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White County Emergency Management Update (5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18)
White County is implementing its emergency response plans and working diligently to ensure the health and safety of county employees who deliver services to our citizens. The county has closed those functions that encourage social gathering such as the Senior Center, libraries and parks and recreation through the end of the March. The Emergency Operations Center is open and monitoring the pandemic and helping elected officials make informed decisions about limiting operations and potential closings. White County is providing COVID-19 information on its website, www.whitecounty.net, and also on the Emergency Management Facebook page.
Below is a list of White County operations and their current operating status. Please understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is a very fluid situation that may call for a change of operations at any time. White County will update this information on a daily basis.
- 0 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in White County according to Georgia Department of Public Health.
- White County Commissioner’s Office – The Board of Commissioners office remains open at this time. Citizens are encouraged to do as much business as possible electronically or on the phone. Contact 706-865-2235 for information.
- White County Emergency Management Office - The office is open. Contact 706-865-9500.
The EOC is open and monitoring the Pandemic. White County is currently at Level 3, normal operations.
The Civilian Emergency Response Team is on standby but have conducted inventories of emergency equipment.
White County Fire Services is operational but limiting access to fire station and EMS to protect first responders.
White County EMS is operational and using enhanced precautions to protect first responders.
Animal Control is open. Please call ahead if you wish to surrender a pet. Contact 706-219-2689.
- White County Clerk of Court – The office is open. Social distancing guidelines are in place. Contact 706-865-2613.
Under Georgia Supreme Court and Enotah Circuit Judicial orders, any non-essential hearings and court filing deadlines are suspended until expiration of said orders.
Essential hearings are being held utilizing 4-6 feet of social distancing between parties.
Online filings are available for civil matters, real estate and liens. All filers are encouraged to e-file or mail requests if possible.
All judicial and non-judicial functions of the office are being conducted with no delays.
- White County Sheriff – Office is open. Contact 706-865-5177.
Jail – inmate contact has been suspended with greater isolation to prevent introduction of virus to jail population. Enhanced health screenings in place. Contingency plan in place in the event of needing to hold infected inmates.
Personal protective equipment has been distributed and is being used by both patrol and jail personnel.
Limited access to Sheriff’s administrative and records offices.
- White County Probate Court – Office is open. Contact 706-865-4141
Operating under Georgia Judicial Emergency Order – non-essential hearings, trials and service have been temporarily suspended.
Essential/Emergency/Critical needs will proceed on case-by-case basis, please call ahead regarding cases or services.
- White County Senior Center – Center is closed. Call 706-865-4097 to report concerns about seniors.
Meals on Wheels and wellness checks are continuing.
Staff is available by phone or e-mail.
- White County Parks and Recreation – Recreation Center and gymnasium are closed. Contact 706-865-5275.
All scheduled activities, including practices and games for volleyball, baseball and softball are cancelled through April 3.
Yonah Preserve Trails and outdoor facilities are open. Social distancing is recommended.
Staff is available by phone or e-mail.
White County Libraries – Libraries are closed to the public. Contact 706-865-5572.
Book drops are available through March 20.
Statewide courier book requests can be picked up curbside upon request. Call ahead to make arrangements.
Staff is available by phone or e-mail.
- White County Community and Economic Development – Office is open. Electronic and phone communication is encouraged. Contact 706-865-6768.
- Building Inspections and Permits – Call 706-865-6496 to request inspections. Call prior to coming to office for permits.
Planning and Zoning – Call 706-865-6768 to make appointments. Walk-ins are discouraged.
Code Enforcement – Call 706-865-6496.
GIS/Mapping – Call 706-865-6496.
Transfer Station – Open normal hours. Call 706-865-3716.
White County Convenience Center – open normal hours (Mon/Wed from 9-5 and Saturday from 8-4.) Call 706-865-7655.
- White County Public Works (Road Department) – Office is open. Call 706-865-2510.
- White County Tax Assessors – Office is open. Contact 706-865-5328.
- White County Tax Commissioner – Office is open. Contact 706-865-2225.
- Additionally, payments can be made by web renewal, using credit/debit cards and at the drive through window.
