ELLIJAY, Ga. – A Special Called meeting saw approval for an application for a grant funding by Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners that could mean extra help for local departments’ needs for supplies and equipment outside of their normal budget.
Some information on the CARES Act funding was delivered to the Commissioners during their meeting by Fire Rescue who have already submitted requests to utilize the additional funds if approved.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said in the meeting that the approval was to sign a contract for a registration number to allow the county to apply for the grant.
According to a release from the Georgia Municipal Association, the funds are to be used for “necessary expenditures” related to COVID-19.
Additionally, the Governor’s Office stats that once the application and certification process is concluded, a 30 percent advance could be available immediately. Also, a funding breakdown document from the Governor’s Office indicates that 30 percent advance could total $456,775 with a total possible $1,522,585. But, again, funding terms dictate that this must be used for COVID-19 costs or response, which means Gilmer could not use this in normal budget needs.
However, Paris did note that he assumed other departments besides public safety could have certain eligibility after Public Works Director Jim Smith commented on the subject. He noted that much of the road department was working understaffed for close to six weeks. Paris said the county will be applying for reimbursement on other departments and certain payroll issues due to the COVID-19 virus.
The county is looking for a quick turnaround, and brought to special meeting, as it was noted that there is a deadline at the end of August which is also noted in the Governors letter. The county will be moving quickly to make this deadline in order to receive the extra funding.
The Governor’s Letter included in information given to the BOC by Public Safety during their meeting:
Yesterday, the GHSA board of directors released their latest statement on the Coronavirus situation and their new restrictions and policies.
The release states:
As I am sure you are all aware, the Board of Trustees voted Monday to move back the start of the football season two weeks later. This does not affect the start of acclimatization or the first date of practice. Scrimmages and games are pushed back two weeks, practice remains the same. In order to keep Girls Flag Football aligned with 11-man football championships, the season has been slightly adjusted (dates are on the GHSA web site). All other Fall sports and activities will remain as scheduled on the original calendar.
After our meeting today, the GHSA has elected to utilize the following Guidance for Acclimatization and Practice with recommendations and/or restrictions.
NOTE: This information concerning Guidance for Acclimatization and Practice with recommendations and/or restrictions, is for the Acclimation Period and start of practice on August 1st. The previous recommendations and/or restrictions are still in place for voluntary summer conditioning which prohibits inter squad (between schools) scrimmages.
The GHSA Office is expecting all schools to continue reporting any and all Positive COVID-19 cases (list positive test date, athlete or coach, and sport) results since June 8th to Don Corr at [email protected].
In addition to the positive cases, we are requesting you report any and all individuals who have been screened out of any conditioning workouts (list date screened out, athlete or coach, and sport) to Don Corr at [email protected].
Recommendations and restrictions are fluid and subject to change. Safety must be our top priority.
This is the first real update on the rules and regulations we have been given since July 15th, when the board decided to allow helmets and shells during practice. The GHSA has been releasing weekly updates and will continue to do so during the whole process. Stay tuned to FYN Sports for the latest on the GHSA and what is going to happen in the wake of the coronavirus.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer has begun discussions of its return to school in August with details available to push back the starting date for students as well as offering an option for their return and will be making final decisions on details tonight.
Debates have arisen among board members for restrictions and requirements for the return. The school system is set to have part of its students attending a “virtual academy” while others will be attending class in person. Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs spoke this week saying that families could choose how to attend.
Committing to one or the other means dedicating to that form for a semester for high school or 9-week period for Grades K-8, according to Chief Academic Officer Lottie Mitchell.
Another major change coming at the beginning of the year will be moving back classes by four days. This push back, said Downs, is focused on allowing extra time to train and prepare staff for their changes in the coming school year through cleanings, classes, and training for lessons whether face-to-face or through the virtual academy. This will also push the first day of school to a Friday as Dr. Downs said in their July Work-session, “Our staff just seems to prefer to start on Friday so that we learn from Friday, especially when changes are being made.”
She went on to explain that the Friday start also allows teachers to meet students and go through classes and then have two days to make any last minute changes they feel are necessary. Taking the weekend to regroup allows teachers to work in classrooms or perform alterations to plans after that day without having to try and push through a week before they have any large portion of time to achieve this.
Although the board gave approval for this change through board polling, this change of days must be ratified as other decisions are approved tonight, Thursday, June 23, 2020. Yet, Dr. Downs cautioned the board and citizens saying that even this close to class, new information is still coming in requiring new changes from the state. A new state order could completely change the plans that the school system has made.
Returning to class in-person will see changes for students as they see separations by glass or Plexiglas in certain areas supporting social distancing, some hallways in schools will be one way traffic and some will only walk on one side of the hallway in a direction, increasing use of hand sanitizer and hand washing, and reducing numbers of students in a room among others.
The school system, currently, will make decisions on closing schools and when that is needed.
