Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Health Care Association on Monday, March 16, recommended that long-term care facilities in the state restrict all visitors, volunteers and non-essential personnel except for certain situations such as end-of-life care in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has a 21.9-percent mortality rate for people over 80, according to WHO data and there is also a high mortality rate among the chronically ill.

“These facilities should make every effort to provide alternative means of communication for family members and residents while visitation is restricted,” Kemp and the GHCA said in a joint statement. "We also encourage healthcare providers to avoid all group activities and communal dining; continue active screening of residents and health care personnel for respiratory symptoms, including actively checking for a fever; identify staff that work at multiple facilities and actively screen and restrict them appropriately; and enforce sick leave policies for ill health care personnel that are non-punitive, flexible, and consistent with public health policies allowing personnel who are sick to stay home.”

There are now 121 cases of the coronavirus in Georgia, according to the latest figures from the state Department of Public Health released at noon Monday — a more than 20-percent jump from the Sunday totals reported. That includes three cases in Clarke County, one in Hall County and two in Braselton, where two patients tested positive and are being treated at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.

There were still no reported cases in Barrow County as of Monday, but officials have said it is inevitable that there will be confirmed cases here. The DPH is updating its online county-by-county tracker every day at noon.

CLOSURES, CANCELLATIONS, POSTPONEMENTS, ETC.

Congressman Jody Hice of Georgia’s 10th District, which includes Barrow County, canceled his mobile office hours for March but will continue to assist residents at his Monroe and Milledgeville district offices. People are encouraged to contact the offices by phone or email. Those numbers are 770-207-1776 (Monroe) and 478-457-0007 (Milledgeville).

Locally, the City of Auburn, postponed a future downtown planning initiative kickoff meeting that was to be held Thursday, March 19, at the Perry Rainey Center.

Also Monday, the City of Statham announced city hall is open but city accountant April Plank urged people to practice “social distancing” and come inside only if they need assistance.

Plank said utility payments can be made by calling 770-725-5455 and pressing “2” between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. only; online at www.cityofstatham.com; or by placing payments in the drop box outside city hall.

The city is also not accepting any applications for community center rentals until further notice.

The Statham City Council still plans to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at city hall. A Winder City Council work session and a Barrow County Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 19, were still on as of Monday afternoon.

The Barrow County Board of Commissioners postponed its annual planning retreat that was scheduled for Friday, March 20. County manager Mike Renshaw said the tentative plan is to hold the retreat in late April or early May. 

Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith said the county detention center is limiting the public to the main lobby and has suspended all inmate visitation. Inmates who are brought in are also undergoing screening for potential virus symptoms.

Also, locally, the Barrow County Museum will be closed to the public through March 31. The Barrow County Historical Society’s Board of Trustees will reassess the situation as circumstances warrant, president LeAnne Akin said.

The Auburn, Statham and Winder public libraries are closed through March 30. Library leaders are encouraging patrons to take advantage of the of the libraries' digital collection at prlib.org.

And at the City of Winder-operated Chimneys Golf Course, tee times have been reduced and each individual will be provided their own cart at no additional cost.

"We have also heightened cleaning services at the golf course and will be disinfecting all touch points throughout the day," course officials said. "We apologize for the inconvenience, but protecting the health and well-being of our patrons and staff is a priority. If you have any questions, you may contact us by phone at 770-307-4900 or by email to chris.scott@cityofwinder.com."

Continue to check barrownewsjournal.com for the latest local and state updates related to the coronavirus and its impact on the community. 

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