the state saw significant increases in the number of employed residents and jobs. The state's unemployment rate was at 5.7 percent.

The jobless rate in Tiftarea counties was:
  • Worth – 5.1 percent Nov.; 4.1 in Oct.
  • Turner – 7.9 percent Nov.; 6.0 in Oct.
  • Irwin – 4.6 percent Nov.; 3.7 in Oct.
  • Cook – 4.2 percent Nov.; 3.3 in Oct.
  • Berrien – 4.2 percent Nov.; 3.4 in Oct.
  • Ben Hill – 6.7 percent Nov.; 5.3 in Oct.
The Satsuma Co., a citrus packing and shipping plant focusing on crops grown in South Georgia and North Florida, has begun operating its processing and distribution center in Tifton.

“We discovered this burgeoning citrus industry in South Georgia and North Florida, and we feel like it’s exciting and fun,” said Duke Lane, one of the company’s active seven partners. “We wanted to do something fun.”

Speaking on behalf of the state of Georgia and the Tift County Development Authority, Brian Marlowe said this is an important project for rural Georgia.
“It emphasizes Governor Kemp’s commitment to communities in rural Georgia in support of their efforts to grow jobs and local investment,” he said. “The ag industry remains Georgia’s No. 1 industry, and the Satsuma Co. will be a welcome addition to this sector.”

The 121,000-square-foot facility has a “tremendous” amount of cold storage and the company has invested approximately $7 million in the facility, Lane said. Satsuma currently has about 12 fulltime employees and has appromximely 70 seasonal workers. 

He said they found out that, while there are a lot of small-acre citrus growers in the area, there are not any local packing houses. The partners decided to fill the gap and start a more centralized location.

“We feel like we’re in a really good position with the facility we have,” he said. “We’re trying to educate people and immerse them in Georgia citrus.”

The proximity to I-75, as well as the centralized location and loading docks at the facility steered the decision to locate in Tifton, Lane said.

“It’s centrally located. It’s close to Atlanta, close to Jacksonville, close to the port. It’s right on 75. I feel like the building and the community has been a huge win for us. We’re glad to be here, that’s for sure.”
Beth Sellars, left, school counselor at Charles Spencer Elementary School, receives train book ends for children's books from Moppy Brumby of the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence. The foundation presented the train bookends to local elementary schools recently for use in their media centers and classrooms.

Live Christmas trees may be taken to Fulwood Park for recycling on Saturday, Jan. 2.

Keep Tift Beautiful is holding the annual tree recycling collection from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Please use the Tift Avenue entrance to enter Fulwood Park to drop off your tree.
This cat is on stray hold at the Tift County Animal Shelter. If not claimed, the feline will be available for adoption. Visit the Animal Shelter from 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, or call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch's Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055
– JAN. 1, 1940
As the new year dawns on Jan. 1, 1940, Tifton's expanded city limits take effect. The new boundaries extend from the old northeast limits and includes both sides of 18th Street to the Southern Railway. The expansion now gives Tifton a population of 5,775.
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