As for usage of masks, situations like school buses will not allow for social distancing needs. As such, the current plans are to require masks for students on buses along with assigned seats. They will also strongly recommend mask usage in classes. To that end, the school system will be giving masks to students and they are also planning on obtaining disposal masks for bus drivers to hand out if a student forgets or loses his or her mask.
The board is also installing water bottle fillers in some schools to combat water fountain usage.
To support the health of staff and students as they return, the board has purchased 5,000 masks, ten additional no-touch thermometers in addition to the ones that nurses already have, 250 gallons of hand sanitizer, and other items like bottles, spray bottles, towels, cleaning equipment, disposal gowns, and face shields.
The board also confirmed updates with their janitorial service, ABM, as for cleaning and requirements for the new needs for cleaning.
Board Member Tom Ocobock questioned the school systems response for students in class who may test positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Downs responded saying that they would not be put into the same virtual academy style as those who opt into it. Instead it will be more similar to distance learning they did in the Spring or make-up studies as with normal years dealing with sickness. Additionally, the school will be utilizing online plannings used in Google Classroom allowing a seamless transition to distance learning and then back into class when they are cleared.
In such a case, Dr. Downs assured the board that the systems had methods in place for contact tracing as well should the need arise.
The board also touched on some other ideas that may or may not be utilized such as rotating using the lunchroom for some while others might eat in classrooms.
Virtual Academy will be an all new program different from the springs distance learning for students. The new program works through Edgenuity (Grades 6-12) and Odysseyware (Grades K-5). The school system has already began pilots with the program in recent years.
While the program has options for Edgenuity teachers to be used, Mitchell said the Gilmer would use their own Gilmer County Teachers as facilitators for the program and to follow up with students as they guide them along.
These facilitators will be able to track student progress and log-ins during the return to class for attendance recording through their Chromebooks as well as viewing students’ notes taken. Additionally, teachers can add, remove, or reorder lessons and features for students as needed.
With Odysseyware, a Teacher Authoring Tool creates lessons, projects, or assessments from scratch and embed media and links within assignments personalizing the lessons as they need.
For those with special needs who return virtually, teachers can adjust grade weights & passing thresholds, read text aloud at different speeds, allow additional attempts on assignments and assessments, adjust the time for assessments, customize course content for remediation, acceleration, and support, and allow students to test out of mastered content.
These options for Virtual Academies are also time flexible as Mitchell said students who may decide or need to get a job can work around the hours and log on at anytime during the day. Dr. Downs said at this time they are considering implementation plans as they might have a teacher teach several lessons in person and then one period of virtual. Additionally, students who fall behind in the Virtual Academy may be asked to return to school in person to recover their grades. Students attending virtual academy will sign contracts to be fully aware of the expectations and responsibilities of the program.
Yet, these plans are still being discussed and should see updates tonight as the board continues weighing options and citizen response. One detail yet unsettled among the board is how to handle students in virtual academy wishing to participate in extracurricular activities. Board Member Ronald Watkins noted his displeasure with everything coming down to last minute decisions, but Dr. Downs explained that they are still getting changes from the Department of Education and are trying to add in final alterations as needed.
Continuing the separation between those attending in-person and those attending online, Dr. Downs said that those opting to go online are not going to get the same experiences as those in class, but the board is attempting to feel its way through the new program accommodating those students whenever and however possible.
For citizens wishing to know more or asking questions, Dr. Downs published a video covering parent concerns as well as the board is now keeping a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet upon their website.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is amidst recovery from contact and exposures of employees to the COVID-19 virus in the courthouse, with cleaning concluded and new people getting tested daily for the issue.
New details have come from last Friday’s, July 10, 2020, cleaning of the facility as the invoice from Restoration 1 out of Dawsonville shows.
In addition to cleaning the courthouse, the county also cleaned the Road Department office. With both the courthouse and the office together, the cleaning costs totaled $$6,007.81 according to the invoice documents. This came at $5,550.56 for the courthouse facility and $457.25 for the Road Department.
According to the Gilmer County BOC’s Finance Officer, Sandi Holden, payment for the cleaning is coming from the county’s contingency fund, a fund created by the previous commission for, as they said, unseen emergencies.
Additionally, Holden did affirm that the county moved forward with the Road Department in addition to the courthouse as “a spouse of one of the employees tested positive for COVID-19.”
As Public Health works toward Contact Tracing and local facilities are returning to operations, officials are still seeing spikes and increases in total cases as they sit at 257 cases in Gilmer County today.
Georgia’s Public Health Department in the North Georgia Health District is also increasing responses to the virus as they add a whole new testing day for the county. According to Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator Jennifer King, “we just added a new testing day in Gilmer County to our districtwide COVID-19 test schedule… they will now also test on Wednesdays”
This means testing will occur on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, according to King who added, “Please see these two links on our website where I maintain the latest information about testing: Weekly Schedules and North Georgia Locations for Free COVID-19 Testing.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health, and specifically the North Georgia Health District, is following with the recent spike in cases in Gilmer County and the citizens who have recently been at risk of exposure and those who have tested positive, including one in the courthouse.
