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March 17, 2021: Coronavirus Community Call

• Coronavirus
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We have decided that today, Wednesday, March 17, 2021, one year to the day from our first call, will be our last formal Coronavirus Response Update Call. It is not a decision we take lightly, nor one that was clear cut, but we felt it was time. Although this call is ending, the work of the Coronavirus Response Fund goes on and there will be many future opportunities for collaboration among community stakeholder groups facilitated by the Community Foundation and United Way.

National and/or State News Update-Ben Moser

Ben gave the following updates concerning the coronavirus that causes COVID-19:

And now for a pandemic retrospective:

  • Since the Coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, more than 29,573,100 people have been infected and over 536,000 have died in the United States alone. Worldwide there have been over 121 million documented cases and over 2.66 million documented deaths from COVID-19.
  • This past Friday marked the United States shutdown and the beginning of shelter in place and stay at home orders across the country. Mask mandates would come in the weeks and months that followed as the world community grappled with response to the deadly, novel pathogen.
  • In the year that followed, American life was disrupted like never before, as the gears of global commerce halted, buckled and reeled against massive overnight shifts in the supply/demand curve.
  • And in our health systems, heroes emerged, first at scale in New York as the beating heart of culture and capital was besieged by the invisible enemy, overwhelming the capacity of systems and doing the unthinkable – shuttering the great city.
  • Over the months ahead the virus would surge, retreat and surge again across the entire nation, creating health, economic and political challenges never before experienced in the United States, or the world.
  • A new vocabulary was created – Zooming, social distancing, community spread, flattening the curve, self-quarantine and PPE(personal protective equipment).
  • There were also vast exposures of historic inequities in our society as the virus hit communities of color hardest, and those with the lowest wage jobs saw their livelihoods become even more tenuous.
  • And then the vaccines started to arrive, a true miracle of modern science giving us all now hope that we will be back to some level of normalcy in a matter of months, where otherwise it would be years and millions more lost.
  • In the Chattahoochee Valley we experienced great leadership by the contributors to this call and many others, and we came together as a community, and for the most part, fought the virus by listening to our elected officials and healthcare officials who provided a steady hand and calming influence, which was not the case in some communities.
  • We lost loved ones, some of us on this call became sick, and to be clear, it is not over yet, but we can see the other side and the hope brought with this spring, on this anniversary, is real.
  • Enormous thank you to Edith Giles, Mayor Skip Henderson, Dr. David Lewis, Frank Sheppard, Melody Trimble, Pat Frey and all of you who contributed to these calls. Your steadfastness, good nature and civility has enriched all of our lives through this trying time. Betsy and I have been blessed to be a part of our community response with all of you.

On a final note, before we get to our agenda:

  • As some of you know, I was in New York City on 9/11, ten blocks from the World Trade Center.
  • In the years that followed, I educated myself on the Middle East, and it was the writings of Tom Friedman, op-eds, essays and books like the Lexus and the Olive Tree, and Beirut to Jerusalem that made some of the greatest impressions on me.
  • I would encourage everyone to read Tom Friedman’s op-ed in the New York Times from yesterday, and I won’t read the whole thing, but I want to read an excerpt from it. It is entitled: One Year Later, We Still Have No Plan to Prevent the Next Pandemic
  • Imagine that in December 2019 country X had a nuclear accident — a missile test gone awry. It resulted in a small nuclear explosion that sent a cloud of radioactivity around the world, causing 2.66 million deaths, plus trillions of dollars in health care costs and lost commerce that nearly triggered a global depression. What do you think we’d be talking about today?
  • We’d be discussing a new global regime of nuclear weapons safety protocols to try to make sure it never happened again.
  • Well, we just had the natural world equivalent of such a nuclear accident.
  • As we have just hit the one-year mark since the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 — the pathogen that causes COVID-19 — a pandemic, it’s appropriate to ask – what smart collective action are we pursuing to prevent this from ever happening again?

Economic Sector and Impact Area Updates

Columbus Consolidated Government Update-Mayor Skip Henderson

  • Mayor Skip Henderson could not be with us today but again, we thank him and his staff for their contributions over the past year.

Muscogee County School Update-Dr. David Lewis

Dr. Lewis gave the following updates:

  • Thanked everyone on the call and the entire community for their continued support of the Muscogee County School District.
  • Last Thursday, 1,300 school district employees were able to receive the vaccine at a mass vaccination at Kinnett Stadium. Thanked the Columbus, Georgia Health Department and Columbus EMT’s for their partnership.
  • Another mass vaccination is set for this Friday(March 19) for the remainder of school district employees that wish to be vaccinated.
  • The school district is working with community partners on a six-week summer program to help with learning loss caused by the pandemic.
  • The program will focus on math, literacy and other areas for student’s Pre-K-high school. The school district hopes to engage children back into enjoying learning and fill learning gaps.
  • The school district recognizes that it will take several years to recapture the learning loss. They have a long-term plan in place.

