Sandy Springs & Clayton County Will Use Georgia Tech Grant to Study Traffic Patterns By MARTA MARTA congratulates partner jurisdictions Sandy Springs and Clayton County on winning the 2020 Georgia Smart Communities Challenge and will assist in conducting studies on street and sidewalk traffic patterns. The Georgia Institute of Technology awarded $100,000 in grants to both Sandy Springs and Clayton County and will provide access to its network of researchers and engineers to study infrastructure and data projects. MARTA will lend its support to Sandy Springs as it explores the application of transit signal priority (TSP) to existing bus service, and to Clayton County as it looks to make strategic decisions around pedestrian planning. “MARTA looks forward to partnering with Sandy Springs and Clayton County on these important studies that use innovative technology to improve transit service reliability and the walkability of our communities,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. Specifically, MARTA will work with Sandy Springs to enable technology on buses that alert an intersection that a bus is approaching. The intersection determines what action it will take, but the technology allows the bus to request longer green lights, or shorter red lights if safely available, when the bus schedule is heavily impacted by traffic. The project will cover Route 5 on Roswell Road / Johnson Ferry / Hammond Drive with the goal of improving consistency and reliability of travel times. MARTA has experimented with this technology in the past, but this project will pilot a newer approach that is less hardware-intensive and, if successful, could be more easily deployed in other corridors. Clayton County will use the grant money to build a decision support system for transport project prioritization to promote mobility and equity, and to identify smart technologies to support walkability throughout the community. MARTA’s role in this project is still being discussed. This is sponsored content.
Program Seeks to Help Address a Critical Need for Metro Atlanta Region By Metro Atlanta Chamber The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) kicked off a targeted initiative aimed at attracting new poll workers for the upcoming November general election. This program aims to drive metro Atlanta employees and residents to www.GaPollWorker.com where they can submit information to become a poll worker. While MAC is focused on Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb Counties, all residents who sign up to be poll workers will be connected with the board of elections in their county, which is a requirement of Georgia law. This initiative comes at a critical time after MAC spoke out in response to voters experiencing unprecedented wait times and difficulties during the Georgia primary election in June. Those interested in being poll workers must sign up by September 15 so that county election boards have enough time to train workers before early voting begins in October. “It’s no secret how important it is for all citizens in all communities to exercise their right to vote. We are each in a unique position to use our vote to shape our region’s future and affect positive change,” said Katie Kirkpatrick, Metro Atlanta Chamber, president and CEO. “The talent within our region’s major corporations, and our small and medium-sized businesses creates the perfect opportunity to mine for highly-qualified poll workers who can make a meaningful impact on election day.” While all eligible workers are welcome, this program seeks tech-savvy candidates, who can help operate Georgia’s new, state of the art, electronic voting machines during what is anticipated to be a record turnout election. Additionally, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, MAC’s program aims to attract younger people to fill a void left by older workers with underlying conditions who may not volunteer as poll workers this election season. The average age of Georgia poll workers is 72. This initiative is just one aspect of MAC’s larger focus public policy and driving civic engagement. With every major election, the Chamber updates www.votemetroATL.com to provide an objective overview of candidates and ballot issues. The organization is also a member of Committee for a Better Atlanta which provides voters with information to make informed decisions when electing the city’s mayor, city council members. “Knowing that election outcomes play a critical role in the social and economic prosperity of our region, we have a responsibility to empower our community to make educated decisions when it comes to voting,” said Dave Williams, senior vice President, government affairs, infrastructure and public policy at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. All poll workers will be compensated. For more information on MAC’s broader policy and advocacy efforts, visit www.metroatlantachamber.com/public-policy/elections and www.macpolicy.com. ### About the Metro Atlanta Chamber The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) serves as a catalyst for a more prosperous and vibrant region. To advance economic growth and improve metro Atlanta’s quality of place, MAC is focused on starting, growing and recruiting companies to the 29-county metro Atlanta region. The Chamber is also focused on expanding the region’s innovation economy by promoting and strengthening connections to drive Atlanta’s innovation and entrepreneurial culture. MAC is committed to being an active voice for the business community, serving as an advocate for a competitive business climate and promoting Atlanta’s story. For more information, visit www.MetroAtlantaChamber.com.
