Coronavirus updates for White County: March 25-April 1

  • Coronavirus updates for White County
    Coronavirus updates for White County
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Updates about closings, cancellations or postponements will be posted here. You can share related news tips at publisher@whitecountynews.net.


To see previous listings of closings, cancellations and postponements, click here.


In an emergency called meeting this afternoon, the Helen City Commission approved new closures and rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Details can be found here.


There are now three confirmed confirmed coronavirus in White County, according to the noon update from the Department of Public Health. 


White County officials are posting notices and barricading the area of Chambers Road at the Yonah Mountain Trailhead in anticipation of people, both inside and outside the county, using the United States Forest Service trail. Details can be found here.


White County Board of Commissioners recently enacted a local State of Emergency which establishes an emergency protective ordinance to help control the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Events over the March 27-28 weekend indicate that there are still many people not following the rules. To read the full statement from the county, click here.


Details on how to report a violation of the Gov. Brian Kemp's executive order can be found here.


Kemp and Department of Natural Resources make announcement about parks, lakes

On Sunday, March 29, Governor Brian P. Kemp and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams to issue the following joint statement: 

“Across Georgia, there is a mandatory shelter in place order for medically fragile individuals, and gatherings of more than ten people are banned unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. This order applies to all 159 counties.

“Fortunately, many Georgians are heeding these directives and following the advice of public health officials to stay safe and healthy. However, as we deal with the effects of coronavirus with school and business closures, people are eager for a change in scenery after days at home. They are traveling to nearby counties, heading outdoors for fresh air, and maximizing family time. Some are going to vacation homes, and others are hitting the lake, hiking trails, or campgrounds. We, too, enjoy exploring Georgia, but we urge people to stay mindful of social distancing, follow best practices, and avoid large crowds.

“The Department of Natural Resources will enforce the executive order limiting large gatherings with officials patrolling bodies of water and campgrounds. They are monitoring coves where people tend to congregate and, if necessary, using bullhorns to tell people to comply with the order. Officials will approach people in violation of the order and demand compliance for the well-being of our citizens and state. Local officials are also working hard to ensure compliance with local directives, which vary by city and county across our state.

“Please stay safe, enjoy your time outdoors, and follow our directives to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Together, we can flatten the curve and stop the spread of coronavirus.”


 

Hardman Farm State Historic Site and Smithgall Woods State Park

Hardman Farm State Historic Site and Smithgall Woods State Park will be hosting virtual programs on their Facebook pages. A schedule of programs can be found on their Facebook pages.


Earlier this week, the City of Helen, City of Cleveland and White County Board of Commissioners declared states of the emergency.


On Thursday, March 26, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ordered all public schools to remain closed until April 24. More information can be found here


Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests is temporarily shutting down trailhead facilities and other access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and nearby trails to prevent groups from congregating and to protect public health and safety.

The decision aligns with state and local measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Currently, recreation opportunities on the forest that support social distancing are still open for public use in other areas, including dispersed camping and other activities.

“We realize our communities and our visitors value the recreation opportunities the forest has to offer,” said Edward Hunter, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests Supervisor. “A lot of discussion and consideration went into this decision. The health and safety of our employees and the public remain our top priority.”

The following sites are affected by these changes:

  • All trail shelters along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • Trailheads including Dick's Creek Gap, Hogpen Gap, Neels Gap, Springer Mountain, Tesnatee Gap, Unicoi Gap, and Woody Gap
  • Trails including Andrews Cove Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail (Springer Mountain to Falls Branch Falls section), Byron Herbert Reece Memorial Trail, Dukes Creek Falls Trails, Duncan Ridge Trail, Dockery Lake Trail, Freeman Trail, Jacks Knob Trail, Jarrard Gap Trail, Logan Turnpike, Long Creek Falls Trail, Panther Creek Falls Trail, Slaughter Creek Trail, Springer Mountain Trail, Raven Cliff Falls Trail, and Yonah Mountain Trail.

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests reminds visitors to recreate responsibly by avoiding gathering in groups of more than ten people and not engaging in high-risk activities, like rock climbing, that increase the chance of injury or distress. Also note that law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19.

Guidelines for health and safety, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html.   

See the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests’ website for the latest recreation information at www.fs.fed.us/conf, also on Facebook and Twitter at @ChattOconeeNF.