In a recent press release, Jennifer King, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s North Georgia Health District Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator, stated, “Public Health continues to track the virus through contact tracing, which means people who test positive for COVID-19 identify others they may have exposed to the virus so that public health contact tracers can determine if those contacts need to be quarantined and tested.”
With guidelines in place, the Courthouses of Gilmer and Fannin County are reopening today, but Public Health is continuing to monitor and look for cases of other exposures whether connected to large gathering or simply contact with a loved one or friend who may be positive in Gilmer or surrounding counties.
According to the statement, Gilmer Branch’s County Nurse Manager, Krystal Sumner, said, “Even residents who are asymptomatic can receive the free testing we offer. Knowing who is carrying the virus helps public health get ahead of transmission and prevent the virus from spreading further. By taking this step and the other recommended protective measures, we can stop the spread of COVID-19 together.”
Gilmer has seen reactions and cancellations in the county due to the recent spike in numbers including Graduation and Superior Courts. Others in the county are returning to previously lessened restrictions in meetings and gatherings.
While the statement says that officials are “concerned the main cause could be the attendance of large gatherings in the county,” they do not specifically point to any one gathering. FYN has reached out today to the Department with questions on what causes or sources their contact tracing numbers point to and is currently awaiting a reply.
For more information from the Department of Public Health, see their full press release from the past weekend below:
Ellijay, GA. – COVID-19 cases took a sharp increase in Gilmer County this past week, and public health officials are concerned the main cause could be the attendance of large gatherings in the county. Anyone who recently attended events such as church revivals or other local large gatherings in the county is encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.
Free COVID-19 testing is provided by the Gilmer County Health Department on Mondays and Fridays at the ETC Pavilion in Ellijay. Residents are to call 1-888-881-1474 to register and make an appointment.
On June 11, the total number of positive cases in the county was 166, including one death. Since then, one additional death occurred, and positive cases increased weekly by five to ten until reaching a total of 190 on July 2.
Most concerning, however, was a sudden spike in numbers so that as of July 9, there were 216 positive cases of COVID-19 in Gilmer County, and today, public health is reporting an additional ten cases in the county.
“That is an increase of 36 cases in just over a week,” said Dr. Zachary Taylor, Health Director of North Georgia Health District 1-2 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, which includes Gilmer County. “Considering the protective measures and proactive precautions against coronavirus that have been readily available and promoted by the CDC and public health, transmission of this virus should be decreasing in our communities, certainly not increasing.”
Health officials strongly urge residents to prevent further spread of the virus by always wearing a mask in public, frequently washing hands or using a hand sanitizer, avoiding large crowds, social distancing away from others by at least six feet, avoiding physical contact when in public by not shaking hands or giving hugs, and staying home and calling a doctor if COVID-19 symptoms appear or if close contact occurred to someone who tested positive for the virus within the past 14 days.
Meanwhile, public health continues to track the virus through contact tracing, which means people who test positive for COVID-19 identify others they may have exposed to the virus so that public health contact tracers can determine if those contacts need to be quarantined and tested.
Additionally, the Gilmer County Health Department is collaborating with the Gilmer County Public Safety and Emergency Management Agency, Gilmer County Family Connections, Gilmer County Schools and several local churches, businesses, and other community partners to educate residents on how to take protective measures against COVID-19. They have utilized several methods and venues to share bilingual materials with the public and have even provided free face masks.
County nurse manager, Krystal Sumner, said, “Even residents who are asymptomatic can receive the free testing we offer. Knowing who is carrying the virus helps public health get ahead of transmission and prevent the virus from spreading further. By taking this step and the other recommended protective measures, we can stop the spread of COVID-19 together.”
Learn more about free COVID-19 testing in North Georgia and the latest updates on how to stop the spread at bit.ly/COVID19-Updates-NorthGA.
UPDATE – Gilmer Traffic Courts cancelled as office operates without Judge
While Gilmer’s Probate Office has reopened without its Judge, many operations are continuing as normal through the clerks and under guidance of the Chief Clerk Tracy Teague. Almost every operation in the courthouse is continuing back on track according to Teague who stated that the office is cancelling this week’s traffic court.
As Chief Clerk, Teague is trained and able to fill in on many operations that would normally require Judge Chastain this week, however, this time as she “fills in” for the Judge does not extend to the court system. Despite that, she did affirm that any permits or applications that citizens may need from the office can be done as usual in this time.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer and Fannin Counties will both have their courthouses reopening today after an order from Chief Judge Brenda Weaver.
The order came over the weekend acknowledging the cleanings and steps taken against the virus spread. With those cleanings done and employees continuing to remain quarantined, the offices are set to resume normal functions today, July 13, 2020.
The order states, “Having found that the deep cleanings have occurred and that the employees have been tested and are quarantining according to Department of Health Guidelines, it is hereby ordered that the Fannin Courthouse and the Gilmer Courthouse will re-open all offices and proceed with regular business hours beginning Monday, July 13, 2020.”