By Jim Durrett, President of The Buckhead Coalition and Executive Director of Buckhead Community Improvement District This view is not from Peachtree. As I write this from our cozy yurt in Teton Valley, Idaho, my view is of the sun rising over the Teton mountain range and beginning to warm our little slice of paradise, joining the fire in our wood stove as it has been taking the edge off of the cold for the last hour. We found this place years ago because I did a very good job of picking my grandparents. Their daughter, my mother, brought me out to Jackson Hole during my first year of life, and somewhere I have a photo of my diapers drying on the sagebrush in front of the cabin my grandparents built in the 1950s on the Wyoming side of the Tetons. I have been corresponding this past week with a friend in Portland, Oregon who has not had the same relationship with fire as I have lately. He and his wife have been breathing some of the worst air on the planet, and his county has begun distributing N95 facemasks to help its citizens breathe more safely. As he shared with me in an email a few days ago, “The extent of the fires out here in the Northwest and California is mind-boggling.” When we began our cross-country drive from Atlanta to Teton Valley two weeks ago, we planned our departure so as not to encounter the worst of the rain and wind from Hurricane Laura as it tracked across our planned route. As I write this, the Atlantic hurricane season statistically peaked two days ago and there are seven systems being watched, one or more of which may bring additional devastation to communities in and near the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Vacations are supposed to provide us with respite from our workday lives. But, thanks to email and text messages, I cannot escape all the news from Atlanta, and especially reports about the continuing nighttime behavior of those who seem not to care about how their activities bother others nearby. During the last year or so of my mother’s life, she would ask the same question of me each time I would take my leave after a visit with her. She would ask the same question of each of my three siblings as well. The question was, “Aren’t we fortunate?” I thank her for planting that question deep in my brain to remind me of the answer as I observe and experience the chaotic disturbances to life around me and across the planet, trying to choke pessimism down and remain upbeat. But the aspens are beginning to turn yellow, just as they always have, come September. The elk are in rut, and their bugling has joined the voices of coyotes and sandhill cranes in this beautiful valley. Moose have come out of the willows to drink from the Teton River and bless us with their presence as we paddle past. We saw an osprey crash into the river just in front of our kayaks and emerge with its trout dinner. Seasons change and remind us of the impermanence of things around us. Even in dark times, I know the answer to my mother’s question, and because I find optimism in it, I hope your answer is the same as mine. Let’s use this time to come together despite our differences and work on solving the problems that plague us. As my friend, the late Ray Anderson, would say, “Brighten the corner where you are; and what if everybody did it?”