- White County Extension Office – Office is open. Contact 706-865-2832.
- White County Voter Registration – Office is open. Contact 706-865-7812.
- Presidential Primary election has been postponed to May 19, 2020.
- Absentee ballots will be sent out beginning March 31 to those that request them.
- White County Coroner – Office is open. Contact 706-8653101.
- White County Water Authority – Office is closed to public. Contact 706-865-0788.
- Bill payment can be completed by mail, over the phone, utilizing drop boxes at the office or at Gatway Plaza on 129 South, or online at www.whitecountywater.org (you will need the web ID number off your bill.)
- Staff is available by phone or e-mail.
- White County Schools – Schools are closed per Governor Kemp’s order
- On-line learning is happening. Those without internet can pick up work packets on Mondays at your school. Teachers are responding by phone, e-mail and on-line learning venues.
- School nutrition is providing sack lunches and next-day breakfast at distribution location on the White County Schools website. Drive through meals can be picked up at White County Middle School from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays.
- Alpine Helen/White County Welcome Center – Center is closed. Contact 706-878-3842.
- Tourist information is available outside the center. Staff is available by phone or e-mail.
- City of Cleveland – City Hall is closed March 17-27. Call 706-865-2017.
Staff is available by phone or e-mail.
Fire station is on lockdown with no unauthorized entry.
- City of Helen – City Hall is closed to the public. Contact 706-878-3382.
Sautee Nacoochee Center
The Sautee Nacoochee Center, Folk Pottery Museum and all other facilities on the SNC campus have closed starting Wednesday, March 18. All events, programs, classes and rentals have been either canceled or postponed. Visit snca.org for more information.
White County School System
Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Monday, March 16, closing all public k-12 schools and colleges from March 18 through March 31 to help curb the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
"To keep our students, teachers, and administrators safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I am ordering the closure of all public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools in Georgia from March 18, 2020 to March 31, 2020," Kemp said in the Monday evening announcement. "This measure is critical to reducing local transmission in communities across our state, and I ask Georgians to continue to follow best practices – washing their hands regularly, isolating the elderly and chronically ill, and avoiding large events if possible – in the days and weeks ahead."
The White County School System had already closed its school for the week of Monday, March 16, following Kemp's previous guidance. Local school officials had planned to reassess conditions on Thursday, March 19.
On Tuesday, March 18, White County High School announced that prom has been moved from Saturday, March 28, to Saturday, May 1, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Lanier Technical College.
White County Schools will be closed next week, March 16-20.
White County School System Superintendent Dr. Laurie Burkett announced Thursday, March 12, that Gov. Brian Kemp provided guidance on prevention of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and decisions that were being made for the state government. Following Kemp's call to action, the decision was made to close White County Schools March 16-20. The school system will re-evaluate the situation on Thursday, March 19.
On Friday, March 13, students were provided with information about participating in education opportunities during the closure. For students who were absent that day, materials will be available at each school from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, March 16.
While schools are closed this week, students can be help from teachers from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with information on classes available on teachers' school webpages or via email.
White County School System will post updates on its website and will continue to share information with families and employees as it becomes available.
Early voting in the Presidential Preference Primary has been postponed due to CORVID-19 and the desire to keep residents and poll workers safe. According to a press release from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, voting for the presidential preference primary will be moved from March 24 to the May 19 primary, along with the other elections scheduled for that day. If a resident has already voted in the presidential primary, their ballots will be still be counted.
"Given these circumstances, I believe it is necessary and prudent to suspend in-person voting in the Presidential Preference Primary, and the local elections associated with them, and resume in-person voting for those elections as part of the already scheduled May 19 General Primary," said Raffensperger in the release.
Cleveland Mayor Race
The Cleveland mayor race Election Day has been moved from March 24 to May 19. Early voting has been suspended.
