An overview of key developments in COVID-19 over the past week

Dalton seeks compensation under the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act.

His complaint raises questions about the state health department’s handling of millions of dollars in federal pandemic aid, and they come as the super-contagious delta variant of COVID-19 threatens to ignite again the crisis.

The number of cases in Georgia has tripled in the past three weeks. The 7-day moving average of probable and confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia was 1,065 on Thursday, down from 356 on June 24. Meanwhile, only 37.5% of the state’s total population, including children not yet eligible for the vaccine, are fully immunized, compared to 48.3% of the population nationwide, according to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here is a look at the main COVID-19 developments over the past week.

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Dr Kathleen Toomey, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner, speaks about the state’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccination at a press conference in the Georgia capital in March. (Alyssa Pointer / [email protected])

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / [email protected]

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / [email protected]

Dalton spent 23 years in the state attorney general’s office before joining the Department of Public Health last October. Almost immediately, she said in her whistleblower complaint, she began to oppose what she calls “potential violations of federal and state law.”

She discovered that the agency’s legal office was a “fiasco”, according to her complaint. The office had failed to respond to thousands of case requests, exposing the state to legal fees and possible judgments for violating the open cases law, Dalton said.

Among the requests was one that AJJ had submitted in May 2020 to get the emails. Dalton said he was asked to redact them, which allegedly violated state law.

Then, in February, Toomey gave Dalton an unusual task, according to his attorney: researching a private legal case involving his friends Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Foundation, and his wife, Kayanne, former Miss Georgia. During the same period, the Masseys’ son – Lewis Massey, who was Georgia’s secretary of state from 1996 to 1999 – lobbied the health agency to award a contract for a call center to schedule vaccinations. to one of its clients, Maximus Inc.

Dalton says he told other officials that the state’s public health districts already have their own immunization schedule systems. Rushing through the Maximus contract, she feared the agency “might be seen as skewing the contract through a no-tender process costing taxpayers millions of dollars for no reason.”

In a tense exchange, Toomey yelled at Dalton, according to his lawyer. “I’m not going to argue with you,” Dalton said, quoting Toomey. ” Do it. “

Nancy Nydam, spokesperson for Toomey, said the health agency was not commenting on “potential litigation issues, ongoing or subsequent.”

Kemp spokeswoman Mallory Blount also declined to comment. When the AJC published its article in March based on the emails, a spokesperson for Kemp disputed some of the article’s findings and said many other states “did not fare better. against COVID-19 than Georgia “.

Piedmont Hospital announced last week that it was making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for staff members starting September 1.  (Christine Tannous / Christine.Tannous@ajc.com)
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Piedmont Hospital announced last week that it was making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for staff members starting September 1. (Christine Tannous / [email protected])

Credit: Christine Tannous / [email protected]

Credit: Christine Tannous / [email protected]

Piedmont’s health care system will require doctors, hospital leaders and new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 1, the based nonprofit said last week. in Atlanta. Other employees at the Piedmont facilities will need to be vaccinated against COVID “in the near future,” Piedmont said in a statement.

While Piedmont’s size and geographic reach amplifies the impact of its decision, it is not the first system operating in Georgia to take the step of requiring employees to be vaccinated.

Earlier this month, Trinity Health announced that employees at its 91 hospitals would be required to be vaccinated. Trinity, a Michigan-based Catholic health care system, has three hospitals in Georgia: St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, St. Mary’s Good Samaritan in Greensboro, and St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia.

Hospitals nationwide have started mandating the injections since a federal court dismissed a lawsuit brought by employees challenging the vaccination requirement at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.

Elena Prestwood, music teacher at John R. Lewis Elementary School, greets a student wearing a face shield and face mask into the school building on the first day of in-person learning in March.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
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Elena Prestwood, music teacher at John R. Lewis Elementary School, greets a student wearing a face shield and face mask into the school building on the first day of in-person learning in March. (Alyssa Pointer / [email protected])

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / [email protected]

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / [email protected]

Schools in DeKalb County are once again making masks mandatory for students and staff inside and on buses, regardless of immunization status.

School mask policies vary across the Atlanta metro area. The Clayton County District said last week it will still require students and staff to wear masks when classes begin in August. Students and staff at Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett have the option of covering their faces, while Atlanta Public Schools have said they are reviewing the CDC’s new guidelines. Currently, APS requires masks inside buildings.

Texas-based cabinet maker and interior solutions provider Elite has acquired Windsor Kitchen & Bath in Lawrenceville.  The expansion and move to 755 Raco Drive will create 125 new jobs.  (Courtesy of Republic Elite)
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Texas-based cabinet maker and interior solutions provider Elite has acquired Windsor Kitchen & Bath in Lawrenceville. The expansion and move to 755 Raco Drive will create 125 new jobs. (Courtesy of Republic Elite)

Credit: Courtesy of Republic Elite

Credit: Courtesy of Republic Elite

Georgia Health News editors Alan Judd, Kristal Dixon and Andy Miller contributed to this story.


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