By George Burgan, ANDP Prior to the onset of the pandemic, spiking rental rates had become an increasingly insurmountable obstacle for low-income families. In the last decade, rents in our region have increased by 65%, compared to a national average increase of 36%. Nearly half of all households in the City of Atlanta and nearly one in three households in the region are housing cost-burdened. Making matters worse, unemployment levels have soared, placing as many as 28 million families nationally in immediate jeopardy of eviction. After a brief period of moratoriums, Federal, state and local protections for vulnerable residents impacted by the COVID pandemic have expired and courts are beginning to resume eviction proceedings. As of late July, 182,000 households in Georgia were unable to pay rent and are at risk of eviction. The same data suggest that Black and Hispanic communities will be disproportionately affected. Philanthropic organizations and corporations in metro Atlanta were quick to establish funding to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, including rental relief measures. But the problem will soon far outpace any current funding. The September 2 Atlanta Regional Housing Forum welcomed nine presenters to discuss all aspects of the eviction crisis. EVICTION PREVENTION FUND Housing Forum moderator and founder Bill Bolling welcomed Jack Hardin, co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Regional Council on Homelessness and Doug Hooker, executive director of Atlanta Regional Commission to announce the formation of “Save Our Atlanta Residents” (SOAR) an equity fund for eviction prevention. “SOAR is a regional initiative based upon the belief that the entire community is better off if people are able to stay in their homes through this crisis. The goal is to keep people in their homes through the economic consequences of this pandemic – pursuing a shared pain strategy, so everyone – landlords, tenants, government and philanthropy – will have some skin in the game,” said Hardin. Hooker added that the formation of the fund is underway but implored everyone to help play a role. “We have an opportunity to take one the most inequitable cities and reshape it into one that cares about its neighbors. One that rises to the occasion and faces inequality head on.” Hooker and Hardin both stressed that the fund was not intended to replace the much needed deployment of existing government funds and other philanthropic efforts. For more information, to learn how you can get engaged, or to discuss making a contribution to SOAR, the regional eviction-prevention strategy led by Atlanta Regional Commission, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, United Way of Greater Atlanta, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, please contact Alex Dileo at Coxe Curry & Associates at firstname.lastname@example.org. TRACKING EVICTIONS Sarah Stein, a research advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, unveiled a new eviction data collective – a joint effort between her organization, Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Tech. The group has produced an eviction tracking tool that documents active eviction filings in metro Atlanta magistrate courts. The Atlanta Region Eviction Tracker, hosted at Atlanta Regional Commission’s Metro Atlanta Housing Strategy website, currently includes the five core metro counties. The collaborative encourages other metro counties to participate in the project and share their filing data. FORUM VOICES ON EVICTIONS The 90-minute Housing Forum provided attendees with a number of viewpoints from various entities concerned about the issues: Liz Osborn of Enterprise Community Partners provided an overview of actions in Washington to generate another relief package, as well as best practices around the nation in deploying CARES Act funding. Fulton County’s Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk provided a deep dive in the operations of Fulton County’s Magistrate Court. The Forum also heard passionate pleas from Protip Biswas of United Way of Greater Atlanta and Michael Lucas of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation on ways to improve the infrastructure for securing and deploying relief funds. Stephen Davis of the Atlanta Apartment Association shared the impact of the pandemic on association members who provide affordable units, and their efforts to minimize the impact of the crisis. Lejla Prljaca of Lawrenceville Housing Authority spoke about an efficient community collaborative, “Lawrenceville Response Center” that leveraged resources from public, private, the faith communities and others to provide assistance to the most vulnerable – especially those living in extended stay hotels. Watch all presentations on evictions here. WHAT CAN YOU DO? With more than 40% of Georgia renters at risk of eviction, including tens of thousands in metro Atlanta, we all have a role to play in responding to the crisis. Here are a few tips from Forum presenters. Think another pandemic stimulus/aid package is needed? Now is the time to call your members of Congress – especially those on Appropriations, Senate Banking, and House Financial Services committees. Find your House or Senate contact info. Contact your local government offices and ask them to participate in the Atlanta Region Eviction Tracker website. A collaborative effort of Atlanta Fed, ARC and Georgia Tech. Contact your local government and ask them to consider prioritizing and deploying CARES ACT funding for eviction prevention. Encourage and participate in private/public collaborations to address the eviction and housing stability crisis caused by the pandemic. See slide 20 for an overview of how Lawrenceville, GA pulled together as a community very quickly to help vulnerable populations. Give personally to a relief fund. Contact Alex Dileo to learn how you can support the new SOAR fund (email@example.com). Support the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund or other efforts. If possible encourage your company, organization, or philanthropic entity to financially support the above listed eviction prevention efforts – or other efforts in your local community. MORE INFORMATION FROM THE HOUSING FORUM Forum Video Program: Agenda & Bios Presentation Slides Eviction Tracker Website (Atlanta Fed, ARC, & Georgia Tech) Housing Forum – Eviction Resource Page www.AtlantaRegionalHousingForum.org