In addition, the Probate Office of Gilmer County has also confirmed that it, too, will be reopening to resume normal operations. Probate Judge Scott Chastain was one of those in the courthouse with exposures and he also followed guidelines reporting a positive test.
The county has been taking steps to increase safety and social distancing in the offices as some are asking people to only allow a certain number of citizens in offices at a time. Restrictions like these are likely to continue as they return to operations.
Despite the return to operations, however, there are continuing cancellations and reschedulings going on. Just as last week in Gilmer County, while the courthouse is open, some offices may stay closed. Additionally, these individual offices are releasing notices such as the District Attorney’s office. The Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office released a statement notifying citizens of cancellations of Superior Court this week.
They said, “Due to the potential infection and continued transmission of the Coronavirus/COVID-19, court cancellations are as follows:
1. Gilmer Superior Court on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 – Civil and Criminal NJ; and
2. Fannin Superior Court on Thursday, July 16, 2020 – Civil and Criminal NJ.
Fannin County is also confirming the reopening of the courthouse, but is urging citizens to contact individual offices and departments for “access protocols.”
As both entities attempt to return to operations, Public Health officials are also paying closer attention to the area. Spikes and increases are causing for many to urge testing for citizens who may think they have been exposed.
ELLIJAY, Ga – Gilmer’s Health Department and Courthouse are working closely together this week after a confirmed positive test was reported by the county Probate Judge, Scott Chastain.
FYN reached out to the Health Department and spoke with Gilmer Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris about the Health Department’s involvement. Both entities noted that the Georgia Department of Public Health already has guidelines and directions in the case of positive exposure and the Courthouse is already taking measures in its own way.
Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator for the North Georgia Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Jennifer King said, “COVID-19 is still transmitting in Gilmer County… and while we don’t refer to any specific cases or locations unless we have reason to believe the public is at a higher level of risk, we do share the latest Governor’s Executive Orders relating to COVID-19 protocols with the public, businesses, organizations, and agencies to follow, including information that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and how to respond if cases occur.”
King asserted that Gilmer’s local Health Department is working closely with the community in every way possible. Paris also noted that he had been in contact with the Health Department as the courthouse was responding to the exposure.
Continuing communication reaches far beyond just the courthouse, though, as King said, “Our local health department and environmental health office work very closely with community partners, including EMA, Family Connections, government agencies, businesses, churches and schools to remind residents of measures they can take to prevent the spread of the virus and protect against COVID-19.”
King said that public health is urging people to get tested for COVID-19. She went on to note that the department is also attempting to provide that opportunity to do so for free. She said, “We are attempting to prevent further spread of the transmission through contact tracing and repeatedly reminding residents of the critical need to always wear a mask in public, wash their hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer, avoid large crowds, social distance away from others by at least 6 feet, avoid physical contact with others by not shaking hands or giving hugs, and stay home and call their doctor if they feel they may have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive over the past 14 days.”
The Health Department is reaching out across all platforms of media to spread the information of options like the drive-thru testing sites and schedule postings
Citizens who feel they have been in contact or may have been in the courthouse recently are also encouraged to visit the Testings Website. Gilmer has their own testing site times, on Mondays and Fridays, but there are other sites in our nearby counties in case some residents find it more convenient to register for an appointment at one of those.
King also stated, “Because the number of cases in our Hispanic/Latino population in Gilmer County is disproportionally high, local public health works with community leaders, partners, churches and schools to increase outreach to this community by sharing translated information, encouraging free COVID-19 testing, and providing education about the need to prevent the spread of the virus and how to protect against it.”
The Public Health website offers information in both English and Spanish as well as several flyers in both English and Spanish.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain has confirmed that he has tested positive for COVID-19, commonly called the Coronavirus.
While sources have spoken recently about employees in the Gilmer County Courthouse having been exposed, Chastain himself has reached out to inform the public that he has tested positive. There are still indications of others in the courthouse having been exposed, but with an official confirmation, responses will be increased and sanitization orders are already in effect from yesterday’s Judicial Emergency Order.
Offices are shut down, however, FYN’s understanding is that the general courthouse is still open and the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to remain open in service to the public in the face of the positive test.
Speaking with Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris, the Gilmer Courthouse is continuing as ordered under the Judicial Order to close offices and courts. He stated that certain employees are still in offices in an isolated area answering phone calls and doing work that cannot be performed from home, but the offices are closed to physical access by the public.
Paris stated that he has notified employees within the Board of Commissioners office and has also notified department heads who are notifying their employees about exposures within the courthouse. Utilizing a rotation style operation in some departments, employees are still able to access their offices for filings or needs and operate phones and services while minimizing contact and risk in the building.
Other Elected Officials are operating and notifying employees in their areas as they see fit under their own jurisdictions.
While this operation is continuing for this week, Paris said that the entire courthouse building will shut down this Friday, July 10, 2020, in order for Restoration 1, a company out of Dawsonville certified for this type of cleaning, to operate, clean, and release a sanitizing mist within the building. Shutting down Friday will allow the mist to settle over the weekend before anyone returns to the courthouse.