Cleveland City Hall
Cleveland City Hall will be closed to the public from March 17 - March 27. For more information, visit http://cityofclevelandga.org
Helen City Hall
Helen City Hall will be closed to the public starting March 19 through April 1, unless it is safe to re-open prior to that date or later if necessary. The city staff will be available by phone (706-878-8733) and e-mail (email@example.com) during regular business hours Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Customers will be able to make utility, citation, tax and permit payments by phone, at the drop box at city hall and online. During this time, the standard credit card fee will be waived. Alcohol Server Permits will not be issued while city hall is closed to the public. Anyone that is required to have an alcohol server permit will have to contact city hall and give their name, address and business name in order to serve alcohol during this time.
The restrooms on Chattahoochee Strasse (behind the Helen Arts & Heritage Center) will be temporarily closed in order to provide proper cleaning of the public restrooms. The bathrooms on River Street and at the Welcome Center will be open.
For restaurants, Gov. Kemp is mandating the Georgia Restaurant Association recommendation of a 30 person maximum, including servers, inside closed quarters. If tables are spaced approximately 12 feet part, a restaurant may accommodate up to 50 people. All outdoor seating is exempt if the 6 feet spacing can be adhered to. It is recommended that delivery and take out be used as much as possible.
No special event will be approved at this time and will not be reconsidered until April 21.
For information on the city, visit www.cityofhelen.org.
Public Health Emergency
On Saturday, March 14, Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency for Georgia in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). During a press conference at 10 a.m., Gov. Kemp said the declaration will help health and emergency management officials throughout Georgia and will allow the deployment of all available resources to help mitigate and treat coronavirus. He also called for a special session of the Georgia State Assembly to meet at 8 a.m on Monday, March 16 to ratify the declaration of a public health emergency.
"This public health emergency is unprecedented for the state of Georgia and I do not take this action likely," Kemp said. "It is a more specialized form of a state of emergency and allows for a more robust response to a crisis specifically in the healthcare sector."
WHITE COUNTY PUBLIC SAFETY UPDATE FOR COVID-19 PREPAREDNESS (Friday, March 13, at 5 p.m.)
The White County government's Office of Public Safety has released a statement:
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is closely monitoring the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019, and is regularly coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The White County Pandemic Task Force continues to meet and prepare for any local response actions they may become necessary as this situation continues to develop. We have one message to our community: PREPARE DON’T PANIC.
There are NO COVID-19 cases in White County at this time. Our county school system and Truett McConnell University will be closing for precautionary preparedness measures beginning Monday. White County Government will be closing the Senior Citizens Center, White County Library Cleveland Branch and the Parks & Recreation Facilities beginning Monday morning as well. These closings are again in an abundance of caution to help prevent the spread of this virus and protect those persons most vulnerable to the disease.
“As always, we encourage our citizens to prepare for any emergency or disaster situation that could occur in White County – PREPARE DON’T PANIC,” says David Murphy, county public safety director. “A great website for preparing for disasters is ready.gov or you can contact our office at 706-865-9500 during normal business hours.”
You can now access information directly at www.whitecounty.net, and click on the CORONAVIRUS emblem. This will link you to a newly created page with updated information from White County Government, the CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health and our local White County School System. Links will be added as valuable information becomes available.
“I want to assure the citizens of White County that our emergency management team is meeting regularly regarding the growing pandemic concerns and assure everyone that White County has not only a Pandemic Response Plan but also has maintained a Continuity of Operations Plan to support our community. By having these plans in place for the last several years, it helps us to be better prepared when these situations arise,” says Travis Turner, chairman of the White County Board of Commissioners.
“I would like to personally encourage our community to prepare and not give into panic but to also use common sense measures regarding you and your family’s health and well-being," Turner added. "Also, I would like for us all to be vigilant in prayer for not only our White County community but our entire country and to encourage one another as we anticipate successfully overcoming this health obstacle. Please know that any decisions we make on behalf of our county will be done so in an abundance of caution and safety.”
General Information from the Georgia Department of Public Health – Elderly people and individuals with chronic medical conditions may have increased risk for COVID-19 (coronavirus). The best prevention measures for any respiratory virus are:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
More information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) can be found at the following:
• Georgia Department of Public Health – dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
White County School System student feeding program
Though schools will be closed March 16-20, White County School System will still be offering free breakfast and lunch to students with their summer feeding program and a drive through at White County Middle School.
Feeding program locations and times are:
• Bryant Street Community Center: 11 a.m.
