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Nearly 500 receive first doses of COVID vaccine at Albany drive-thru clinic
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ALBANY — A Saturday COVID-19 vaccination clinic that included $100 gift cards to entice reluctant or procrastinating Dougherty County residents to roll up their sleeves brought out 538 people to get shots.

Of those, 493 received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 45 got second shots of the two-dose product, Sam Allen, director of Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services, said Monday.

“There was a great turnout,” Allen said. “We had a lot of walk-ups. I got there at 6 o’clock (a.m.) and they were already lining up on foot and in cars.”

Numbers were not available on Monday for how many of those vaccinated were eligible to receive a $100 Visa gift card. The incentive was only available to Dougherty County residents 18 and older, although vaccines were available to children 12 and older and to residents of other counties.

EMS personnel were on hand to assist or transport anyone who had a reaction to the vaccine, but there were no issues on that score although there was one person who had a heat-related issue, Allen said.

The Dougherty County Commission approved last week spending up to $338,000 in federal COVID relief funds on the $100 incentives.

The county, working with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Albany Area Primary Health Care and Georgia Department of Public Health, will hold another clinic in about a month. Gift cards also will be awarded during that event.

“It was great,” Dougherty Commissioner Russell Gray said of the clinic. “I’m really impressed with the turnout. It could have gone either way. I don’t think it was a flop by any stretch of the imagination.”

Vaccinated individuals help protect their communities and also protect themselves from negative outcomes that include severe illness, death and expensive hospital costs, the commissioner said.

“What this does is also protect the valuable resources of our hospital,” Gray said. “It helps prevent our hospital system from becoming overburdened. It also allows them to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and ICU admissions that could be used for other severe health conditions (like) heart attacks and strokes and for procedures like hip replacements that people also need and are on hold right now.”

Although Gray said he doesn’t want to spread the process out over months, as the idea is to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible, the commission may need to consider additional clinics or tracking those who get a first shot and awarding them gift cards when they get a second dose.

“There are a lot of people who are on the fence,” Gray said. “If using this federal money to put a carrot out there to people who are on the fence to get vaccinated, that’s great. Like I said at our meeting the other day, if we spend all that $338,000, that would be a wildly successful problem to have to have for how we’re going to pay for the rest.”

While he said he supports vaccinations, Commissioner Victor Edwards said paying people to get the shot is a form of coercion.

The same holds true for him for an initiative approved by the commission in August to pay $300 incentives to employees who get vaccinated.

“I think it was a great thing,” Edwards said of the Saturday clinic. He, along with Commissioner Clinton Johnson, voted in opposition to the $338,000 outlay. “I’m not in opposition to the vaccine. I am in opposition to paying people to get something that’s free.”

Edwards said he also would like to see the commission develop a plan to spend the money, as opposed to having individual projects such as the clinics brought to the board for approval on short notice. The District 5 commissioner said he received about eight calls about the incentive program over the past week, with nearly all opposed to paying individuals to get vaccinated.

The county received $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds this year and is expected to receive an equal amount in 2022.

“We as commissioners have not sat down with staff to say these are the things we would like to get done,” Edwards said.

Some of the issues he would like to address include helping the Albany Rescue Mission and addressing homelessness, housing and work programs for young residents.

“Those are some of the kinds of projects we’re looking to see with the ARP money,” he said.

For Commissioner Anthony Jones, the money was well-spent, especially if those 493 who got first shots show up in about four weeks for a second dose.

“We continue to save lives and keep people out of the hospital,” Jones said. “You can’t put a dollar amount on the lives saved.”

George Thorogood, Destroyers plan 'Good to Be Bad Tour' stop in Albany
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ALBANY — Southwest Georgia blues/rock fans looking for an opportunity to show a little of their Christmas “bad” side will get that opportunity on Dec. 12 when George Thorogood and The Destroyers bring their “Good to Be Bad Tour: 45 Years of Rock” to the Albany Municipal Auditorium.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. show go on sale Friday at 10 a.m..

Since 1976, Thorogood and his band have sold more than 15 million albums, built a classic catalog of hits, and played more than 8,000 live shows. They broke records with their 50 Dates/50 States Tour, delivered landmark performances at Live Aid and on “Saturday Night Live,” and became mainstays on rock radio, MTV and stages worldwide for more than two generations. Through it all, they’ve remained one of the most consistent – and consistently passionate – progenitors of blues-based rock in pop culture history.

Formed in Delaware in 1973, Thorogood and The Destroyers have built a catalog of hits that remains as popular today as the songs were when they were first released. Classics like “I Drink Alone,” “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer,” “Get a Haircut,” “Move It on Over,” “Who Do You Love?”, and — of course — the genre-defining “Bad to the Bone” are still beloved by fans and have kept the guitar great and his band relevant through 4 1/2 decades of music.

Thorogood, the 2018 winner of the B.B. King Award, is dedicating the Good to Be Bad Tour to the memory of his wife, Maria, who lost a battle with ovarian cancer in 2018. A portion of proceeds from all stops on the tour will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

For the past 45 years, it’s been good to be George Thorogood & The Destroyers. And in 2021, their Good To Be Bad Tour: 45 Years Of Rock will prove why like never before.

Albany has highest concentrated poverty rate in Georgia
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ALBANY — There are an estimated 39.5 million Americans living below the poverty line, which, in the lower 48 states, is an annual income threshold of $12,880 for an individual and $26,500 for a family of four (Alaska and Hawaii have a slightly higher threshold). Living in poverty can have serious consequences and impacts nearly every aspect of life — and those problems can be compounded for those who are facing poverty while also living in very poor neighborhoods.

