On Tuesday evening, we posted a column on Beverly Walker, the Fulton County election worker who was felled by the coronavirus earlier this month. Voter registration chief Ralph Jones was temporarily sidelined, too, slowing the county's efforts to process a deluge of absentee ballot requests. As of Tuesday, the Fulton elections office had pushed through 15,546.
Late last night, we received a note from Jessica Corbitt, director of communications for Fulton County. She said that so far, the number of absentee ballot applications received by the county totaled 135,000. So that number -- or something close to it -- of processed requests will tell local political campaigns when the Fulton elections office has caught up.
Heads up: U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are set to visit Fort Benning with Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to observe how the military is handling the coronavirus pandemic.
The senators and McCarthy are to view training exercises, meet with soldiers and visit a hospital at the base. Perdue, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is standing for another term in November. So is Loeffler, who was appointed to the office in December.
Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, the longtime member of the state Public Service Commission, has become the first statewide Republican elected official to break with Brian Kemp and endorse U.S. Rep. Doug Collins' bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the governor's pick.
Several readers have emailed us with questions about changes to the state Department of Public Health website that tracks the coronavirus pandemic in Georgia. Our AJC colleague Willoughby Mariano looked into what was happening. It's probably your most important coronavirus read of the day. The gist:
Death counts and other essential figures DPH publishes on COVID-19 have ticked up and down as the state changes the way that it reports them. While the state has added to the metrics it publishes, it has stopped running others and shifted its method of counting cases. This has confused ordinary Georgians as they decide whether Gov. Brian Kemp was right to begin reopening the state's restaurants, movie theaters and hair salons.
In the past week alone, DPH rolled out a new data dashboard that added bar and pie charts. But they deleted a daily count of completed tests, making it difficult for the public to determine if Georgia is meeting a key White House criteria for reopening.
Gone is a county-by-county list of reported deaths by gender and age, which locals were using to verify their own counts. Some figures are written in such small type that they are no longer legible. Others are 10 times as large as they once were. Much of it is now published in a format that makes it difficult for researchers to use.
Over at Georgia Health News, Andy Miller reports that a new survey of Georgia nurses indicates that 40% "don't feel safe or equipped to perform their duties amid the pandemic." That's down from 70% in March.
We knew that domestic cats could contract COVID-19 from humans. Now the American Human Society tells us this in a morning press release:
America has its first case of canine coronavirus, with a North Carolina pug being the first American dog with the virus that has proved so deadly among humans. The dog contracted the virus after living in a household with a mother, father, and son who have all tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The family's daughter, second dog, and cat tested negative for the virus.
After we told you of the blame-China strategy of state Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, a GOP candidate in the Seventh District congressional race, we received a note from the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee -- which accused Unterman of trying to distract from their preferred topic of health care:
"Georgians' concerns over the economic and health impacts of coronavirus have never been higher and Unterman's tactics ripped out of the Trump playbook can't hide how she's enabled this dysfunction."
The DCCC pointed to an Unterman mailer in which the former nurse is wearing a white lab coat and holding a clipboard. That advertisement, which includes the slogan, "Nursing America Back to Health," was posted on Unterman's social media.
The DCCC pointed out that Unterman hasn’t been a practicing nurse for over 30 years, and that as a member of the General Assembly she opposed Medicaid expansion and other health care access proposals.
“Since her RN license expired in 1984, Senator Unterman has dedicated her decades in office to stripping away Georgians’ health care and reproductive rights,” DCCC spokesman Avery Jaffe said.
We should point out that Unterman refers to herself as a former nurse in the mailer, as well as on her social media posts and on her campaign website.
Unterman's campaign said the recent criticism from the Democratic Party is indication that she is a threat in the competitive swing district that includes a crowded field of Democratic and Republican candidates.
"Republicans in the Seventh District should note that the Democrats are scared of running against Renee Unterman,” her campaign said.
Georgia's two U.S. senators and a House member from north Georgia say more federal aid is needed to help residents still displaced after tornadoes swept through the area during bad storms earlier this month.
Eight people died after at least 15 tornadoes touched down in a dozen counties late on April 12 and into the next morning. The letter to the Trump administration from U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger amplifies the request that Gov. Brian Kemp made on April 22 for a major disaster declaration.
"This event was particularly damaging considering our state resources are already challenged by the ongoing CoVID-19 pandemic and the other recent disasters our state has suffered," the congressmembers' letter said.
This isn't the only request President Trump has received from members of Georgia's delegation. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, was one of the lead authors of a request urging him to move quickly to get stimulus dollars to farmers affected by the pandemic. Other signers include Reps. Rick Allen, Doug Collins, Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson.
In endorsement news:
The Club for Growth, the conservative anti-tax organization, has endorsed state Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger, in his Ninth District congressional campaign. A crowded field of Republicans is vying for the chance to replace U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
-- State Supreme Court Justice Charlie Bethel on Wednesday unveiled endorsements from 106 state and local officials, including former Govs. Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, and local leaders such as DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond and Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, is criticizing the IRS's request for workers to obtain their own masks and protective equipment before reporting to the office this week. An excerpt of the email that drew a response from Lewis, who serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee:
"Accordingly, effective April 27, 2020, all individuals are to wear cloth face coverings while in IRS facilities and workspaces. Although the IRS is seeking to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, each IRS facility may not be able to initially procure the PPE for all employees immediately. Employees are therefore required to bring personal face coverings for their nose and mouth area when they come to work."