Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Tifton, Georgia
GrapeNew
Photo by Bonnie Sayles
Poll workers from Tift County's precincts turn in equipment and ballot boxes at Election Central in Tifton on Tuesday night.
WARNOCK DEFEATS LOEFFLER; OTHER SENATE RACE TOO CLOSE TO CALL
By FRANK SAYLES JR. and BONNIE SAYLES
Tifton Grapevine
The Rev. Raphael Warnock has defeated GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler to become Georgia's first black U.S senator, while the Senate runoff between incumbent Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff had a razor-thin margin early Wednesday with Perdue leading by about 1,300 votes.

Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said, “We were told that we couldn’t win this election but tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”

Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate in 2019 after Sen. Johnny Isakson retired for health reasons, refused to concede. In unofficial results early Wednesday, Warnock had about 51 percent of the vote with heavily Democratic precincts still to report. He declared victory, and major news organizations also called the race in his favor.

In the Perdue-Ossoff race early Wednesday, each had about 50 percent of the vote with the lead changing back and forth. Some absentee ballots remain to be counted.

Overall, the runoff elections in Georgia went smoothly with just a few hiccups, including one small issue in Tift County. The Eldorado precinct was allowed to stay open later until 7:40 p.m., because of a late opening after an equipment issue.

Tift Election Supervisor Leila Dollison said Eldorado poll workers had issues with the poll pads – the equipment poll workers use to check in voters. One poll worker said voters stood in line in the early-morning cold weather waiting for the connection problem to be resolved. While most people stayed, some left and returned later to vote.

In Tift County, 58 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the runoff elections, with both incumbent Republican senators handily beating their Democratic opponents. Loeffler won Tift with 9,649 votes to Warnock's 4,750; Perdue beat Ossoff in Tift by 9,666 to 4,722.

In the other race on the runoff ballot, incumbent Republican Lauren “Bubba" McDonald won re-election to the state Public Service Commission over Democrat Daniel Blackman.
COVID CONTINUES SURGE IN TIFT
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
COVID-19 cases continue to rise dramatically in Tift County, which caused Tift Regional Medical Center to temporarily divert emergency patients to other hospitals and has prompted Tift County Schools to return to a "Yellow" designation with a staggered schedule.
 
Meanwhile, healthcare workers, first responders and residents aged 65 and older may now register with the state’s South Health District for an appointment to receive the coronavirus vaccine
 
Soon after the new year began, Tift Regional Medical Center (TRMC) began diverting ambulances to other facilities, although patients who came to the emergency room “on their own were not turned away,” said Alex Le, Southwell’s chief operating officer.
 
“TRMC was on ER diversion because it had reached maximum capacity. Patients needing hospital admission had to remain in our emergency room longer than usual until an inpatient bed became available for assignment,” Le said.
 
By Jan. 3, TRMC had 84 COVID inpatients and 33 patients in the ER awaiting a bed. As of Jan. 4, Southwell’s flagship Tifton hospital was no longer on ER diversion but remains on ”critical care diversion; this means that our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is currently full, and we have to refer patients to other hospitals which have open ICU beds,” Le said.
 
“While we are now off ER diversion, we are still seeing a significant number of COVID-19 patients in the ER, which can contribute to longer than normal waits.”
 
Tift County has had 113 new coronavirus cases within the past week and 246 in the last two weeks, according to the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH). Tift’s cases translate to 602 per 100,000 population. In the past two weeks, Tift has seen a 17.8 percent positivity rate in COVID testing.
 
And Tift has a current record high daily average of 126 coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, according to Emory University data. Georgia has a daily average of 78 cases, while the U.S. daily average is 65 cases.
 
TIFT SCHOOLS ON STAGGERED SCHEDULE

Because of the increase in positive cases, Tift County Schools delayed reopening after the holidays until Wednesday, Jan. 6, under a “yellow” designation, which is how Tift schools opened in August. This means that schools are open and run on a Blue and White rotational model. Students were designated Blue or White in August, and those rotations will continue. Blue days will be Mondays and Wednesdays, and White days Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will be a virtual learning day for all students. Students already enrolled in online learning will see no change.