Additionally, Monday, July 13, 2020, officials will reconvene after the cleaning and time has allowed additional testing to return on certain employees. Paris said that they will have to make a decision at that time about the continued operations or closures as needed with the information available then.
Paris did say that the Board of Commissioners are making every attempt to spread awareness of the possibility of exposure through news outlets, their websites, and phone calls. He stated that he has already received calls from citizens inquiring about the courthouse and a positive test. Paris suggested that citizens who may have visited the courthouse in recent days speak with their doctors about their situation and possible exposure and to follow testing as they order. He stated that as he is not a medical professional, he can only suggest this course of action for people.
Paris did say he has been in contact with the Health Department, informing them of the situation and the current steps being taken. Working in conjunction with them as well as local and state guidelines, he gave thanks and commended Judge Weaver on her quick response and action to the situation saying that he believes they have mitigated as much of the risk and exposure as they possibly could.
He went on to add that his hope is for people to take the situation and the virus seriously and be considerate of others and their capability to spread the virus even if they are not at risk from it.
Currently, sources say that Chastain’s contraction of the virus came from a Revival meeting at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Cartecay last week. FYN has reached out to the church for more information and is currently awaiting responses from church leaders. The church did cancel remaining services on July 4, 2020, as soon as first notice of someone running a fever and exhibiting symptoms was brought to them.
Our current understanding is church members are being contacted via the church line and suggestions to be tested have been issued in conjunction with guidelines from Health Departments. As with Revival Services of this type, it can be hard to keep up with numbers, but reports indicate that church officials are working diligently to contact and spread information so that any who may have attended services might be made aware.
FYN is attempting to contact Pastor Jamie Smith, but with large groups, it may not be possible to tell exactly who could have been the initial case or where it was contracted from before.
Additionally, FYN is now reaching out to officials in the and the Gilmer County Health Department about the positive test and their plans on sanitizing, quarantining, and contact tracing those who may have come into or worked in the courthouse. Jennifer King, North Georgia Health District Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator, said she is in contact with the Gilmer Branch and FYN is currently awaiting information from her as it becomes available.
Stay with us as more details become available on this story.
UPDATE: New State Order extends public health guidelines in courts
The state level executive order from Judge Harold D. Melton, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, is extending health guidelines and requirements for in person hearings and allowing remote proceedings.
Courts in Georgia have continued to perform essential functions despite the pandemic. The May 11 extension order also encouraged courts to work diligently to address the backlog of pending cases on a case-bycase basis, and the June 12 extension order announced a plan to reimpose as of July 14 many of the deadlines imposed by law on litigants in civil and criminal cases that have been suspended, tolled, or extended since the initial March 14 Order.
As has been the direction since the original Order, all Georgia courts must continue to conduct proceedings, remotely or in-person, in compliance with public health guidance, applicable statutes and court rules, and the requirements of the United States and Georgia Constitutions, including the public’s right of access to judicial proceedings and a criminal defendant’s rights to confrontation and an open courtroom. All courts should continue to use and increase the use of technology to conduct remote judicial proceedings as a safer alternative to in-person proceedings, unless required by law to be in person or unless it is not practicable for technical or other reasons for persons participating in the proceeding to participate remotely. This order further delineates the health precautions required for all in-person judicial proceedings and specifies that courts must adopt operating guidelines consistent with the Georgia Court Reopening Guide and any more specific local public health guidance.
While Gilmer is currently in lock-down for cleaning and sanitizing today, Officials are reportedly set to decide the status of Gilmer’s Courthouse and proceedings for the near future on Monday, July 13, 2020, as they seek more information and potential testing until then.
NORTH GEORGIA – Both Gilmer and Fannin have received a new order entitled “Amended Third Order Extending Declaration of Judicial Emergency” closing and requiring deep cleaning for offices in the courthouses of both counties.
The order, sign by Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, states that a number of courthouse employees are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting testing results. Due to this the Chief Judge conferred with Board of Commissioner (BOC) Chairmen from each county and has declared the situation beyond the ability to continue with regular work.
The court has ordered that the counties deep clean and keep closed the following offices:
- Fannin County Superior Court Judge
- Fannin County Juvenile Court Judge
- Fannin County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
- Fannin County Probate Court
- Fannin County Magistrate Court
- Fannin County District Attorney
- Fannin County CASA
- Gilmer County Superior Court Judge
- Gilmer County Juvenile Court Judge
- Gilmer County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
- Gilmer County Probate Court
- Gilmer County Magistrate Court
- Gilmer County District Attorney
- Gilmer County Misdemeanor Probation
- Gilmer County CASA
Additionally, Gilmer County has also closed the offices of the Gilmer County Tax Assessor and the Gilmer County Tax Commissioner. These offices are also ordered to perform a deep cleaning and remain closed until further orders are given.
Just as with the previous Judicial Emergency Orders, Remote Videoconference hearings are being utilized and scheduled. The order states that all other provisions of the previous order are still in effect.