Feeding the Valley Update-Frank Sheppard

Frank gave the following updates:

  • Monthly food distribution this Saturday, March 20, 2021 in Muscogee County, Georgia at the Columbus, Georgia Civic Center. This is for Georgia residents.
  • Monthly food distribution next Saturday, March 27, 2021 in Russell County, Alabama at the Phenix City, Alabama Central Activity Center. This is for Alabama residents.
  • Feeding the Valley delivers to 48 sites each month throughout the coverage area.
  • If you know of anyone who is facing food insecurity, they can go the Feeding the Valley website or Facebook Page or call to find food pantries near them and food distribution dates and locations. feedingthevalley.org; www.facebook.com/feedingthevalleyfoodbank; 706-561-4755
  • Thanked Ben and Betsy for coordinating and facilitating the call. It has been a tremendous resource for the community. Thankful to have been a part of it.

St. Francis-Emory Healthcare Update-Melody Trimble

Melody gave the following updates:

  • Thanked Ben and Betsy and the entire group.
  • This week, St. Francis surpassed 365 days of their COVID-19 Command Center being open.
  • Grateful that hospitalizations are going down.
  • Grateful to the Mayor and his team for the mass vaccination site. The site helps  relieve the burden on the hospital system to get “shots in arms”.
  • Working on recovery efforts for the hospital team as we come out of the pandemic and start new beginnings.
  • Thankful for the privilege and honor to lead St. Francis Emory Healthcare and serve this community.

Home for Good Update-Pat Frey

Pat gave the following update:

  • Due to the emergency weather prediction, SafeHouse Ministries has opened an emergency weather shelter. No one will be turned away and no questions asked. They will be open from 5:00 am today(March 17) until 2:30pm tomorrow(March 18). View flyer here.
  • One year ago, SafeHouse, which is normally a day center, also opened as an emergency homeless shelter when those experiencing homelessness had no place to go after another local emergency shelter closed.
  • Tomorrow, the Columbus Consolidated Government is hosting a landlord meeting in partnership with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to discuss the Georgia Rental Assistance Program. If anyone is interested in attending the meeting, they can email Robert Scott in the Columbus Consolidated Government Community Investment Department (scott.robert@columbusga.org)to receive the link to the meeting. There will be two sessions, 9:00am and 2:00pm.
  • Links to information concerning the Georgia Rental Assistance Program:
    https://www.dca.ga.gov/newsroom/blog/faq-state-georgia-rental-assistance-program?fbclid=IwAR3LZXwj2_DqSgWOfjXBcjKrc3jK5Q6Q7GSUtOP_EA4R0ElQ3rMYxLBAbmo ; https://georgiarentalassistance.ga.gov/
  • Honored to be a part of the call.
  • Neil Richardson, Executive Director, SafeHouse Ministries thanked Pat Frey, the Columbus Health Department and MercyMed of Columbus. They are working together with SafeHouse Ministries on a project to get Johnson and Johnson vaccines for the homeless community. 

Grants/Projects Update-Betsy Covington

Betsy gave the following updates:

  • Grants awarded this week total $23,000. Total grants awarded to date $1,339,910.
  • This week’s grants are to: St. Anne Community Outreach, Ugrow, Inc. dba The Food Mill and Keep the Faith.
  • The fund will continue to accept donations and award grants as long as it is necessary.
  • Aflac’s $100,000 match offer continues, matching donations to the Coronavirus Response Fund dollar-for-dollar, up to $2,000 per gift. 
    • For details on grant awards, to donate or if you are a non-profit in need of assistance go to cfcv.com/coronavirus.
  • Kelli Parker, Director, Grants & Community Partnerships shared updates to the online grant application process. Applicants will still go to cfcv.com/coronavirus and click on Organizations Seeking Grants from the Response Fund. Applicants will find a link to an updated form there. The new form will allow applicants to save information and finish later and to add collaborators.
  • If there are any questions please email Kelli or Jennifer St John at kparker@cfcv.com; jstjohn@unitedwayofthecv.org or impactcrf@gmail.com
  • Betsy added that grants are being awarded on a bi-weekly schedule. However, if anyone has an emergency please contact them.
  • If anyone needs the link for the second landing page for scheduling a vaccine with GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency)at the Columbus, Georgia Civic Center, please contact her bcovington@cfcv.com. The primary landing page will only allow scheduling by age, although other categories are also eligible.

Making Connections (Open Forum)

United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley Update-Jennifer St John

Jennifer gave the following updates:

  • The calls have been an important part of staying connected and promoting collaboration. Thanked Ben, Betsy and all the leaders for their guidance over the past year.
  • Spring Break for the Muscogee County School District begins Monday, March 29, 2021.
  • Grab and Go, Buddy Pack meals will be available for students to pick up on Monday, March 29 and Thursday, April 1 at 12:00noon.
  • The six locations are the 29th Street Recreation Center, Boxwood Recreation Center, Carver Park Recreation Center, Michael Fluellen Recreation Center, Frank Chester Recreation Center and the Shirley B. Winston Recreation Center.
  • Special thank you to Feeding the Valley, Columbus, Georgia Parks and Recreation Department and Pam Romero, Director, Community Schools United.
  • Contact Jennifer St John at jstjohn@unitedwayofthecv.org if you have question or need additional information.

River Valley Regional Commission Update-Jim Livingston

Jim gave the following updates:

  • Echoed thanks on behalf of himself and Katie Howard(Area Agency on Aging) for the Coronavirus Response Update Call.

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