“While serving the students of Tift County is our ultimate goal, it is also important for us to protect our faculty and staff during this time as well,” Superintendent Adam Hathaway said.We ask for the public to continue to provide patience and grace to our school level staff as we continue to return to normal operations. This is not a task we are taking lightly.”

Hathaway said the decision “will allow the system to continue to monitor the surge in COVID-19 cases that are anticipated after the holiday break. Data will be reviewed and evaluated, and a decision on a change in color designation will be communicated when appropriate.”

VACCINES NOW AVAILABLE TO OLDER GEORGIANS

While healthcare workers and first responders who respond to medical calls have already been receiving the new coronavirus vaccines, Gov. Brian P. Kemp has expanded the vaccine Tier 1A level to include vaccinating all first responders and individuals 65 and older.
 
The South Health District says it will begin vaccinating the expanded population on Jan. 11, and is now accepting registrations for vaccination appointments. To request an appointment with the health department, Click Here!
Tara Grinstead outside the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce in 1999, when she served as Miss Tifton.
CBS-TV SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON TARA GRINSTEAD CASE
CBS-TV News’ “48 Hours” on Saturday night aired a show about the Tara Grinstead case in Ocilla.

Grinstead was an Irwin County teacher and former Miss Tifton when she disappeared without a trace in October 2005, leading to a long search and much speculation for a dozen years until two local men were charged in connection with her death.

The “48 Hours” TV show contains revelations that indicate local law enforcement and state investigators may have been able to solve the case soon after she vanished but instead missed several leads.

If you missed the TV episode Saturday, you can catch up on the show by Clicking Here.
TIFTAREA'S FIRST BABY OF 2021
Noah Nye was the first baby born in the new year at Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton. Noah was born at 4:29 a.m. on Jan. 1 to Jessica and Adrian Nye of Sylvester. At last report, the baby and his mom were doing well.
Just in this week at Bula's Antiques
Some Great Finds!
Late 1800's Banquet Lamps, Gone With The Wind Lamp Buffet with marble top, late 1800's Doyle and Co. Red Block pieces, and more!

Thanks for shopping our small business!
New inventory daily 
Paid for by the Tifton Merchants Association. To join, email kmcalpin@tifton.net or call 229-391-3978.
Keith Rucker takes the 'Polar Bear Plunge' for charity on New Year's Day at the Tiftarea YMCA pool. Rucker was the top fundraiser in the YMCA's event, raising more than $3,300 for the Called to Care organization, the YMCA said.
'POLAR BEARS' TAKE PLUNGE
The Tiftarea YMCA's "Ninth Annual Polar Bear Plunge" was called a "huge success," as participants raised more than $10,000 for local charitable organizations.

Participants took the plunge into the YMCA's 55-degree pool on New Year's Day to cap their fundraising efforts. Keith Rucker was the top fundraiser, raising more than $3,300 for the Called to Care organization. Because Rucker's charity came in at first place, Called to Care gets to keep all of the funds that Rucker raised.

The remaining nonprofits represented at the Plunge receive 50 percent of their money raised, splitting the proceeds with the YMCA – provided that the representative took the plunge down the pool slide.

Besides Rucker representing Called to Care, others who participated in the event were: Paul Horst, representing Tiftarea Greenways Association; Heather Johnson, Soup Kitchen; Flavia Rossi, CASA; Mac Sims, Tifton Animal Rescue; Todd Garner, H-3 Center; Michelle Gilder, Celebrate Recovery; Andy Marzen, Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence; Tony McBrayer, Peanut Butter & Jesus; Wingate Whitley, Patticake House; and Jason Bishoff, Tiftarea YMCA.
TIFTON GRAPEVINE'S CAT OF THE WEEK
Fish Sticks is a four-month-old, orange-and-white male kitten available for immediate adoption at the Tift County Animal Shelter. 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
RAILROAD BUYS LAND FOR INDUSTRIAL PARK
– JAN. 6, 1966
The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad has purchased 165 acres near Interstate 75 and Union Road for development of an industrial park, according to news reports on Jan, 6, 1966.
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