This all comes after the announcements of some of Gilmer and Fannin Elected Officials and Courts closing earlier today due to COVID-19 exposures.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Several offices in both Fannin and Gilmer County are closing today as reports indicate one or more employees may have had exposures to the Coronavirus in recent days.
The District Attorney’s Office in both Fannin and Gilmer have closed today. Additionally, Gilmer’s Probate Office has confirmed closing and the Gilmer Board of Commissioners has cancelled its Wednesday morning Work Session citing a “recent spike in Covid-19 cases.”
The Probate Court of Gilmer County issued a statement on Social Media saying, “The Probate Court Office of Gilmer County will be closed effectively immediately and remain closed until further notice.”
FYN has also confirmed that every office of an elected official in Gilmer County has been closed until Monday along with the court systems with the exception of the Sheriff’s Office.
According to County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Fannin County’s Court systems are also shutting down including Superior Court, Magistrate Court, and Probate Court. The closings come “by order of the Chief Judge Brenda Weaver.”
According to Fannin County Commission Chairman Stan Helton, only the second floor of the courthouse is closed and it will reopen on Monday after it has been sanitized.
Despite the offices closing and courts canceling, the Gilmer Courthouse and Fannin Courthouse are both, as a whole, not closed at this time. Citizens may still enter the courthouses.
Reports are coming in that in Gilmer, Sheriff’s Deputies at the security checkpoint in the entrance are informing citizens of the offices and courts closing and are directing visitors accordingly.
Additionally, FYN confirmed that the Gilmer Planning and Zoning Office was closed late last week due to possible exposures of an employee.
Sources tell FYN that at least one of the exposures this week may have been related to a recent church revival held in Gilmer County. However, no cases have been officially confirmed at this time.
GAINESVILLE, GA – Nine specimen collection sites operated jointly by the Georgia National Guard and Augusta University ended operations effective May 30. As of June 1, several sites changed their operating hours. Those interested in receiving a COVID-19 test are strongly encouraged to call and make an appointment.
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) will continue to operate 136 specimen collection sites throughout the state, and encourages Georgians wanting to be tested for COVID-19 to contact their local health department to schedule an appointment.
During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgia National Guard and Augusta University joined DPH in its testing efforts by providing a web-based screening and scheduling platform and additional specimen collection sites. To date, more than 44,000 people have been tested at AU Health and partnered sites.
“This partnership with the Guard and Augusta University was invaluable to the COVID-19 response in Georgia,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner. “We are grateful for their service to all Georgians, and for the support and capacity they provided DPH to increase testing for COVID-19.”
The Guard will continue to provide staffing and logistical help at DPH specimen collection sites, as well as its mission of assisting DPH with testing residents and staff in long-term care facilities. Augusta University will provide ongoing specimen collections at its two sites in the Augusta area; Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta and Patriot’s Park in Columbia County.
COVID-19 testing is available to all Georgians, whether they have symptoms or not. Individuals wanting to be tested should contact their local health department to schedule an appointment at a location convenient to them. Contact information for local health departments and specimen collection sites can be found on the DPH website at dph.ga.gov. People can also use the AU Health ExpressCare app or call the hotline at 706-721-1852 to be scheduled at a DPH or AU Health-operated location.
For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
ATLANTA, Ga – Gov. Brian Kemp decided to continue the state of emergency and stay at home order for the elderly and at-risk individuals through July 12. However, the governor also announced the reopening of bars, amusement parks, night clubs, professional sports, and overnight summer camps.
Music venues must remain closed.
Kemp issued timelines for the lifting of each restriction.
May 31 Openings
- Overnight Summer Camps
June 1 Openings
- Gatherings of 25 people will be allowed – if the area meets space requirements
- Night Clubs
- Professional Sports
- Amateur Sports
June 12 Openings
- Amusement Parks
- Water Parks
Georgia will not mandate citizens to wear masks, but Kemp highly encourages everyone to wear masks in crowded areas and public places.
66 percent of nursing home residents have been tested for COVID-19. On June 1, the Department of Public Health will move to once-daily updates of coronavirus numbers.
Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is distributing an initial allotment of the drug Remdesivir received from the federal government. Georgia received 30 cases, with 40 vials of the drug per case, enough to treat about 110 patients, depending on the duration of an individual’s treatment. Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine being used to treat hospitalized patients with serious symptoms caused by COVID-19 like low oxygen levels or pneumonia. It has been found to shorten the duration of disease in patients being treated in inpatient hospital settings.
Remdesivir is given intravenously (IV) and decreases the amount of coronavirus in the body, helping patients recover faster.
The distribution plan for Remdesivir in Georgia was developed by DPH leadership, including district health directors and emergency preparedness staff, in accordance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for its use. It is based on the number of patients on ventilators, the most severely ill, and clinical best practices.
Georgia hospitals receiving Remdesivir reported 10 or more COVID-19 positive patients on ventilators, in addition to patients currently being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that takes over the work of the heart and lungs. These criteria are subject to change based on the availability of Remdesivir and
the development of patient care at hospital facilities across the state.