• Whitehall Commons Apartment: 11:15 a.m.
• Brookwood Village: 11:45 a.m.
• Mossy Acres Mobile Home Park: 12:15 p.m.
• Cleveland City Park: 11:30 a.m.
• White Street: noon
• Oak Springs Community Center: 11:15 a.m.
• Lanier Ridge Apartments: 11:35 a.m.
• Sunny Ridge Apartments: noon
• Kinsey Town Bus Route: 11 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
• Unicoi Hill Park: noon
• Shoal Creek Baptist Church: 11:30 a.m.
• White County Middle School (Families will drive up to the front of the school, and meals will be brought to their cars): 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Mountain Education Charter High School
Following guidance from Gov. Brian Kemp, Mountain Education Charter High School decided to close all sites (including White County) the week of March 16. Officials will re-evaluate conditions on Thursday, March 19, and make a decision for the following week’s schedule. MECHS will be using online learning during the school closure.
Truett McConnell University
On Friday, March 13, Truett McConnell University announced they will be closing on March 13, at 5 p.m. and classes will resume on Monday, March 30.
UPDATE, TUESDAY, MARCH 17
On Tuesday, March 17, TMU President Caner announced that the school will be closed for the semester and will move to online instruction for all courses. This action follows last week’s decision to suspend instruction for two weeks to ensure business and instructional continuity and to allow further state assessment of COVID-19.
“This update will probably be the most important to date because you are family” said Caner. “We are going to have to close the school and make sure that all of your classes are online for the remainder of the semester.”
Caner explained the school will set up virtual TMU in which students will receive daily information regarding important academic updates, virtual athletic and academic award ceremonies, and virtual tours for those who are interested in attending TMU in the fall. As of now, there has been no decision made for TMU commencement ceremony.
Additionally, residence halls will be closed, and instructions on how students will retrieve their belongings will be provided through TMU student email.
Finally, students will receive information regarding refunds for housing, dining, and other services, as we receive additional guidance from the business office. Students should wait for university officials to contact them.
“We look forward to seeing you back on campus,” Caner said. “Make sure to enroll in summer and fall courses so you can stay on track and fulfill the calling God has on your lives.”
North Georgia Technical College
North Georgia Technical College announced all classes and activities are suspended until March 20.
County Early Voting
For early voting in the Presidential Preference Primary at the White County Voter Registrar Office, gloves are being offered for people who would like them. The office advised that people who would like to vote, but don't want to go out in public, can get an absentee ballot by calling 706-865-7812.
White County Senior Center and Parks & Recreation
The White County government announced at 5 p.m. Friday, March 13, that it will be closing the Senior Citizens Center and White County Parks & Recreation Department facilities beginning Monday morning, March 16. The closings are done in an abundance of caution to help prevent the spread of this virus and protect those persons most vulnerable to the disease, officials said.
BabyLand General Easter Eggstravaganza
BabyLand General has canceled its annual Easter Eggstravaganza gathering, previously scheduled for April 4, in an abundance of caution – though alternative plans are in place.
BayLand General Hospital has closed to the public as of 5 p.m. on Monday, March 16. A listing on their website says they will be closed March 16-20, but it is possible they will remain closed longer. Updated information will be posted on the website and Facebook page.
White County Family Connection
The White County Family Connection Collaborative scheduled for Friday, March 20, has been canceled. The collaborative hopes to resume with their meeting next month, April 17.
WCHS Mock Wreck
A mock wreck originally scheduled for Thursday, March 19, at White County High School has been postponed. A rescheduled date has not yet been set.
Kiwanis Talent Show
The Kiwanis has Talent show original scheduled for Friday, March 20, has been postponed due to the schools closing. A reschedule date has not been announced.
The SNED Talk scheduled for Sunday, March 22, at the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center has been postponed. A new date has not been set, but the public will be notified in a timely fashion when a date has been established.
White County Public Libraries
Both branches of the White County Public Library will close on Monday, March 16, and will stay closed until further notice, according to the White County Public Library Facebook page. Updates will be provided on the Facebook page.
