Virus update

Barrow County manager Mike Renshaw announced Thursday that all county facilities, with the exception of the Judicial Courthouse, which is operating under a statewide Judicial Emergency Declaration, will be closed to the public until further notice, effective Friday, March 20.

Renshaw’s announcement comes amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The decision is based upon recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, which is recommending that public gatherings be restricted to less than 10 and that “social distancing” be practiced, he said.

Renshaw said the county planning commission's 7 p.m. meeting Thursday at the Historic Barrow County Courthouse will still be held, but cases will be called into the meeting chambers one at a time and social distancing will be requested. The board of commissioners work session scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, has been canceled. 

“Adequate staffing levels within all county departments will be maintained to provide continuity of services to our customers by phone or email,” Renshaw said in a news release. “We are also encouraging the public to make use of U.S. mail, online payment and transaction services offered on the county website, or payment drop boxes such as for county utility payments which may be dropped off at 625 Hwy. 211 NE, Winder."

The county’s COVID-19 Task Force will continue to monitor conditions within the community and provide updates via the county’s Facebook page and website, Renshaw said.

In order to contact a county office for service or questions, go to www.barrowga.org and click on “Departments” for a menu and all contact information. You may also contact the main desk by calling 770-307-3000 for operator assistance.

“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience associated with this closure, and encourage all of our residents to be safe and to follow CDC-recommended preventative measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Renshaw said.

AUBURN MAYOR DECLARES LOCAL EMERGENCY

Meanwhile, Auburn mayor Linda Blechinger on Thursday issued a Declaration of Local Emergency, which authorizes the city administrator and department heads to “utilize all available resources of the city and subordinate agencies over which the city has budgetary control as reasonably necessary to cope with the impact of COVID-19 on the city.”

The declaration, which is effective until 5 p.m. April 2 or further action of the mayor or city council, also authorizes the city administrator to award contracts and purchases for the purpose of meeting the emergency and authorizes the mayor to execute intergovernmental agreements for any available grants to address “necessary” COVID-19 related expenses or “serious needs of the city, individuals, families or businesses adversely affected” by the pandemic.

And the city has suspended the solicitation and advertising of projects until further notice.

City administrator Alex Mitchem said declarations of emergency by President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia, as well as legislation passed by Congress, should create mechanisms for the city to pay affected employees in the event it has to temporarily downsize to "essential" staff. 

Thursday’s scheduled city council work session has already been delayed until April 2, immediately prior to the council’s voting session. Mitchem said those April 2 meetings will be conducted via teleconference. More information on that will be released in the coming days, he said. 

STATEWIDE NUMBERS

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had soared to 287 at noon Thursday, with the death toll now at 10, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. That’s an increase of 90 confirmed cases in the last 24 hours and nine additional deaths.

Barrow County’s listed cases remained at one, but that case is a person with a Barrow address who had been living in an assisted living facility in another county, Barrow County officials said earlier this week.

Two of the deaths have been reported at metro Atlanta hospitals, while the other two were reported at a hospital in Albany. It was not known as of this writing where the other six people had died.

Continue to check barrownewsjournal.com for the latest updates.

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