The following hospitals are receiving Remdesivir; Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, and Augusta University Medical Center.
“DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.”
Georgia has received a second, much larger allotment of Remdesivir. DPH is surveying hospitals statewide over the weekend to determine need. This second allotment will be distributed next week.
Gilead Sciences, Inc. committed to supplying approximately 607,000 vials of the experimental drug over the next six weeks to treat an estimated 78,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients under an emergency use agreement (EUA). The donation to the United States is part of 1.5 million vials of Remdesivir the company is donating worldwide.
Remdesivir has not been approved by the FDA for widespread use because it is considered investigational, and it is still being studied. Remdesivir was originally developed for use against Ebola. Clinical trials for Remdesivir were done in Georgia at Emory University Hospital.
For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook
ATLANTA, Ga – On May 12, Gov. Brian Kemp continued to ease restrictions on certain industries – restaurants and childcare – to assist Ga businesses as the state returns to normal.
Childcare facilities now can operate with up to 20 children in a classroom instead of 10 as long as the instructor-to-child ratio is maintained. Departments of Early Care and Learning and Public Health reportedly okayed this expansion and ensured it could be accomplished safely.
Many parents in Ga are returning to work and have encountered difficulty finding childcare services.
“Childcare facilities must continue to adhere to thirteen minimum, mandatory criteria to be able to operate, including strict screening procedures and sanitation mandates for frequently touched items and surfaces. In that same vein, countless families have reached out to my office to discuss how summer camps can safely operate as we battle the spread of COVID-19,” Kemp explained.
Summer day camps have also received the okay to open on May 14 if facilities can meet the 32 requirements developed by the Department of Public Health, constituents, and summer camp operators. The CDC has yet to weigh in on the criteria, but Kemp appeared confident that their plan would move forward.
However, overnight camps are still closed, but eventually, these facilities might be able to open under a case by case basis.
As for restaurants, those who have already opened or considering opening can now allow up to 10 patrons per 300 sq. feet and seat groups of 10. Previously the maximum number at a table was six.
Kemp praised the food industry, “Throughout this pandemic, our restaurant owners and their employees have done a remarkable job in keeping local families fed. These hardworking Georgians have followed the rules, doing the right thing, even when it wasn’t easy.”
Live performance venues, bars, and nightclubs must remain closed through May 31, 2020.
The social distancing and gathering ban on more than 10 people are still in effect unless six feet of separation is possible. The ban applied to all non-critical infrastructure businesses, local governments, and organizations of all types, including social groups, informal get-togethers, and recreational sports, just to name a few. Georgians can expect these protocols to last through at least the end of the month.
“We continue to strongly encourage people to wear face coverings when out in public, and we thank everyone for their willingness to do the right thing,” Kemp added. “The shelter in place provision for medically fragile and Georgians aged 65 and older remains in effect through June 12, 2020.”
Starting on May 18, state agencies will begin transitioning back into in-office services.
As of noon today, Georgia has received its first shipment of Remdesivir from the federal government – thirty cases with forty vials of the drug per case. The Department of Public Health will determine how it will be distributed.
Nursing Home Testing
Georgia’s National Guard has tested 46% of all nursing home residents and 24% of staff at those facilities. However, an estimated 46,000 people who still need to be tested. In total, the Guard has tested 142 nursing homes. The National Guard will continue to test everyone at these facilities until they reach 100 percent.
The press conference did address the re-testing of facilities is new cases are found after the initial testing. Department of Community Health releases daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in nursing homes across Ga.
“As we aggressively test more nursing homes and long-term care facilities, we may see a sharper increase in positive test results. By doing this, it will allow medical providers to intervene earlier and try to mitigate adverse outcomes among vulnerable Georgians. Right now, nursing home, assisted living, and personal care home residents and staff make up 18.5% of our total positive cases, and 49% of total deaths involve nursing home, assisted living, and personal care home residents. We ask everyone to continue to protect the elderly and medically fragile, and we will continue to work around the clock to ensure quick, convenient testing is available for all Georgians,” Kemp explained.
Anyone in Ga can now be tested for COVID-19 either through their local health departments or by downloading the Augusta University ExpressCare app, visit augustahealth.org, or call (706) 721-1852.
“With nearly 250 staff in the field today, the Department of Public Health is making progress. Under the leadership of Dr. Toomey, DPH plans to have 1,000 staff deployed in the coming weeks. To streamline contact tracing across the state, we are rolling out a new online monitoring tool – the Healthy Georgia Collaborative – which allows Georgians to identify contacts and monitor symptoms. Health data remains completely confidential. This monitoring tool does not collect any data other than what is entered by the contact. This is how the process works: residents who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by trained public health staff, who will work with that individual to recall anyone that they might’ve had close contact with while infectious. Those contacts will then be interviewed by DPH to help us map and isolate the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the state. If you are contacted by DPH staff, we strongly encourage you to participate in the contact tracing program,” Kemp said about contact tracing.