White County Operations Update during COVID-19 (5 p.m. Thursday, March 26 – Updated items in red, per operations report) 

White County has declared a State of Emergency through April 13 for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution at a called meeting on March 26 declaring the State of Emergency. The resolution bans all public or private Community Gatherings of more than 10 people anywhere within White County where 6’ between persons cannot be maintained. The resolution also prohibits dine-in operations for our restaurants but they can still provide carry out, delivery, drive through and curbside delivery. It also closes the tasting rooms for the wineries and breweries but does allow retail package sales to be consumed off of the premises, no open containers.

Additionally, all establishments providing body care services which require physical contact between the provider and client shall be closed for business. These include barber shops, beauty salons, nail care business, massage therapy, tattooing, tanning salons and other businesses of that nature. An exemption has been made for service provided or under the direct supervision of licensed medical professionals.

Other businesses that are closed include indoor recreation to include gyms, health studios to include fitness classes, indoor amusement facilities and arcardes. White County also closed Yonah Preserve and all other county-owner recreational facilities. All permits for special events at county facilities have been cancelled as well.

White County is providing COVID-19 information, to include the emergency resolution, on its website, www.whitecounty.net, and also on the Emergency Management Facebook page. The Emergency Operations Center is open and monitoring the pandemic.

Effective Monday, March 23, 2020 and for at least two weeks (through Friday, April 3, 2020) – as a precaution and to limit exposure from person to person contact, White County Government will be restricting access to facilities. White County will continue to provide services via phone, email, internet and mail. Employees will be available by these methods on a daily basis during normal business hours. The county has closed the Senior Center, libraries and parks and recreation through the end of the March.

Below is a list of White County operations that have made changes in their operations since yesterday. 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.

1 confirmed case of COVID-19 in White County according to Georgia Department of Public Health.

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. Meals will be available the weeks of March 23-27 and March 30 – April 3, 2020.

  • Spring Break will be observed April 6-10, 2020.

  • Schools will remain closed through April 24.

City of Cleveland – City Hall is closed to the public March 17 - April 6. Call 706-865-2017.

  • City of Cleveland passed a state of emergency resolution on March 26, 2020.

  • No public gatherings of 10 or more shall be allowed on any property owned or controlled by the city.

  • Restaurants must cease offering dine-in services. Food can be prepared and offered to customers via delivery, drive-through and take-out services.

  • Restaurants that have alcohol licenses for on-site consumption, cannot sell alcohol to be consumed off premises.

  • Businesses that are open must post signs on entrance doors informing consumers to maintain at least 6 feet of personal distance between them and others and shall not allow more than 10 people into the establishment at any one time if such social distancing cannot be maintained.

City of Helen – Public access to Helen City Hall is closed from March 19 to April 1, 2020.

  • City staff is available by phone 706-878-2733 or email info@cityofhelen.org.

  • City of Helen passed a state of emergency resolution on March 25, 2020.

  • Restaurants must close their indoor and outdoor dining areas. Take-out, drive-thru, delivery or third-party delivery options should be the only means by which consumers can obtain food.

  • Limit the number of customers allowed in an establishment to no more than 10 at any one time.

  • Information is available on the website www.cityofhelen.org


United State Forest Service closures

According to White County Public Safety Director David Murphy, there is a hard closure of  Raven Cliffs, Duke Creek Falls, Mt Yonah, and Anna Ruby Falls, to the public starting this morning (Thursday, March 26), and will be completed today. These areas will be closed and the roads barricaded.  Law enforcement will be patrolling for violations and illegal parking will be enforced along roadways.


Yonah Preserve Trails

Yonah Preserve trails will be closed, following the White County Board of Commissioners passing a state of emergency for unincorporated areas of the county this morning. This means that the trailhead entrance gate will be shut, and the restrooms locked. Do not park on the road and ride or walk in to use the trails.


Restaurant, stores and business updates

Clyde's Table and Tavern will be closed through April 6.

Mully's Nacoochee Grill will be closed until further notice.

Country Inn & Suites in Helen will be closed from March 29-April 6.

Village Market in Sautee will be closed starting Wednesday, April 1.


Canceled or postponed events

April 2-4

• Plein Air Experience that was scheduled to take place at the Sautee Nacoochee Center and surrounding area has been canceled.

Thursday, April 2

• White County Historical Program set for this day has been canceled.

Friday, April 3

• Bingo at the Festhalle in Helen has been postponed. It is now scheduled to start in May, but that could change.

• White County Clean Up has been postponed until the fall.

April 4

• Babyland Easter Eggstravaganza that was scheduled to take place on April 4 at BabyLand General Hospital has been canceled.