By: John Hope Bryant Disasters are unpredictable. Even with prior warning, we are rarely, if ever, prepared for the mental and emotional tax excised on us individually and collectively as a community. Right now, we find ourselves in the middle of a global health crisis, an economic shift felt by millions, and in the throes of battling a series of back-to-back natural disasters. Amidst these trying times, we must remember – disasters do not stop, and we cannot sit by idly, becoming victims of circumstance. The best way to fight back against the unknown is by being prepared. Devastation strikes without discrimination and it is never clear when it will impact you and your community. It is often said that the best offense is a good defense, preparedness is just that. Financial preparation for emergencies can save you and your family tremendous heartache and stress after disaster strikes. The simple actions you take, or do not take, today can greatly affect your future and way of life. Recently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recorded that more than 25 million Americans were impacted by a natural disaster in 2017; and, in the past three years alone, natural disasters have accounted for nearly $500 billion in damage and losses. While it is not possible to control the disruptions that nature can sometimes bring into our lives, we can control our response to them through financial literacy. Financial literacy is the cornerstone of preparedness; the two go together. When you understand the mechanics of money and resources – and how it can be leveraged to bring you to your desired future – you attain a sense of control and empowerment you may not have had before. Many times, individuals can tend to focus on what they do not have as a reason for delaying emergency preparations. Rather than focusing on what you do not have, think about shifting your focus on what you do have and maximizing its output and potential. Remember, consistently taking small actions yields big results over time. Here are a few things that you can do to be prepared for any kind of financial emergency you may find yourself in: Make saving a priority. It is important to understand that federal disaster assistance will not make you whole after disaster strikes – you must make saving and proper insurance a priority. For your savings, consider creating an additional “cash-on-demand” savings account that you add to periodically that you can take with you in case you are required to evacuate in a hurry. Maintain insurance. After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the average flood insurance payout to homeowners who flooded was $120,000. Conversely, homeowners who took on water and applied for FEMA for federal financial assistance through FEMA received $4,000 to 7,000 on average. Therefore, it is important to understand your risks and ensure your assets have the proper level of coverage. Review your policy options, policies, and other relevant paperwork consistently to ensure that information is up to date. Have a written plan. A comprehensive financial plan serves as your road map reminding you of your desired destination and the actions required to get there. Make copies of all important financial and legal documents. Many times, when disasters strike, property is severely damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately, for many, they lose access to important documents like mortgage information and birth certificates which are helpful in applying for recovery assistance. Additionally, in today’s technological environment, make sure your important documents are available digitally by storing them in the cloud, email, or mobile device. If you need assistance in this process, Operation HOPE may be able to help. For nearly three decades, Operation HOPE has been empowering Americans through financial literacy with a standing commitment to prepare individuals and families for financial disasters, of any kind, and seeing them through to recovery. Through HOPE Coalition America (HCA), the organization provides preparation coaching, at no cost to clients, to help them get back on their feet should they be adversely affected by disaster – be it natural or manmade. Additionally, their financial wellbeing coaches are trained to walk alongside clients in their most vulnerable times to help them regain a sense of dignity and normalcy in their lives. They can help clients build emergency financial plans, negotiate their mortgage payments, apply for eligible post-disaster FEMA assistance, speak to lenders concerning the terms and condition of their loans, and more. Life is an adventure, plan for it and be ready for the unexpected. September is National Preparedness Month and it is the perfect time to make a commitment to ensure you and your family are financially prepared – by doing so, you are investing in your future. For more resources, visit the Ready Campaign and the Financial Literacy and Education Commission.
