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Reporter’s Notebook July 10: COVID-19 is not going away

The Atlanta BeltLIne's Eastside Trail on Sunday, April 26 with most people respecting social distancing of six feet (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Social distancing is here to stay for a while. Credit: Maria Saporta

There’s no end in sight to the strains that COVID-19 is putting on Georgians’ work, lives and health. Things in the news now wouldn’t have been imaginable a year ago. Like the venerable institution trying to help their low-income students learn at a time when they can’t get near teachers. Or the 16-year-olds who see a warning on the Atlanta’s PPE supply chain. And there’s still the regular business to attend to, which hasn’t gone away.

We’re rounding some highlights in this week’s notebook.

4,000 Dell laptops en route to Clark Atlanta University students

Clark Atlanta University will re-open its campus this fall, with masks, social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures. And with 4,000 new laptops thanks to a gift from Dell.

Clark Atlanta University by Kelly Jordan

Clark Atlanta University by Kelly Jordan

“Many of our students are Pell-eligible scholars and, in many cases, do not have the financial support needed to purchase laptops,” said CAU President George T. French in a press release.

The school counts just about 4,000 students altogether.

The computers will of course link students to online learning and will be of use in physical classrooms.

But they’ll also help students with a new COVID-19 reality: daily monitoring of their health as they adjust to the new environment at Clark Atlanta University and within the Atlanta University Center.

-By Maggie Lee

A supply chain worry for Atlanta (and students): PPE demand is rising

The founder and CEO of the new nonprofit Project Paralink says a lot more requests are coming in lately for free personal protective equipment: face shields, gowns, gloves.

Staff at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta who received face shields distributed by Paralink. Credit: Special

Staff at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta who received face shields distributed by Paralink. Credit: Special

Just within Atlanta, demand is up 300 percent among Paralink clientele in the last two weeks compared to the two weeks before that, Edward Aguilar said on Tuesday.

They’ve got those supply chain data points because Project Paralink, a grassroots, high school student-founded organization, helps fill PPE requests from health care providers, businesses and even regular folks.

Paralink helps match demand with supply from other nonprofits, from volunteers, from people in maker spaces, plus drivers and donors who give cash or materials.

Together, they’ve created and distributed some 390,000 pieces of PPE in four states, Aguilar said.

He said the scary part of his data is that the average Atlanta client’s stockpile of PPE has gone from two weeks’ worth to a week. It’s scary to him because the network needs a few days’ lead time between request and delivery.

Aguilar and fellow students set up Paralink when COVID-19 hit home in Alpharetta and interrupted their study on the math behind things like optimal driving routes. Part of the reason for turning their studies to the PPE supply chain was to change the narrative about how a lot of people look at their age demographic, said Aguilar, who is 16.

“You go online, and over the last few months, it’s been awful,” Aguilar said. “You hear college students, you hear students, you see them partying and spreading [COVID-19.] For us, we want people to know that … we’re not all awful! Some of us are out here trying to fight back and fight injustice on a wider scale than traditional models are.”

-By Maggie Lee

Voting starts again soon and Fulton has some ideas

With more voting by mail in the future, Fulton’s got to hire more folks with that expertise and set up a smooth way to receive ballot applications.

That’s according to some of the recommendations from a special elections task force, established by Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts.

Waits and lines and Fulton voter complaints of never having received a ballot for the June primary are well-documented in many places.

Problems started early with a state idea that made applying for a mail ballot very easy but came with technical pitfalls: voters were able to email pictures of their ballot applications to counties. So Fulton’s inboxes overflowed with pictures, some in strange formats, some with many applications in one email — and email attachments are a security risk anyway. Fulton’s election director has already said the needs a website where people submit the picture.

Problems continued with polling places that dropped out and people in a panic over not having received mail ballots heading to vote at venues where they sometimes found hourslong lines. And the machines were new and unfamiliar to poll workers, which didn’t help.

Early voting for primary runoffs starts July 20. Locations are subject to change; the best place to keep up with them is at Fulton County’s voting website.

-By Maggie Lee

New CEO for Wellroot Family Services: Allison Ashe

Private nonprofit foster care and family services agency Wellroot Family Services will be led by Allison Ashe, effective July 21.

Allison Ashe

Allison Ashe

Ashe was a longtime leader at Covenant House Georgia, which provides crisis shelter and wraparound support services to homeless, runaway, and trafficked teens ages 18-21.

“Allison is a movement builder. She is a convener. She is strategic about building relationships and she is authentic. Her record here speaks for itself. She turned around Covenant House Georgia. She worked very thoughtfully to get the right community support. She substantially grew the board in terms of their generosity and their ability to attract others to the fold,” said Kevin Ryan, CEO of Covenant House International, in a press release. “Under Allison’s leadership, Covenant House Georgia quadrupled the number of young people they served.”

She takes over from president and CEO Rev. Hal Jones, who accepted an appointment by the Bishop of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

-By Maggie Lee

Gwinnett Place CID reelects two board members

Leo Wiener, president of Ackerman Retail, the retail division of Ackerman & Co. and Jill Edwards, commercial lending division manager for United Community Bank, will continue on the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District board, after a July 8 board vote.

Community Improvement Districts are zones where businesses vote to pay extra property taxes and spend that money on shared extra shared services, like security or new infrastructure.

-By Maggie Lee



Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.


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