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On wearing masks and time for government spending cuts

Wear a mask -- by choice 

We had an excellent idea from a Bent Tree reader last week suggesting this editorial. The gentleman called to say he had recently been in two Jasper restaurants and, while he didn’t want to single them out, he was bothered by the lack of any COVID prevention measures among staff and fellow patrons.

With so many changes, it is unclear what the rules are now. But it appears under the latest state orders that those restaurant employees who interact with the public should have a mask or face shield.

The caller said he didn’t want to complain. What he wanted is to go out to eat and feel safe. For business reasons, local establishments should want to do everything they can to make retirees feel safe -- better chance those in the higher risk group keep coming in.

Based on the latest news, fears of going out among the unmasked aren’t unfounded. According to the state health department, COVID cases are again rising quickly in Georgia. On June 30th, Georgia reported 79,417 confirmed cases of COVID, with 2,784 confirmed deaths. Pickens continues to be a lucky oasis with only 92 confirmed cases in this county and five deaths. Most all other nearby counties, except Fannin and Union, have seen higher caseloads.

The latest figures show that younger people are now regularly testing positive. If you are in this younger category and feel invincible to some stupid virus, you should still take precautions as a positive test for you could  mean time out of work or even a closed small business. Our county recreation department had to temporarily close facilities, as they had too many positive tests to field enough people to operate – even though  most of the employees were not feeling bad. 

Governor Brian Kemp saw that Georgia was among the first states to relax COVID rules, and the people here need to show that his faith was not misguided and force him into taking new measures.

If avoiding any worse problems, which could include additional deaths, closures or returning statewide restrictions (possibly even missing college or pro football season, dare we say it) is as simple as wearing a cheap mask in public, then by all means do so.

It’s not about taking your rights away, it’s about doing a small thing that may help others you come into contact with.


For local government: time to plan your cuts now


According to reports from the Gold Dome in Atlanta, the state economy wasn’t as badly devastated as first feared by COVID-19. But it most surely did have some impact and could worsen as federal money dwindles. The legislature implemented 10 percent budget cuts in many places. This wasn’t as severe as first feared; 14 percent cuts across the board were initially projected.

We strongly encourage local governments and schools to follow suit with pre-emptive cuts. We encourage planners to be aggressive early. They can always scale back cuts later. To wait until the final 2020 numbers are in before taking action is head-in-sand denialism. 

As an example, the city of Dawsonville announced in May they would trim $1 million from their current $7 million budget, citing the projected loss of revenue. Assuming that our neighbor with their sprawling outlet malls is more reliant on sales tax than us, we may not need a 14 percent pruning here. Following the state with their 10 percent cut sounds like good government to us.

What we would find inexcusable is for any elected official or government department head to enter the next budget cycle without concrete plans on how they can slash 10 percent and be ready to do so.