By Charles Redding Who can forget the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010? With approximately 3 million people affected, this was the most devastating natural disaster ever experienced in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Roughly 250,000 lives were lost, and 300,000 people were injured. About 1.5 million individuals were forced to live in makeshift camps for extended periods of time. As a result, the country faced the greatest humanitarian need in its history. That was 10 years ago and MedShare was there to provide critical aid to those impacted by this disaster, and today, we continue to provide life-saving medical supplies and equipment to countless others that are impacted by disasters globally. When natural disasters strike vulnerable areas around the world, MedShare is poised to respond quickly and effectively. We are in a unique position to equip first responders in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster and partner with local institutions and government agencies to support long-term recovery and rebuild capacity. Many areas affected by natural disasters already have difficulty reaching patients in rural locations. When natural disasters wreak havoc on these communities, the limited infrastructure that was once in place no longer functions properly and creates bottlenecks for humanitarian aid delivery. MedShare is adept at overcoming those obstacles. The Opportunity: In the moments following a disaster, high on the priority list are food, shelter, medical care and clothing. MedShare’s Disaster Relief Program focuses on: Communicating directly with our in-country partner hospitals and clinics to determine their needs. Sourcing immediate needs from our product donor partners. Coordinating and expediting shipments of critical supplies with our logistics partners. Provisioning medical mission team volunteers as they travel to the region to provide aid. Continuing support after the initial response to aid in rebuilding health systems in areas devastated by disaster. Our program allows us to deliver vital medical supplies and equipment to disaster-affected areas immediately, as well as during the recovery and rebuild phases. According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), in 2019, 396 natural disasters were recorded with 11,755 deaths, 95 million people affected and 103 billion USD in economic losses across the world. The burden was not shared equally as Asia suffered the highest impact and accounted for 40% of disaster events, 45% of deaths and 74% of the people affected. India was hit hardest and recorded nearly 20% of the total deaths and 24.5% of the total number of people affected. Floods were the deadliest type of disaster accounting for 43.5% of deaths, followed by extreme temperatures at 25% (mainly due to heat waves in Europe) and storms at 21.5%. Storms affected the highest number of people, accounting for 35% of the total affected, followed by floods with 33% and droughts with 31%. 2020 is shaping up to be an unprecedented year in terms of the scope and scale of disasters across the globe with the COVID-19 pandemic, an extremely active storm season, a re-emerging Ebola outbreak, and numerous other disasters. The impact on communities has been significant, and they’ll require ongoing support as they begin to rebuild. We are currently actively responding to the following disasters: COVID – 19 Pandemic – As of September 10, more than 27.9 million cases have been reported in over 188 countries and territories, resulting in more than 904,000 deaths with roughly 18.8 million people having recovered. MedShare has provided over 5.6 million units of PPE to frontline health workers at 240 health institutions in the U.S. and abroad. We’re currently distributing 1 million masks donated by Disney to vulnerable kids in U.S. communities. Venezuelan Refugees – Three million Venezuelans have fled their homes to escape political repression, extreme food and medicine shortages, a lack of social services, and general economic collapse. MedShare has worked with partners to ship $185,000 worth of consumable medical supplies in response to Panama in support of Venezuelan refugees. Ebola Outbreak in DRC – In late July 2018, an outbreak of Ebola in a northwest province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was officially declared over. Yet on August 1 of that same year the government confirmed new cases of the deadly virus in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, roughly 750 miles from the earlier outbreak. The outbreak grew to become the second-largest ever, exceeded in size only by the 2014 outbreak in West Africa, and in June of this year, a new outbreak was declared. MedShare has partnered with United Methodist Committee of Relief and other organizations to send $1 million in aid since January 2019. Lebanon Explosion – The Beirut port blast on August 4, 2020 ripped a city to shreds and reopened old wounds for a fragile population already facing civil unrest, an ongoing socio-economic crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The blast killed more than 178 people, left more than 6,500 injured and 300,000 people homeless, and severely damaged critical health infrastructure and medical supplies. The people of Lebanon are more vulnerable than ever before, with more than 1 million people living below the poverty line and 1.5 million refugees. MedShare is currently working with Project HOPE and other on-the-ground organizations to provide PPE and other critical supplies. So far, $20,000 of medical supplies have been donated. Since 2010, MedShare has responded to over 16 disasters across 20 countries, serving more than 3 million patients with $20 million dollars in aid, thanks to the generous support of our partners and donors. Unfortunately, it is not a question of if, but when the next disaster will strike. As a result of our ongoing disaster preparedness efforts, MedShare is positioned to respond quickly and provide the relief necessary to communities devastated by disasters so that they can begin to heal.
