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The total number of deaths reported in Gordon County since the start of the coronavirus pandemic reached 91 this week after an additional five locals passed away as a result of the deadly illness.

Since last Wednesday, the Department of Public Health has reported that an additional 11,770 confirmed positive cases and 513 deaths were reported across the state. In addition to the five reported deaths, 188 new confirmed positive cases were reported in Gordon County during the same time period.

These numbers come amid reports that the Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health are joining efforts to ensure vulnerable seniors get access to the COVID-19 vaccine. According to a press release submitted by DPH earlier this week, the agencies are joining forces with local Area Agencies on Aging to help older adults sign up for and coordinate transportation services to vaccination appointments across Georgia.

“This partnership is a great example of the way Georgia is answering the call to protect its residents from COVID-19 and get vulnerable populations vaccinated,” said Gov. Brian Kemp.

The state is currently in Phase 1A+ of its vaccination administration plan, which allows people aged 65 and older and their caregivers to be vaccinated. The 12 AAAs, which are part of the DHS Division of Aging Services network, will work with DPH’s 18 public health districts to make contact with local seniors and plan vaccination events at senior centers and other safe community settings.

“Vaccination is so important for people aged 65 and older, but for those without a social support system to help them navigate a website, getting a vaccine can be extremely difficult,” said DPH Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey. “This collaboration with DHS and AAAs demonstrates our collective ability to get the vaccine to the vulnerable individuals in Georgia who need it most.”

This month, AAAs are beginning to reach out to seniors and their caregivers who are currently enrolled in services through Home and Community Based Service programs, which include services like home-delivered meals, personal care assistance and respite care, as well as those who have contacted the Aging & Disability Resource Connection (ADRC), which provides information on and referrals to local services and programs for older adults and people with disabilities.

AAA and senior center staff will assist seniors with the registration process to sign up for local vaccination events and follow-up appointments for second dose vaccinations.

Vaccination events require pre-registration. There is no availability for walk-ins. AAAs will also assist with coordinating transportation for home-bound seniors needing assistance to and from their vaccination appointments.

“The COVID-19 virus has affected older adults so significantly that many seniors have had to cut themselves off from their families and communities to stay safe,” DHS Commissioner Robyn A. Crittenden said. “This partnership with DPH to help in the vaccination process is so important so we can keep our seniors safe and reconnect them with more in-person services and activities.”

To contact your local AAA, please visit www.aging.georgia.gov. For other resources for older adults, please contact the ADRC at www.georgiaadrc.com/findservices.

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Kelcey Walker is a reporter for the Calhoun Times in Calhoun, Ga.

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