The governor also urged anyone who needs to visit their doctor for regular appointments or concerns outside of COVID-19 to please do so. Doctors’ offices and emergency rooms have protocols in place to prevent individuals from contracting the virus. Now is not a time to gamble with anyone’s health to avoid COVID-19.
Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has reached its goal of testing 100,000 individuals in 10 days. More than 108,000 tests were processed since Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H, set the DPH goal last week.
“This is an important benchmark for Georgia as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state,” said Toomey. “Increased testing is critical to understanding where there are hotspots of infection and how best to mitigate them.”
Effective immediately, testing is available to all Georgians who request it, whether they have symptoms or not. There are more than 65 specimen point of collection sites (SPOC) throughout the state, with an additional 30 mobile SPOCs – locations and hours vary daily.
Individuals wanting to be tested can contact any Georgia public health department to schedule an appointment at a SPOC location convenient to them. Contact information for local health departments can be found on the DPH homepage at
For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With business reopening and some coming earlier than others, many are only doing so amid modified schedules, rules, and procedures during this time.
While Kemp’s order has allowed a few early returns from the shutdown, others are not joining the movement at this time, instead waiting to see more details and results. Lucky Nails inside the shopping are next to Ingles in East Ellijay still has not changed their same sign they’ve had the entire shutdown saying they will remain closed until further notice. On the other hand the nail salon at Highland Crossing said the salon will be taking all the necessary steps to ensure your safety and health as they reopen. As a part of that, they are limitng the amount of people that they service, asking for patience in this time.
Further, they added a few details, asking customers to please cancel your appointment if you are not feeling well. They are also requesting that you bring a mask with you to your appointment if you have one and to come to your appointment alone. “This will help us limit our people in the salon & spa,” they said. They are continuing on reduced hours, opening Wednesday to Saturday for now, saying they would resume normal hours later.
Gyms are another business taking the opportunity to return. Anytime Fitness is opening only during a modified schedule including staffed hours. They said the schedule will last until at least May 13. As members enter, they will have their temperature scanned for entry. Monday through Thursday they will open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m to 2 p.m.
Club Manager Heidi George said they are already seeing a number of people return to the gym, thankful that business is resuming. George said that the shutdown did, of course, have a financial effect, but that they are excited to see people respecting the adjustments as they obey Kemp’s orders and guidelines.
George went on to add that some of those restrictions are also having them mark of certain equipment to help aid in the social distancing requirements. Staff are maintaining the facilities, disinfecting every couple of hours, scanning temperatures, and also providing services when possible as large classes are not yet able to resume.
Despite everything, George said she has been encouraged by the return because of how kind and polite everyone has been in the gym.
Similarly, another normally 24-hour gym, Workout Anytime posted to social media about extended staff hours to accommodate more members. Monday- Thursday 5am – 8pm, Friday 5am – 7pm, Saturday 9am – 3pm, and Sunday 10am – 3pm. With restrictions and closed equipment like tanning beds, these facilities are opening up as much as they can right now.
“We’ve purchased all recommended cleaning solutions and have put in place stringent cleaning guidelines to promote sanitation,” they said.
However, restrictions to appointments, procedures, and new rules are also reaching across to other businesses like hair salons.
Spectra Hair Designs on North Main Street in Ellijay is another business asking for patience amid the reopening. They have even started a slogan saying, “Show Your Roots!”
Opening Friday, the owners said they were grateful for the opportunity. There are state safety precautions that they, too, must follow to be open. For those with appointments, You will need to bring your own mask and wear it, You’ll have your temperature taken before service, and they will not allow any extra people with you in the building.
“We will be taking all necessary precautions and sanitation procedures to ensure your safety while at Spectra,” they said. Many businesses are following suit with heightened cleaning regimens and restrictive procedures.
Another hair stylist and business doing make-up and hair, Madison Kiser posted to social media saying they were excited be back. The post also said that the business is attempting to ensure safety and health in the environment, asking a few extras of those seeking to make appointments.
Just like other companies they asked that you bring only yourself to your appointment time and to wear a mask if you have one or they could provide one. Additionally, they are also scanning people’s temperatures as they enter and logging it into a sign in sheet. However, they are also asking that if you are early, then wait in your vehicle until you are waved to come in.
In the post they said, “The last thing that we ask of you is to be patient with us. Coming back from this pandemic we are aware that you, as well as everyone else needs beauty needs met. We are scheduling everyone appropriately to keep plenty of time in between to clean and sanitize…”
Barbara’s Hair Designs is also asking citizens to sign in for appointments and then wait in vehicles for their turn for hair appointments. Many of the same rules repeat for wearing masks and maintaining the social distancing. Most businesses are following the lines.
Even those that didn’t fully close during the shutdown are starting to see business ramp up again as citizens begin venturing back out. Kemp is continuing to ease restrictions and plans to end the shutdown soon. Yet, while some are willing, others are planning on continuing to shelter in place despite his suggestions.