County, city entities continue to adjust as COVID cases spike

Published 9:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2021

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Entities within the city of LaGrange, Hogansville and within the county are prepping their facilities and staff as COVID-19 cases rise in the area.

Precautions such as mask-wearing and sanitizing rooms are being put into motion as facilities continue to monitor rising case numbers to better decide what precautions are needed for their staff and the public at large.

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said that the city will not yet instill mask requirements but will continue to watch the increase in COVID numbers closely.

“We do encourage masks and support those who choose to wear a mask,” Thornton said. “We are also continuing to encourage all who are medically eligible to take the vaccine.”

Thornton added that the city has not had a significant issue with city staffing being affected at this time, but that the city manager is continually monitoring the situation.

Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz shared his concern with the rising numbers.

On Monday, Hogansville will close its city hall lobby until further notice, keeping only its built-in drive thru open for customers to use, Stankiewicz said. City employees will not be affected by this change.

COVID cases among Hogansville staff are currently non-existent.

“The entire staff was tested this morning, and they all came back negative,” Stankiewicz said.

Hogansville is not yet planning a city-wide mask mandate, he added, though council members and citizens attending public meetings are encouraged to wear masks.

“Cases are on the rise, but you have to do your piece to stop the spread,” he said.

Troup County Manager Eric Mosley said COVID precautions are being handled among staff and visitors as well.

The county enacted a revised mask policy for the Troup County Government Center and Juvenile Court earlier this month.

Mosley said visitors to both centers will have their temperatures checked at the entrance and are asked a few health questions before they are allowed to continue inside.

Sanitation procedures in the buildings are in place as well.

“Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m., every courtroom, office and every public space in the building is being sprayed,” Mosley said. “In between all that, our inmate crews are cleaning all the restrooms and public and private spaces in the building on a daily basis.”

Masks and social distancing are encouraged in other public county spaces, he added.  Mosley did not wish to reveal if there were any cases of COVID among staff members as of Wednesday.

According to the most recent data reported Aug. 17 from the Georgia Department of Public Health Troup County, Troup County has had 425 new COVID cases in the last two weeks. The county’s total number of cases are 6,911 and 208 confirmed deaths.

Georgia as a whole has had 58,297 new cases in the last two weeks, 4,257 of which were reported Wednesday along with 24 confirmed deaths.

Both the LaGrange Police Department and the Troup County Sheriff’s Office enacted their own mask mandates earlier this month.

The TCSO is requiring all visitors wear a facemask when visiting the jail. Visitors that have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID are asked not to visit, said Stewart Smith with the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.

“Inmates are also issued face masks and are asked to wear them,” Smith said.

Smith said that there have been no issues enacting the procedures at this time.

“We have had and currently have employees who have had COVID,” Smith said. “I do not have exact numbers as they fluctuate day to day.”

The LPD is following a similar protocol.

LPD Chief Lou Dekmar said the department has been monitoring the COVID situation for the past several weeks.

LPD put out a special order that requires unvaccinated employees to wear masks, which extends to unvaccinated visitors visiting the department as well.

“Presently, we have one employee out with COVID,” Dekmar said. “In the past four or five weeks, we’ve had six or seven [sick employees] and all but the one have returned.”

LPD continues plans to continue to monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID recommendations and will adjust its policies should cases continue to rise, Dekmar said.

Kia Georgia in West Point, the biggest employer in Troup County, is addressing the COVID rise as well.

“We have seen a rise in cases amongst our team that is comparable to what is happening locally in Troup County,” said Patrick Sands, who works in team relations for the plant. “Kia Georgia is continuing with its robust COVID-19 protocols, which include mandatory face coverings, temperature checks and sanitization efforts. Our onsite medical center also hosts a vaccine clinic for team members each Friday.”