Residents of poor neighborhoods often struggle with higher crime rates, limited employment opportunities, lower school quality, and poor health outcomes. For those living on poverty level income, each of these factors reduces the likelihood of upward economic mobility.

Albany has the highest concentrated poverty rate of any metro area in Georgia and one of the highest of any metro area nationwide. There are nine neighborhoods in the city with poverty rates of 40% and up — and they are home to more than one-third of the 34,600 people in the metro area living below the poverty line.

Many living in Albany’s high-poverty neighborhoods face barriers to economic opportunity due to low educational attainment. For example, less than three-quarters of adults in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or higher have a high school diploma compared to about 87% of adults in the rest of the city. Additionally, the share of adults with a four-year college education in Albany is more than double the share of adults with such a degree living in the city’s concentrated poverty neighborhoods.

All data used in this story are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Only census tracts, or neighborhoods, with at least 500 people and college or graduate school enrollment below 50% were considered. Metro areas also were excluded if more than 25% of the population in tracts or neighborhoods of concentrated poverty were college or university students.

Metro area with worst extreme poverty — Poor residents in high-poverty neighborhoods — Overall poverty rate — Overall poverty rate, statewide:

♦ Alabama: Tuscaloosa 16.7% 18.2% 16.7%

♦ Alaska: None N/A N/A 10.7%

♦ Arizona: Phoenix 9.9% 13.6% 15.1%

♦ Arkansas: Little Rock 7.8% 15.0% 17.0%

♦ California: Fresno 28.5% 22.5% 13.4%

♦ Colorado: Pueblo 5.9% 18.8% 10.3%

♦ Connecticut: New Haven 12.7% 11.7% 9.9%

♦ Delaware: None N/A N/A 11.8%

♦ Florida: Tallahassee 21.5% 15.8% 14.0%

♦ Georgia: Albany 35.3% 24.2% 15.1%

♦ Hawaii: None N/A N/A 9.4%

♦ Idaho: None N/A N/A 13.1%

♦ Illinois: Danville 20.6% 18.9% 12.5%

♦ Indiana: Muncie 18.7% 17.2% 13.4%

♦ Iowa: Waterloo 9.6% 13.4% 11.5%

♦ Kansas: Wichita 5.7% 13.0% 12.0%

♦ Kentucky: Louisville 11.2% 12.3% 17.3%

♦ Louisiana: Monroe 49.5% 24.2% 19.2%

♦ Maine: Lewiston 13.5% 11.8% 11.8%

♦ Maryland: Baltimore 9.3% 10.0% 9.2%

♦ Massachusetts: Springfield 23.4% 14.8% 10.3%

♦ Michigan: Flint 32.4% 18.9% 14.4%

♦ Minnesota: Duluth 7.9% 13.0% 9.7%

♦ Mississippi: Jackson 21.3% 16.9% 20.3%

♦ Missouri: Cape Girardeau 27.9% 16.4% 13.7%

♦ Montana: Great Falls 19.8% 13.3% 13.1%

♦ Nebraska: Omaha 3.8% 10.3% 11.1%

♦ Nevada: Las Vegas 5.1% 13.7% 13.1%

♦ New Hampshire: Manchester 2.9% 7.8% 7.6%

♦ New Jersey: Trenton 21.3% 11.7% 10.0%

♦ New Mexico: Las Cruces 26.1% 26.3% 19.1%

♦ New York: Buffalo 27.4% 14.0% 14.1%

♦ North Carolina: Goldsboro 12.5% 20.2% 14.7%

♦ North Dakota: None N/A N/A 10.7%

♦ Ohio: Toledo 26.0% 16.0% 14.0%

♦ Oklahoma: Oklahoma City 9.2% 13.7% 15.7%

♦ Oregon: Medford 2.3% 15.5% 13.2%

♦ Pennsylvania: Reading 28.8% 12.0% 12.4%

♦ Rhode Island: Providence 4.0% 12.0% 12.4%

♦ South Carolina: Columbia 7.9% 14.4% 15.2%

♦ South Dakota: None N/A N/A 13.1%

♦ Tennessee: Memphis 24.6% 17.5% 15.2%

♦ Texas: Laredo 46.4% 27.5% 14.7%

♦ Utah: None N/A N/A 9.8%

♦ Vermont: None N/A N/A 10.9%

♦ Virginia: Roanoke 15.9% 12.9% 10.6%

♦ Washington: Yakima 8.5% 17.4% 10.8%

♦ West Virginia: Huntington 14.8% 18.8% 17.6%

♦ Wisconsin: Milwaukee 17.4% 13.1% 11.3%

♦ Wyoming: None N/A N/A 11.0%

Phoebe Sumter receives CuddleCot donation
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AMERICUS – The Labor & Delivery Department at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center recently received a special donation. Candace McDonald, an ultrasound tech at Phoebe Sumter, along with her family, donated a CuddleCot in memory of their son, Conor Franklin.

McDonald had to deliver Conor 30 weeks into her pregnancy on Dec. 13, 2018, and he passed away the next day. After her son’s death, Candace began fundraising with Ashlie’s Embrace, a nonprofit organization that helps raise awareness of CuddleCots and makes them available to parents through medical facilities.

The CuddleCot is a special bassinet used to cool and preserve a newborn’s body, allowing parents more time with their baby before saying good-bye.

“The CuddleCot gives the precious gift of time to help families with the grieving process, which is so important,” Phoebe Sumter Medical Center CEO Brandi Lunneborg said. “We are honored to receive this donation.”

Blake, Lake Park Elementary