By Paul Donsky Metro Atlanta grew at a relatively healthy clip in in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, adding nearly 64,000 people to bring the 10-county region’s total population to 4.7 million. That’s according to the latest population estimates from the Atlanta Regional Commission. There’s a lot of data to parse, so let’s delve into the numbers. How Does This Year’s Growth Stack up to Recent Trends? Population growth is down slightly from the year before, reflecting a modest cooling in the local job market. The 1.37% population increase in 2019-20 compares to 1.59% in 2018-19. Taking a step back, this year’s population growth was a little better than average over the past decade. The 2010s began amid the fallout of the Great Recession, which dampened growth for a number of years in metro Atlanta and across the country. Overall, the 10-county region added 585,000 people in the past decade – the equivalent of all of metro Chattanooga. Learn more.
By Dentons As the saying goes, “Eight weeks before an election is a lifetime in politics.” If you have any doubts about the truth of this adage, we suggest speaking with “Presidents” Michael Dukakis or Hillary Clinton! Simply put, there are few, if any, slam dunks in politics. Elections continue to have the capacity to surprise and confound. When the Democratic primary process began with over 25 candidates, who would ever have thought that we would end up with an election between two of the oldest candidates ever to run for the office? Current polling indicates that, if the election were held today, Vice President Biden is near or above the 270 electoral votes he needs to win election. These same polls say the Senate would flip, ever so narrowly, to Democratic control and the House Democratic majority would be relatively unchanged. However Labor Day is certainly not Election Day (see Dukakis and Hillary mentions above). And now is, historically, when the race officially begins. This Election Primer, the first in Dentons’ Election Series, sets the stage for the race to November. From the “top of the ticket” to the down-ballot congressional and state house contests across the country, we track the races that could change majorities in November. More detailed reports will be released as we get closer to election day. We hope this 10,000-foot view helps get you up to speed. Download the Labor Day 2020 Election Primer
By guest editor, Brittany Collins, Director of PAACT: Promising All Atlanta Children Thrive Parenting young children has always been stressful, but parenting in a pandemic? It’s brought a whole new level of anxiety to families coping financially, socially, and emotionally with the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times recently reported on several surveys showing that parents, particularly those with children under the age of 5, are more stressed than their non-parent peers. One survey found 63% of parents had lost emotional support this year, making things even more difficult for child caregivers. An online survey of Georgia parents conducted by GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students found 83% of respondents agreed that COVID-19 had disrupted their home and family life. As part of our PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive initiative, we have partnered with Civic Dinners to launch a series of virtual conversations to make it easier for Atlanta families to find a new source of support during these difficult times. The Parenting in a Pandemic Civic Dinners offer an authentic and transparent conversation for parents and caregivers about the realities of raising young children in Atlanta in 2020, and what we need to ensure our children have the best possible start. You can learn more here. PAACT, an initiative of GEEARS, was established to promote and encourage cooperation between government, education and business sectors to improve outcomes for young children and families in the City of Atlanta. They have come together with Civic Dinners, a platform that is globally recognized for its ability to bring people together for meaningful conversations, to give parents and caregivers a place to express themselves, support each other and spark change. Already, the Civic Dinners have provided a place where parents can talk about the difficulties they are facing. These conversations will help guide PAACT’s work by providing insights about what families in Atlanta need now. “I am completely overwhelmed balancing work and caring for my three small children,” said one participant. “It is great to connect with other moms experiencing the same thing and it invigorated each of the moms in different ways.” Many of the conversations have touched on the difficulty of working with children at home, the high cost of quality childcare, and the inequities that have become even more pronounced for families of color during the pandemic. “Our Civic Dinner was fantastic,” said Robyn Clemons, the owner of Local Green Atlanta and a member of the PAACT Advisory Board. “We had a very engaging discussion about the effects of COVID on our parenting style and the emotional impact our children have endured not only by the pandemic, but also by the social injustice in the country. Many parents shared their children’s need for emotional advocacy and were provided several suggestions and resources from other parents. This type of engagement, in a safe space, binds us as a community. The support and exchange was therapeutic. We are certainly looking forward to our next dinner.” If you are an Atlanta parent or caregiver, please consider hosting or participating in a Parenting in a Pandemic Civic Dinner to join this critically important community conversation.