• Sweep the Hooch has been postponed until the fall.

April 7

• Lunch and Learnprogram scheduled to take place at the Sautee Nacoochee Center has been canceled.

April 11

Saturday, April 11

• Emory Jones book signing at Hardman Farm State Historic Sitehas been postponed.

• Farm Animal Fun Day at Hardman Farm State Historic Site has been postponed.

• Natural egg dying program at Hardman Farm State Historic Site has been postponed.

Saturday, April 18

• Fire & Shine at Hardman Farm State Historic Site has been rescheduled for June 20.

 • 2020 Todd Starnes Faith and Freedom Celebration has been canceled.

Thursday, April 23

Beauty and the Beast, Jr. has been rescheduled for Dec. 3-6.

Friday, April 24

Beauty and the Beast, Jr. has been rescheduled for Dec. 3-6.

Saturday, April 25

Beauty and the Beast, Jr. has been rescheduled for Dec. 3-6.

Sunday, April 26

Beauty and the Beast, Jr. has been rescheduled for Dec. 3-6.

Saturday, April 25

• Tea with Emma Hardman in 1930 at Hardman Farm State Historic Site has been moved to mid-July.

Hardman Farm State Historic Site

• Valley Voices has been moved to mid-September.


White County Operations Update during COVID-19 (5 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 – Updated items in red, per operations report) 

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.

Effective Monday, March 23, 2020 and for at least two weeks (through Friday, April 3, 2020) – as a precaution and to limit exposure from person to person contact, White County Government will be restricting access to facilities. White County will continue to provide services via phone, email, internet and mail. Employees will be available by these methods on a daily basis during normal business hours.

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.

1 confirmed case of COVID-19 in White County according to Georgia Department of Public Health.

White County Commissioner’s Office –

  • The Board of Commissioners office is open for operations but closed to the public. Citizens are encouraged to do business electronically or on the phone. Contact 706-865-2235 for information.

  • Office will be closed to public March 23 – April 3, 2020.

White County Emergency Management Office - The office is open for operations but closed to the public. Contact 706-865-9500.

  • Office will be closed to public March 23 – April 3, 2020.

  • The EOC is operational 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 will be open for intakes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday and open for adoptions on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Please call ahead at 706-219-2689.

White County Courthouse – Courthouse will be open with limited access during normal business hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

  • Clerk of Court’s office will be available for public access as required by law.

  • Other Courthouse offices will have limited public access.

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 and new court notices will be mailed.

  • Grand Jury scheduled for April 6, 2020 has been deferred until May 4, 2020.

  • 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.

  • The number of people in the record room will be limited to 4. Please call ahead for an appointment.

  • Access to employee areas is restricted and all matters will be conducted at the office entrance, lobby area or covered front porch of the courthouse.

  • Do not enter the clerk’s office if you have flu type symptoms, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and not been cleared by a doctor, have been exposed or believe you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

White County Sheriff – Office is open with limited access. 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 to the public with limited access. Contact 706-865-4141.

  • Operating under Georgia Judicial Emergency Order – All non-essential hearings, trials, or services provided by the Probate Court have been temporarily suspended during the pendency of this emergency.

  • For emergency situations and critical needs, please contact the Probate Court office via telephone at 706-865-4141 or by e-mail for guidance and process.

White County Magistrate Court – Contact 706-865-6636.

  • Operating under the Georgia Judicial Emergency Order – all deadlines and time schedules or filing requirements are suspended, tolled, or extended in all civil, criminal and administrative matters.

  • Non-essential hearings, trials, or services provided by the Court are temporarily suspended.

  • Filings from the public will be accepted, but everyone is encouraged to take advantage of on-line services at www.whitecounty.net/courts/magistrate-court/magistrate-services

  • If you have an emergency need – call 706-865 6636.

    • Emergency/critical needs would be as follows:
    • Pre-warrant applications for Domestic Violence or an immediate threat exists to the safety or wellbeing of the affiant or third-party.
    • Good Behavior applications where an immediate threat exists to the safety or wellbeing of the affiant or third party. 
    • Garnishment traverses.
  • All essential functions of Magistrate Court such as law enforcement arrest warrants, search warrants, fugitive warrants, 1st appearance hearings, fugitive hearings, and bond reviews will continue as usual and in compliance with the Georgia Judicial Emergency Order.

  • Copies of documents from the Magistrate Court, or if a matter needs to researched, please call the office and staff will work to fulfill the need through e-mail or mail at no additional cost.

