Friday, May 15, 2020
Tifton, Georgia
Tifton Grapevine

Tifton city parks , playgrounds and City Hall reopened to the public Thursday as COVID-19 deaths in Tift County rose 67 percent in less than two days to a total of 10 .

The number of positive coronavirus cases in Tift County rose by 5.6 percent within the same two-day period, according to the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH).

As of late Thursday , Tift County reported 170 positive cases, 10 deaths and 42 hospitalizations. Late Tuesday , the DPH had recorded 161 cases and six deaths in Tift County.

Mayor Julie Smith said the reopenings are a result of Gov. Brian P. Kemp 's previous executive order that expired Wednesday and allows "more openings , including local parks , some businesses , and eases the restrictions for most."

She noted that individuals age 65 or older and those with health issues are asked to remain sheltered in place . Bars, theaters and many public venues remian closed .

"The City Council does respect the ability for most businesses to open . We do encourage everyone to abide by the  governor’s recommendations of wearing masks when in public, restricting numbers of people gathering to less than 20 and to always consider physical spacing to six feet apart," the mayor said.

" City Hall is now open , but with restricted access and limited interaction ."

On Thursday , city employees resumed normal duties in all departments; some city operations had been temporarily curtailed because of the pandemic .

The city is still asking visitors to continue using the drive-thru and drop box for utility payments . Utility payments will be taken inside City Hall but social distancing rules are enforced . There will be no access to the other floors or to restrooms as they remain closed. 

City public facilities such as the Leroy Rogers Senior Citizen Center and the Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts remain closed until at least May 31 .
"We will evaluate the situation during the last week of May to see if this should be extended or modified. Parks and playgrounds may be used, and the dog park will be open according to the present guidelines," the city said in a press release.

"In the abundance of caution, we will not be renting pavilions or shelters at this time, and no gatherings of more than 10 people in these areas will be allowed ."

Lobbies of the Tifton Fire Department, Tifton Police Department and Community Development are now open but all business will be conducted within the lobby only.

"The City of Tifton will remain serious about following social distancing and all sanitary rules indefinitely. A list of those rules will remain circulated, will be enforced, and posted in all workspaces and areas. All visitors are encouraged to wear masks while at any city facilities," the city said.

Municipal Court resumes May 20 , and Tifton City Council meetings for May through June will utilize "any remote system necessary." Effective June 15 , the city will resume cut-off procedures for non-payment of utilities , which was temporarily suspended because of the pandemic .

"We encourage all citizens to use discretion based on their circumstances ," Mayor Smith told the Tifton Grapevine .

"While we are mostly free to move about , we encourage staying at home as much as possible, wearing protective masks and sanitation measures, such as washing hands and using hand sanitizer. "
The Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH), South Health District, on Thursday confirmed the first COVID-19 related death of a resident of Ben Hill County .

The individual in the Fitzgerald area was a 73-year-old male who was not hospitalized . It is unknown at this time if he had any underlying medical conditions, the DPH said. 

“We are extremely saddened that another individual has died within our district,” said Dr. William R. Grow , district health director. “We continue to encourage older individuals and individuals with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems to stay home and away from others as much as possible to protect themselves from this devastating disease .”
The DPH said there have been 44 positive COVID-19  cases in Ben Hill County and the one death as of late Thursday .

Statewide, there are 35,977 confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia with 1,544 deaths, the DPH said.

The White House this week said that Georgia will receive more than $260 million in federal funding to increase its capability to test for COVID-19 .

The funding comes from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act , nicknamed the CARES Act 3.5 , which was passed last month.

In addition to providing stimulus checks to Americans and funding for small business relief , the act also provided funding for cities and states to increase their testing capacity

The White House said $11 billion will go toward states to help with testing .
Authorities have issued arrest warrants for a man in connection with a triple shooting Tuesday night in Tift County .

James Douglas Osby , 23, is being sought on t hree counts of aggravated assault , the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said.

On Tuesday evening, May 12 , the Tift County Sheriff’s Office responded to a shooting in the 2700 block of Brunswick Street , the GBI said.

Deputies found Devasiyea Johnson , 20; Javante Dixon , 19; and Brendan Gray , 19; all suffering from gunshot wounds . All three were transported to a hospital where they are recovering , authorities said.

The GBI is assisting the Tift County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 229-388-6020 or the GBI's Sylvester Office at 229-777-2080 .
Tift County High School recently named Bridgett Bowen as its Teacher of the Year.

Bowen teaches 12th-grade economics and social studies , and has been at the high school for 14 years.
Since late April , there has been a light shining for each of Southwell’s COVID-19 patients at Tift Regional Medical Center’ s 20th Street lobby in Tifton .

The custom-built display depicts the initials for the Tift Regional Health System .

As of Thursday , Southwell recorded a total of 365 positive COVID-19 patients and 38 deaths. Another 161 patients have recovered.

Southwell , based in Tifton , serves 12 counties with Tift Regional Medical Center (TRMC), the TRMC West Campus in Tifton , Southwell Medical Hospital and Southwell Health and Rehabilitation in Adel , and more than 30 primary care and specialty clinics throughout the region.
The Tift County Board of Education on Thursday named Dr. Julian Jones as the new principal for Eighth Street Middle School

Jones , principal at University High School in Orange City, Fla. , succeeds Dr. Chad Stone , recently named principal of Tift County High School.

Jones has been a principal for 19 years and has administrative experience at the high school, middle and elementary school levels.