Featured Image: (L-R) Barbara Johnson, Elizabeth Matthews and Mikisha Johnson. When Elizabeth Matthews (center, pictured with daughter Barbara Johnson, left, and Mikisha Johnson, right) had a stroke, doctors discovered she also had COVID-19. From strokes to mental health, the Emory Brain Health Center is leading research on the neurological effects of the pandemic. By Emory University Mikisha Johnson hung up the phone. On the call, her 83-year-old grandmother, Elizabeth Matthews, had struggled to string words together and sounded disoriented. “Grandmama doesn’t sound right,” Mikisha told her mother, Barbara. When Barbara Johnson arrived the following morning at her parents’ home in the southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Collier Heights, her mother didn’t look right either. “I said ‘Mama, you’re slurring your words, your mouth is twisted and your hand is trembling,’” Barbara Johnson said. “‘You are going to the hospital.’” Elizabeth Matthews already had a pretty good idea what was wrong, but she didn’t want to worry her daughter. “I said to my husband, ‘I believe I had a stroke,’” she recalled. She was right. But that wasn’t all. At that visit in early August, doctors at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital told Matthews she’d also tested positive for COVID-19. “I got real emotional when they told me that,” Matthews said. “I was thinking, ‘Am I going to die?’” Since the COVID-19 outbreak began late last year, it has largely been understood as an assault on the respiratory system. Telltale symptoms are often a fever, hacking cough and difficulty breathing; patients in the worst shape end up on respirators. What is still less understood, but just as alarming, is the damage the virus may be doing to the brain, from strokes like Matthews’ to reports of headaches, seizures and confusion. And that doesn’t even take into account the staggering toll of the pandemic on our mental health. Today, more than 300 studies from around the world have looked at links between neurological problems and COVID-19. More are underway. “We are now recognizing COVID-19 disease actually has a significant neurological implication or neurologic effect,” said Byron Milton III, MD, a physiatrist, or physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, at Emory University Hospital who has helped COVID patients cope with dementia-like symptoms and other neurological problems. Even as they care for patients, researchers and health care providers at the Emory Brain Health Center are among those leading the way toward understanding the short- and long-term neurological implications of the pandemic on the brain and the mind. Those efforts are featured in Season 2 of the “Your Fantastic Mind” television series from Georgia Public Broadcasting and Emory University, which debuted Sept. 9 and continues through Oct. 14. “One of the things that really sets Emory apart is the multi-disciplinary way the Brain Health Center works,” said Jonathan Lewin, MD, Emory’s executive vice president for health affairs and executive director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. “Emory combines neurology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, neurosurgery, rehabilitation medicine and sleep medicine. That’s proving to have a real benefit during this pandemic, where we’re learning so much about the virus every day and the ways it can impact us in ways we might not expect.” Read the full story at news.emory.edu >>
By Yvette T. Dupree, Ph.D., Operations Consultant and Volunteer for Internal Operations Council, The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. Literacy starts before a child meets their first teacher. This is why talking, reading and singing with young children at home is crucial; it forms the connections in their brains that help build literacy skills (American Academy of Pediatrics). Therefore, when childhood literacy is emphasized early, children enter school prepared to thrive and are better equipped to succeed in school and, eventually, their careers. It has been widely noted that when children cannot read proficiently by the end of the third grade, dropping out of high school becomes four times more likely (Annie E. Casey Foundation). On social and psychological scales, low literacy levels also often result in poor self-esteem, bad grades, and high absenteeism rates (National Bureau of Economic Research). The long-term impact of reading below the proficiency level is further compounded when educational attainment impacts future earning potential, as 43% of adults with the lowest literacy rates live in poverty (National Center for Education Statistics). All of this against the backdrop of an expanding metropolitan area where job opportunities remain competitive often leads to families being displaced within their own communities as new development continues all around the region. As children’s proficiency remains at the forefront of conversations