Newscast: GBI suspect faces drug charges. Virus deaths surge by 78. Graduations begin. Storms due. Rant: Rough day for governor, virus victims.

Newscast: GBI suspect faces drug charges. Virus deaths surge by 78. Graduations begin. Storms due. Rant: Rough day for governor, virus victims.

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Hometown’s top headlines: please click here

  • One of the GBI suspects arrested on additional drug possession, distribution charges.
  • Among the deadliest days in Georgia: 78 new deaths in 24 hours (1,775). Positive cases climb to 40,663. Locally, 884 test ‘positive’ with 66 deaths.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s weekly coronavirus updates. Latest on equipment, personnel.
  • GHSA OK’s conditioning starting June 8. Read the meeting minutes, critical provisions and testing criteria as high school sports crank up.
  • Pepperell starts drive-through graduations this evening; 3 on Saturday. Rome virtual graduation is Saturday. GHC’s new Charger Innovation Challenge.
  • Armuchee High to observe 30 seconds of silence in remembrance to murdered graduate.
  • Politics: Advance voting, returned absentee ballots mean almost 10% of Floyd County’s 57,115 registered voters already have a say in the June 9 primary.
Today’s other headlines:
  • Rome Area History Center plans Memorial Day Salute to Veterans on Monday at 11:30 a.m.
  • Ware Mechanical Weather Center: Storms, about a half inch of rain expected today. Mid to upper 80s through Memorial Day.
  • Obituaries: Clara Elizabeth Downs, Mrs. Jean McCollum Johnson, Mr. Russell Lamar Sheffield, Mr. Ralph Lamar White.
  • Dining: Public Health restaurant inspection scores.
  • Crimewatch: Updates on area arrests.

Truett’s Chick-fil-A Sports Update:
  • GHSA OK’s conditioning starting June 8. Read the meeting minutes, critical provisions and testing criteria as high school sports crank up.
  • Latest student-athlete signing.
  • Honors for Berry swimmer.
  • Latest NFL updates; links to pro sports.

RANT OF THE DAY: A rough 24 hours for Brian Kemp

There’s no page 1A story about it or lead item on the evening news. But Thursday was a day Brian Kemp was almost nonstop in the news, whether he wanted to be there or not.

It started with reports about Kemp and the state school superintendent appointing 72 people to “working groups” to get public schools ready to reopen by August. Among those named to the panels are Calhoun City Schools Superintendent Michele Taylor as well as her director of school nutrition, Kim Kiker, and Melanie Harwell, Calhoun’s instructional technology coordinator. Calhoun is among the state’s top school systems and each deserves the appointment; there are no other names from Northwest Georgia.

Then came final confirmation that Vice President Mike Pence would visit the governor and metro Atlanta later today, with Pence continuing to serve as the administration’s point man in the coronavirus outbreak. Let’s see who’s wearing masks today as the media stunt begins.

By midafternoon, the governor was being praised by the executive director of the Georgia High School Association who was pitching that his board of trustees restart conditioning for student athletes next month; they settled on a June 8 kickoff. The real headline here is that high school should return this fall, barring any changes in virus monitoring.

At 4:30 p.m., Kemp held his latest briefing on the state of the state’s fight against the virus. You again heard about fewer patients hospitalized, more scheduled although belated arrivals of needed assets in the battle as well as a few other bullet points. Several others spoke after him. From what we heard, none of them addressed the real headline of the day.

Two hours later, an email from the governor’s re-election team (for 2022, thank you) arrived, seeking assistance to “fight back against those playing pandemic politics.” It included a call for volunteers and had this item toward the end:

“The far-left Democrats have made our great state’s path to recovery a political issue. They’re ignoring the data, and spreading disinformation. Unfortunately, the liberal media is their mouthpiece… and we’re seeing a whole lot of FAKE NEWS regarding Georgia’s reopening!”

Pardon us but who’s the one playing “pandemic politics” here? And exactly who is ignoring the victims dying each day at alarming rates across the state?

And then the night cap, the 7 p.m. regularly scheduled update from the Georgia Department of Public Health. It set the state’s death toll at 1,775 people — up 78 people from 24 hours earlier. We checked the day-by-day charts and the Wednesday-to-Thursday increase tied for the second highest since the pandemic began. One day in April saw 94 deaths recorded.

We note that total in today’s pandemic update and, of course, the High Court of Facebook is alleging fake news or attributing the spike to late reports from Hancock County where 14 deaths went unrecorded — until Monday evening. We’re not sure when the deaths were counted but whether the total was 64 or 78 for the past 24 hours, that’s still an astonishing number. Instead, the governor is bragging about fewer people in hospital beds. How many of the latest victims were filling those beds?

We agree, some key numbers are coming down, including here. Seven people are in hospitals in Floyd and Bartow counties today who tested positive for the virus; another awaits test results. Those numbers are down. At the same time, as testing expands, we’re getting a much clearer picture on the number of people infected in Floyd, Bartow, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties. That total will top 900 cases before the weekend’s over. The count informally started Feb. 29.

Put all those together and that’s a busy 24 hours for the governor. Some pluses indeed with the schools and high school sports updates as well as declining hospital census reports. But then there’s the day’s real news on a spike in deaths and positive cases as well as the attack email doing exactly what he accuses others of doing — mixing politics and pandemics.

This is one political spin job that already is out of control and even a visit by the vice president won’t help. Politics and death rates don’t mix, especially in a critical election year and an incumbent who could become a one-termer by the next time we vote.

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