White County Recreation Department
Starting Monday, March 16, the White County Parks & Recreation Department gym and all activities are cancelled until further notice. This includes scheduled practices for softball, baseball and volleyball.
Oak Springs Open House
The open house for the renovated Oak Springs School that was scheduled for Monday, March 16, has been cancelled. The decision to cancel was made by the City Council as a precautionary measure to protect community members and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A future date has not been set, but the City Council will announce when one has been scheduled.
Helen Arts & Heritage Center
The Helen Arts & Heritage Center is delaying re-opening the gallery and gift shop areas due to COVID-19. A new opening date has not been set. All classes and workshops are cancelled until further notice. Further updates can be found at helenarts.org.
Habersham EMC announced on Saturday that they have temporarily suspended late fees and disconnects for nonpayment for all residential and business accounts until further notice. This is due to many customers having to change their daily routines due to COVID-19 and the potential for customers to face financial hardships.
Both the Clarkesville and Cleveland office will be closed to walk-in traffic starting March 16, at 5 p.m. The Cleveland office move will continue as scheduled, but the new location will not be open to the public until the Clarkesville office opens. Members can still pay through the drive-thru at the Clarkesville office, along with using the night drop at both offices.
All community room events will be canceled. Trail wave in-home installs will be postponed. Construction of electric and fiber projects will continue.
Trailwave fiber has also temporarily suspended late fees and disconnects for nonpayment. This is in recognition of the importance of Internet for teleworkers and students during this time.
Lunch and Learn
The Lunch and Learn program scheduled for April 7 at the Sautee Nacoochee Center has been cancelled.
Starting March 14, Georgia Power temporarily suspended residential disconnections for the next 30 days. The company will re-evaluate the policy and timeframe as the COVID-19 situation develops.
Walmart stores and neighborhood markets will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice starting Sunday, March 15. This is to allow workers to clean and restock products.
All Ingles stores will start closing at 10 p.m. starting Monday, March 16, according to the Ingles Market Facebook page. The 24-hour stores will re-open at 6 a.m., while all other stores will re-open at their normal time. These will be the hours until further notice. This is to allow workers to restock, clean and sanitize the store.
White County Water Authority
The White County Water Authority is asking customers to utilize the following payment methods:
- U.S. Postal Service to mail in payments
- Drop box at two locations: gate of the office and Gateway Plaza (south of town on Hwy 129)
- White County Water Authority website for online payments with debit/credit card (with a convenience fee)
- Calling the office at 706-865-0788 and pay with a debit/credit card (with a convenience fee)
- Sign up for ACH-bank draft from checking or savings account (no additional fee)
The White County Water Authority is still open at the time, but may have to close in the future. For questions or concerns, the office can be reached at 706-865-0788 Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Empty Bowls Supper
Empty Bowls: A Simple Meal scheduled for Monday, March 30, has been postponed. A new date has not been set.
Plein Air Experience
The Plein Air Experience originally scheduled for April 2-4 at SNCA has been postponed until Fall 2020.
Beauty and the Beast Jr. at SNC
Rehearsals have been postponed and will follow White County school schedule.
Soque Garden Club Annual Tea
This event scheduled for May 8 has been canceled.
Contra dances at the Sautee Nacoochee Center have been canceled until further notice.
Ninth District Opportunity
Starting Wednesday, March 18, all Ninth District Opportunity Office will be closed until March 26. At that time, the agency will re-evalute the situation based on current information.
American Legion Post 16
American Legion Post 16 bingo on Monday, March 16, will be closed due to CDC virus notifications. They hope to re-open soon.
Helen Trout Tournament
The Helen Trout Tournament scheduled for March 28 has been canceled.
Smithgall Woods Spring Fling
The Smithgall Woods Spring Fling event scheduled for April 11 has been postponed and will be rescheduled to celebrate the end of the school year. A new date and time have not been set yet.
Alpine Songwriter Festival
The Alpine Songwriter Festival set for March 20-21 has been postponed. A new date has not been announced yet.
The White County Special Olympics have been canceled.
Valhalla Resort Hotel
Faith and Freedom Event
The Faith and Freedom Event scheduled for April 18 at Truett McConnell University has been canceled.