Schools have been shut down, at least through March 31 and perhaps longer, businesses are closing their doors and most folks are staying at home as the number of people infected with the coronavirus increases across Georgia. The March 24 presidential primary election in Georgia has also been postponed until May 19.
As of press time on Tuesday, 146 cases had been reported in Georgia. No cases have been reported in Banks County, although one case has been confirmed in neighboring Hall County. There has also been seven cases in Gwinnett County, three in Clarke County and one in Barrow County.
One-hundred and forty-six coronavirus cases were reported in Georgia as of noon on Tuesday, March 17, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. On Monday, the number of confirmed cases was 121. On Sunday, the number was 99; and on Saturday, the number was 66. There has been one death in the state related to the virus.
Check www.banksnewstoday.com each afternoon for the latest numbers.
Other counties with confirmed cases include: Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, Bartow, Cherokee, Floyd, Dougherty, Fayette, Clayton, Lowndes, Coweta, Gordon, Troup, Lee, Henry, Forsyth, Polk, Charlton, Columbia, Rockdale, Newton, Paulding and Richmond.
The Department of Public Health releases the latest number of confirmed cases at noon each day.
With cases of the coronavirus rising in Georgia, Banks County officials are making plans on how to handle a local pandemic if it does occur. Banks County EMA director Deidra Moore said that public safety departments have been working together to prepare for and mitigate against hazards associated with any pandemic event.
“In the case of COVID-19 / Coronavirus, we have united with all partners to ensure we maintain situational awareness and prepare as best we can given the facts presented by the Department of Public Health,” Moore said. “This local planning consists of a special Public Safety Team made up of EMA/E911, Fire/EMS and the Banks County Sheriff’s Office that is reviewing continuity of operations plans specific to each department. In addition, the team is coordinating with partners such as our non-emergency agencies and schools while also sharing valid and vetted information with our citizens and other stakeholders.”
Moore encourages citizens to practice basic safety, such as “staying home if you are sick or suspect that you have been exposed and reporting any suspected exposure to public health officials.
“We also encourage everyone to use good hygiene skills and to continue to monitor the CDC and Department of Public Health websites,” Moore said.
The links are: https://dph.georgia.gov/contact-dph and https://www.cdc.gov/
When concerns grew about the virus, the local school system made the decision to close Banks County Schools Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27. Since that time, Gov. Brian Kemp has declared that all public schools be closed through Tuesday, March 31.
When the decision was made to close local schools, superintendent Ann Hopkins stated, "Banks County School System has closely been monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and consulting with various local and state agencies as well as neighboring school districts. In light of growing concerns surrounding the virus, Governor Brian Kemp has issued a 'call to action' requesting that local school officials and other government agencies consider closing for two weeks in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus."
During the closure, there will be no extracurricular activities.
"Currently, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in our area," Hopkins said. "Our decision to close was not made lightly but was based on new information and the serious concerns of the rapid change in the spread of the virus in our state. We will utilize distance learning during this time.
Students were sent home with packets of information and are doing school work while at home.
Hopkins added, "Thank you for your patience as we navigate this unprecedented time. We will continue to post updates on the system website and social media. Information will be shared should the closure need to be extended following this time."
The announcement was made Saturday, March 14, by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to postpone the March 24 Presidential Primary election due to the coronavirus.
The election has been moved to May 19 when the state's other 2020 primary elections are being held. The early voting for the presidential primary, which began May 2, is also being stopped.
"Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, and the community at large," Raffensperger said.
“The overall risk of the coronavirus to the general public remains low, although elderly people and individuals with chronic medical conditions may have increased risk,” Kathleen Toomey, commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health states.
Toomey states that 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 away the tissue in the trash.
•Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If you have recently traveled to areas where there are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 and develop fever with cough and shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel, or if you have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19, stay home and call your health care provider or local health department right away. Be sure to call before going to a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care center and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
Georgia has an initial solution for people who test positive for the novel coronavirus but can’t stay at home and don’t require hospitalization — An isolated corner of a state park, where mobile housing units have been set up. So far, the only resident of the quarantine at Hard Labor Creek State Park is a military veteran who cooked at a Waffle House northwest of Atlanta and doesn’t know how he contracted the illness.
For accurate and reliable information about COVID-19 log on to https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Due to the unexpected closing of schools, the Banks County School System is providing breakfast and lunch to students. All students are eligible for these free meals.
These meals are available to pick up on a first-come, first-served basis Mondays through Fridays while school is closed at the following locations and times:
•Fire station 21: 4173 Old Highway 441 North, Baldwin, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 22, 3433 Yonah-Homer Road, Homer, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 23, 104 West Banks Drive, Alto, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 24, 144 Hickory Flat Road, Gillsville, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 31, 181 Industrical Park Boulevard, Commerce, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 32, 245 Sims Bridge Road, Commerce , at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 33, 195 Carson Segars Road, Maysville, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 34, 1679 Hwy. 326, Commerce, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 41, 2348 Damascus Road, Baldwin, at 10:30 a.m.
•Fire Station 42, 2158 Bennett Road, Homer, at 10:30 a.m
•Fire Station 51, 155 Yonah-Homer Road, Homer, at 10:30 .am.
•Banks County Elementary School, 180 Hwy. 51 South, Homer, at 10:30 a.m.
•Commerce Inn, 157 Eisenhower Drive, Commerce, at 10:30 a.m.
•Scottish Inn, 30934 U.S. Hwy 441, Commerce, at 11 a.m.
For more information regarding pickup locations or times, call Mike Cleveland, director of transportation, at 706-206-8249.
Mainstreet Newspapers' offices will be closed to the public until further notice.
Offices in Jefferson, Danielsville, Winder and Homer are closed in response to the Coronavirus crisis.
Those needing to contact the newspapers may do so via email, telephone or the papers' websites. Drop boxes are also available at each location.
Many of the newspapers' reporters and editors are working from home when possible.
The papers will be published on their regular weekly schedule and available at newsstands and subscriptions via the USPS.
Watch for updates on our website at mainstreetnews.com.
To check on subscriptions and other services, call 706-367-5233.
Editors may also be contacted at:
The Banks County News will offer its coronavirus stories free to the public.
The News recently transitioned to paid circulation for its print edition and implemented a paywall on its online stories.
That online paywall will be suspended on coronavirus stories for the next few weeks.
Given the seriousness and spread of COVID-19 and the potential impact it could have on the Braselton area, The News wants to offer a resource for reliable news and updates to community members — including those who can’t afford a subscription or do not want to subscribe.
Online stories can be found at BanksNewsTODAY.com.
If you have trouble viewing coronavirus stories on The News’ website, email email@example.com.