Sunday Solutions – Dec. 11, 2022

With the elections over for now, we can update some other topics that haven’t gone away: train crossings, holidays mixed with flu and Covid, and Plant Vogtle construction. But we also bring you baby whales for joy and emotional support pets so we’ll feel a bit calmer about the days ahead. Maybe.

Trains blocking your way?

It’s a fact of life for many of us from Savannah to St. Marys, train crossings that stop traffic when you’re trying to get to work, or a meeting or to pick up your child at school. They often block more than that: Emergency vehicles have to take a longer route or wait and those minutes are precious when someone’s having a heart attack or a house is burning. Georgia is one of 14 states that does not limit the time a train can block a road. Industries requiring rail service are growing along the coast requiring more and longer trains. The nonprofit news site ProPublica is working to understand how this problem is experienced by EMS workers, firefighters, police, parents, teachers and others. Click here to share your story. (The Current is part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.)

Centers for Disease Control

Grab a mask, again

It’s hard for all of us to admit, but Georgia’s flu and Covid rates are rising. (For Covid spikes, we’re looking at you, Glynn County.) And if you are planning to travel, there are a few states where you’ll want to a) get vaccinated before visiting; b) restock or wash your mask collection; or c) hibernate instead. All that said, you may want to warn family coming to see you that Georgia has been in the “high” and “very high” categories for weeks for flu. We’ve noted it before and it’s worth watching. Area hospitals doctors offices are already prodding patients to get their flu vaccines as they see the numbers growing. Flu deaths were lower over the last few years, likely because we were masked up for Covid, experts (and common sense) say. So, let’s keep that number dropping.


Statista 2022 – Number of influenza deaths 2010 to 2021

Elections fallout, brighter spotlight

The midterm election is over. Really. And we’re starting to get a clearer view of what new laws and campaign finances brought to this year’s elections and their results. The Conversation has compiled scholars’ works about various pieces of it and how this election has propelled Georgia to the national spotlight for years to come.

early voting 10282022 eisenhower
The Chatham County Elections Board office on Eisenhower Drive checked in early voters on the side of the building while accommodating those over 75 and others who needed extra help at the main door.

In an election likely to be studied for years for turnout, legislative moves and candidate messaging, GPB’s Stephen Fowler has broken down the voter turnout by county to see where fewer — or more — people voted in the runoff for each candidate. The story uses data to show where Herschel Walker’s football legend was not enough to pull him across the goal line and the counties where his offensive line walked away. According to Gabriel Sterling in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, 2,694 Georgians came to the polls, but cast ballots without checking the box for either candidate.


right whale calf
Medusa and her calf were sighted Dec. 7, 2022, about 13 miles off St. Catherines Sound.
  • Last week: The Current’s Mary Landers reported that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior sent a letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp urging him to protect the Okefenokee from mining. The permit process for mining near the wildlife refuge is now in the state’s hands.
  • Also last week: Glynn County’s new-ish police chief resigned. In an interview with The Current’s Jake Shore, Chief Jacques Battiste said he was “tired of tired of being beaten up every day, internally and externally, for what I’m trying to accomplish.” The chief had plenty to do, and after 18 months, he didn’t feel he was moving the needle for culture change in the much maligned department.
  • What is the Independent State Legislature Doctrine? Last week, the Supreme Court considered arguments over a North Carolina redistricting plan that brought a marginal legal dotrine back to the forefront. In theory, it pushes the results of an election away from the voters and puts the decision in the hands of state legislators. This piece outlines the doctrine and the history that comes with it.
  • Nuclear power moves one step closer: Plant Vogtle finished key testing on one unit last week. Now the long-delayed project to bring two more units on line may start generating power from one unit sometime next year.
  • One more thing — actually, two more things: Baby whales! Two right whale calves were spotted this week off St. Simons and St. Catherines. There are only 340 right whales left and 70 breeding females left and Coastal Georgia is one of the few calving areas. If you’re a boater, let’s be careful out there.

Your second cup: Fake support animals

Support animals are crucial for many — service members with post-traumatic disorders or physical disabilities, or those with impairments from Parkinson’s or trauma. They’ve been accepted for decades in all public places for hearing- and sight-impaired people. But some animals certified for emotional support are harder to spot because they often aren’t always what you might expect. Four years ago, a woman’s emotional support peacock was denied a seat on a plane, prompting airlines and others businesses to crack down on animals allowed. Since then, an online industry has sprouted to certify support animals, resulting in more pets in college dorms, restaurants and apartments where animals are usually banned. A story from Stateline discusses the conundrum state lawmakers face to find balance between the family pets and those genuinely needed for good health and welfare.


Georgia on the nation’s mind: 5 essential reads

A roundup of 5 articles looks at the history of voting in Georgia and how race has played a significant role in shaping the state’s election laws.

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A look at the data behind Herschel Walker’s defeat

Early votes brought out new voters for Warnock, and record runoff crowds drew votes for Walker. Charts show differences in counties throughout the state.

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Interior Secretary to Georgia: Reject mining near Okefenokee

Two months after Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the iconic south Georgia swamp, she urged Georgia to protect the Okefenokee by rejecting a proposed mine nearby.

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Glynn County got its first Black police chief last year. Why did he just resign?

Glynn County hired its first Black police chief after Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. He has now quit, saying he was tired of being ‘beaten up every day’ for trying to reform the force.

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Georgia Power completes key testing milestone at Plant Vogtle

The two reactors were originally expected to go into service in 2016 and 2017, respectively. But the work was delayed by the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the original prime contractor on the project, as well as pandemic-related disruptions to the construction workforce.

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First two right whale calves of the season spotted off Georgia coast

Researchers spotted the first North Atlantic right whale mom and calf pair of the 2022-2023 season Wednesday off the coast of St. Catherines Sound.

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States struggle to curb fake emotional support animals

Easily obtained certificates are making it tough for states to crack down on fake support animals without running afoul of federal fair housing or anti-discrimination laws.

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Georgia COVID-19 daily statistics

Today’s cases, change, deaths, hospitalizations, testing, vaccination sites and tracker

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