He is a graduate of Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.
VIDEO: John Berry, center, appears in new music video by Joe & Martina.
Country music star John Berry , a former Tift County resident, says he was honored to be featured in the new music project “ Give Me Back The 90’s”  by country music’s hot new duo,  Joe & Martina

Berry's contribution included vocals on the single , and he is showcased in the newly released video

The single debuted on Music Row Country Breakout Chart at No. 70 and has climbed to No. 53 , followed by a No. 16 chart position on the CDX True Indie Chart – a feat for an independent act. 

"From the very outset, I could tell Joe & Martina had something special to offer country music,” Berry said. "I was absolutely taken back that they had included me as a '90s artist that had influenced them to pursue their dreams. It is quite humbling , and I thank Joe & Martina for the privilege of singing on what I know is a hit.”

The song, “Give Me Back the 90’s,” reminisces about life before the digital age and cites several '90s country artists , including Berry

“Martina and I are hardcore country music fans first and foremost, so intentionally nodding our hats to George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna and, of course, John Berry , was nothing but an act of love for some of the artists who truly shaped us as musicians and established our life soundtrack,” said Joe .

Martina said she “had a poster of John Berry on my wall as a kid , so having John record and appear in our music video , sharing his talent and soul, will forever remain a pinch-me moment.”
Jack Bazemore , a junior agricultural education major at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College , is one of 14 students nationwide selected as a National Teach Ag Ambassador for the 2020-21 year.

Bazemore is the first student from a college or university in Georgia selected for the honor in the history of the National Teach Ag Ambassadors’ program. 

Agricultural education has afforded me the opportunity to combine my passions for teaching and the outdoors to help mold and shape the future of our industry and our nation,” Bazemore said. “I am extremely excited to represent ABAC this year as a Teach Ag Ambassador .” 

The 14 ambassadors will be advocates for agricultural education at the 93rd National FFA Convention in Indianapolis on Oct. 28-31 . The students will represent the National Teach Ag Campaign at the convention and encourage high school students who stop by the Teach Ag booth to consider careers as agriculture teachers

Active in the  ABAC Collegiate FFA , Bazemore is a member of the ABAC Horseman’s Association , the Tifton Volunteer Fire Department , and the First Presbyterian Church of Tifton.
Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) recently recognized Tift County Commissioner Stan Stalnaker for completing public safety requirements in the Lifelong Learning Academy

ACCG and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia have collaborated for more than two decades to provide county officials with supplemental training and educational tools . County officials have tailor-made learning experiences that allow them to excel in specific areas of expertise.
“County officials are faced with many challenges and ever-evolving circumstances under which they must govern Georgia’s local communities ,” said Dave Wills , ACCG’s executive director.

“The Lifelong Learning Academy was created to help them navigate those challenges. I commend county leaders such as Stan Stalnaker who take full advantage of educational opportunities to further their knowledge on how to better serve their communities.”
For the 2020 summer semester beginning May 21 , the Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) Foundation has awarded scholarships to 56 students totaling more than  $37,000 .

The scholarship funds may be used to assist students with technology expenses associated with online coursework as well as more traditional education-related costs such as tuition, fees, books , and classroom supplies .

Among the students awarded scholarships are:

Karol Kirk of Nashville ; Hannah Watts of Norman Park ; Nestor Nunez Vasquez of Omega ; Chandler Bearden and Virginia Lamb of Sylvester ; and Daisey Estrada, Kimjuana Ivey, Cornellia Lane, Lucia Pena and Noemi Reyes of Tifton .
This dog is currently on stray hold at Tift County Animal Shelter . If not reclaimed , will be available for adoption or rescue . If this is your pet, call the  animal shelter   to claim,  229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch’s Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055   
Important Phone Numbers & Web Sites
Teresa Diane “Judy” Roberts Rewis, 60, Tifton
Carl Duren Jr. 84, Adel
Raymond Brown, 67, Tifton
Henry Lynch, 78, Adel
Benita Whittenberger, 64, Worth County

Loraine Jones, 82, Quitman
Geraline McCracken, 83, Worth County

Wade C. Melton, 53, Fitzgerald
Sarah Osborne Singletary, 82, Enigma
Gary Blount, 78, Lenox
Judith "Judy" Williams, 83, Valdosta
Robert A Dunbar, 80, Fitzgerald

Teresa Machelle Dorman Rojo, 50, Lenox
Curtis W. Etheredge, 60, Sylvester
Bonny Ray Jones, 85, Ray City
Wanda Gail Richardson, 58, Sparks
Joseph N. Morgan Sr., 91, Sylvester
Mary Grace Moore, 77, Coffee County

MAY 10
Verene White Bryant, 88, Sylvester
Willene Culpepper Beard, 88, Ashburn
Gloria Goff Watson, 84, Ashburn

MAY 11
Gary Leon Meeks, 80, Chula
Willis Wright Marchant, 83, Tifton
Barbara Anne Wiseman, 70, Adel
Martha Harper Fussell, 96, Douglas
Della Davis Golden, 84, Fitzgerald
Pamela Meadows Ellenburg, 60, Ashburn

MAY 12
Victor Jerome “Hossie” Ball, 55, Tifton

MAY 13
Connie Ann Avery, 45, Sylvester
Johnny Raymond Burch, Warwick
Marie Dennard, 85, Tifton
Vera Joyce Watson Starrak, 74, Tifton
Carol Pauline Wright Hurd, 77, Altus, Okla.
Joyce Laverne Aultman, 71, Tifton

MAY 14
Charles Gary Pate, 62, Tifton
Billie Joe Davis, 82, Sylvester
Brenda Gail Kelley, 64, Adel

Tifton Grapevine
e-published every Tuesday and Friday

Frank Sayles Jr.
Editor & Publisher
Bonnie Sayles
Managing Editor
A Service of Sayles Unlimited Marketing LLC , Tifton, Georgia