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 until April 3. Contact 706-865-5572.

  • All use of library community room has been canceled.

  • Book drops are closed. All overdue fines waived until we reopen. Patrons are asked to keep all books till we reopen.

  • Statewide courier service and all book hold service suspended.

  • Staff is available by phone or e-mail.

White County Community and Economic Development – Office is open for operations but closed to public. Contact 706-865-6768.

  • Office will be closed to public March 23 – April 3, 2020.

  • Building Inspections and Permits – Call 706-865-6496 to request inspections. Permits will be issued by e-mail.

  • During building inspections, social distancing will be practiced. Contactors are encouraged to not be at the worksite during inspections or stay in their vehicles. Communication will be via phone or e-mail.

  • Payments can be made with a credit card over the phone or call 706-865-6496 to receive payment instructions for cash or check.

  • Planning and Zoning – Call 706-865-6768.

  • 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. Please practice social distancing.

White County Public Works (Road Department) – Office is open for operations but closed to the public. Call 706-865-2510.

  • Office will be closed to public March 23 – April 3, 2020.

  • The department is open to respond by phone or e-mail to any Road Dept. related questions, work order requests for road problems, right of way or driveway permit preparation, vendor questions and to set up Invoices for payments.

White County Tax Assessors – Office is open for operations but closed to public. Contact 706-865-5328. 

  • Office will be closed to public March 23 – April 3, 2020.

White County Tax Commissioner – Office is open via drive through only. Lobby is closed. Contact 706-865-2225.

  • Effective Monday March 23 – April 3 2020 the Tax Commissioners office will be servicing customers through the drive through window only.

  • Employees will be available by phone, email and the internet in order to provide customer service.

  • On-line options are available at the White County Tax Commissioner page located at www.whitecounty.net

  • Vehicle registration renewals and property tax payments may be handled online.

  • Postal service postmarks for mail payments are honored by the Tax Commissioner’s office.

  • Questions concerning individual situations can be handled by call 706-865-2225 or by e-mail to wctc@whitecounty.net

White County Extension Office – Office is open for operations but closed to the public. Contact 706-865-2832.

  • The White County Extension Office will remain operational Monday through Thursday and closed on Friday’s indefinitely.

  • The Extension Service will accept water and soil samples at the side door via a drop box on Monday and Tuesday only.

White County Voter Registration – Office is open for operations but closed to the public. Contact 706-865-7812.

  • Office will be closed to public March 23 – April 3, 2020.

  • 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 for operations but closed to the public. Contact 706-8653101.

  • Office will be closed to public March 23 – April 3, 2020.

White County Water Authority – Office is open for operations but 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 Gateway 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.

  • Turner Creek Water Plant is closed to the public.

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. Meals will be available the weeks of March 23-27 and March 30 – April 3, 2020.

  • Spring Break will be observed April 6-10, 2020.

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 to the public March 17 - April 6. Call 706-865-2017.

  • Staff is available by phone or e-mail generalinfo@cityofclevelandga.org

  • Information is available on the website www.cityofclevelandga.org.

  • Fire station is on lockdown with no unauthorized entry.

  • No special event permits are being issued.

City of Helen – Public access to Helen City Hall is closed from March 19 to April 1, 2020.

  • City staff is available by phone 706-878-2733 or email info@cityofhelen.org.

  • Payment can make utility, citation, tax and permit payments by phone, using the drop box at City Hall or on-line. The standard credit card fee will be waived during the time the City Hall lobby is closed.

  • Alcohol Server Permits will not be issued while Helen City Hall is closed to the public. Anyone required to have an Alcohol Server Permit will be required to contact City Hall and provide their name, address and business name in order to serve alcohol during this time.

  • The public restrooms located on Chattahoochee Strasse (behind the Arts Center) will be temporarily closed. Public restrooms on River Street and at the Welcome Center will remain open.

  • Restaurants are closed for dining inside and outside; they are available for delivery, takeout, curbside, and drive thru.

  • There will be no special events approved at this time and will not be reconsidered until April 21, 2020.

  • The City has issued a local state of emergency. (See attached letters posted)

  •  Information is available on the website www.cityofhelen.org

White County Family and Children Services –DFCS Customer Contact Center

  • Operations continue via teleworking.

  • Lobby is closed to the public.

  • Food stamp and Medicaid applications can be mailed in, completed on-line or via telephone.

  • Child welfare and protection services continue to be operational.