related to literacy; the importance of adult literacy levels cannot be ignored. Often overlooked are the adults who did not gain a solid reading foundation in their youth. Many of these adults are now raising children, which perpetuates the cycle when parents cannot offer the direct assistance needed to build the foundational skills of reading and writing. One of The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc.’s (JLA) primary focus areas is on early childhood education where literacy is a foundation for early learning. To be more immersed in the subject, the nonprofit organization is a part of several coalitions that target early childhood education (ECE) throughout Atlanta. Examples include partnerships with the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students’ Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive (PAACT) and the Infant Toddler Coalition. JLA’s Vice President of Advocacy and Initiatives, Christine Brodnan shares, “All the representatives report back on ways [JLA] can get involved in this issue, from potentially signing letters to making calls and advocating on specific ECE related legislation.” Members are also serving as experts to train and share their learnings League-wide. Each year, JLA supports several programs by reading and donating age-appropriate books. This year, JLA distributed Mayor’s Summer Reading Club books to local organizations such as the Mary Hall Freedom House and Our House. “We also conducted virtual reads to five ECE classrooms at Our House,” shared Laura Wagner, JLA’s Vice President of Community Impact. Annually, the League joins with VOICES for Georgia’s Children to support Georgia Pre-K week with members reading to students and providing free books to young learners in dozens of metro schools and ECE partner agencies.” JLA also has on-going collaborations with organizations such as the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Scottdale Early Learning Center, Atlanta Children’s Shelter, Frazier Center, YWCA and Sheltering Arms, which allow members to volunteer year-round,” says Wagner. For more than a decade, JLA has also spearheaded the Journey to Literacy initiative, which entails monthly events held at local libraries that teach strategies to help families increase their children’s early literacy skills. This commitment stems from JLA’s long-standing belief that literacy skills empower adults and children to reach their highest potential. “We recognize that a key barrier many have to overcome in generational poverty is literacy,” JLA President Bre West acknowledged. To that extent, JLA will continue investment in developing learners’ early literacy skills to build a vibrant community and face childhood and adult literacy issues head-on for years to come. Featured Image: Members of JLA share literacy awareness messaging during the 2017 Literacy in Action Award Ceremony
By Wendy Stewart, Bank of America Atlanta Market President As the coronavirus continues to impact our families and communities here in Atlanta, there is an ongoing urgency to help our most vulnerable and underserved populations; and while we’re learning more each day, there remains a bit of an unknown. Meeting our community’s evolving healthcare needs requires a collaborative partnership between businesses and health providers. At Bank of America, we are committed to helping slow the spread of the virus by distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) in local communities. We recently provided more than 140,000 masks to 14 Atlanta organizations, including Morehouse School of Medicine and Atlanta Public Schools. This was part of a nationwide effort to distribute nearly 4 million face masks to communities disproportionally impacted by the coronavirus, including communities of color, and is connected to our four-year, $1 billion commitment to help local communities address economic and racial inequality accelerated by a global pandemic. However, we believe more can be done. In our discussions with United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Global Health Crisis Coordination Center (GHC3), we discovered they need 1 million masks for distribution in the area, so we are partnering with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to challenge other businesses for much-needed support and resources. This collaboration is our way of helping Atlantans protect themselves and others while keeping Georgia healthy. In this moment, our city needs all of us — we must uphold our responsibility to serve the communities where we live and work. To my fellow Atlanta business leaders: I challenge you to join this collective commitment to create a safer and healthier community. To the companies that have already pledged support, thank you. Together we can do this! To donate to the challenge or get more information on how to receive donations, contact the Metro Atlanta Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org