The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines locally has city and county leaders concerned. According to County Manager Brad Johnson, last week the Butts County Health Department ordered 600 vaccines with plans to have a large drive-thru vaccine clinic for residents age 65 and over, but the health department only received 150, and those were gone within two hours by appointments.

As of the Progress-Argus’s deadline Monday evening, it was not yet known how many vaccines will be available in Butts County this week, but Jackson Mayor Kay Pippin said there is no excuse for the low number of vaccines available in the county.

“We’re hearing all this on TV that we’re fixing this and we’re going to roll it out,” Pippin said. “But if we continue at this pace in our community, it will take eight months to vaccinate this small community. It’s ridiculous. Of all the things I’ve seen government do, federal and state have really just dropped the ball on this one. It’s pitiful.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health does have a COVID Vaccine Distribution website for citizens to check to see where vaccines are available in their county at https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine. The website is updated daily at 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, in response to the increased number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, the Butts County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution at their Jan. 11 meeting that requires county employees and the public to wear protective masks within the administration building as well as other county buildings.

The vote approving the resolution was not unanimous, as District 1 Commissioner Ken Rivers presented a Danish study done in 2020 that found that wearing masks makes no difference in whether people contract the coronavirus or not.

“If people feel safer wearing masks, by all means they should do it,” Rivers said. “But as Christian Americans, we shouldn’t mandate it. The people that mandate face coverings are of Muslim religion and not ours.”

Board chair Joe Brown said he appreciated the information provided by Rivers, but said he felt the county needs to do all it can to protect employees and citizens.

“I know we cannot totally mandate someone coming into the building and wear a mask,” Brown said. “Anybody coming into the building, we can’t make them wear a mask, but we can suggest it, just like the grocery stores and hardware stores and everybody else. So if we pass this resolution, we’re not saying that in order to come into the building you have to do this. What we’re really saying is we’re sending a message that we want everybody to follow the guidelines of the CDC and everybody else.”

Johnson agreed, adding that Butts County has the highest number of cases per capita in the region.

“It (masks) is just one of the ways we can do our part and try to curtail this as long as we can until we get the vaccine,” Johnson said. “We don’t have the staff to have someone sit at the front desk right now, but we are monitoring it and the ones that come in, just the monitoring we’ve done for just today, we probably had 15 people come in and all but one were wearing a mask, and we have masks available if they need one. No one is telling them they have to wear a mask, but we are recommending it.”

A motion to approve the mask resolution was made and seconded and the vote called for. The vote was 4-1 in favor of the resolution, with Rivers casting the dissenting vote.

The number of confirmed cases and deaths in Georgia continues to increase. Georgia now has had 684,763 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) report on Jan. 18.

Deaths in the state saw an increase of 796 since last week’s report and now stands at 11,095. The numbers of deaths per day in the state from Jan. 12-16 have been the highest one day totals since the pandemic began, with Jan. 15 setting a record with 157 deaths.

Butts County increased its number of confirmed new cases by 122, with a current total of 1,620 cases. Butts County’s death total increased by two from last week to 51 deaths.

The Georgia Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 report comes out every day at 3 p.m., and the Department of Community Health’s daily report on nursing homes can also be found on their website. The link is https://bit.ly/3900peT.

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