A comprehensive collection of stories on what Franklin County is doing to slow the spread of the coronavirus
Community joins effort to 'slow the spread'
Franklin County has joined the fight against the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp have both declared emergencies due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The virus can be anywhere from none to mild to serious respiratory symptoms in those who contract it.
The illness has been fatal to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
As of Wednesday at noon, Georgia had 197 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, with one death.
No confirmed cases have been found in Franklin or surrounding counties, but the cases are creeping closer, with Hall County and Athens-Clarke County being the closest areas with them.
Symptoms of a COVID-19 infection are similar to those of the flu: fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, information from St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital said.
In serious cases, the patient may have trouble breathing.
Difficulty breathing may be a medical emergency. Those experiencing that symptom should call 911 and mention the symptoms.
Those taking themselves to the emergency room should call ahead.
The information from the hospital says, “If you feel sick:
• Stay home except to get medical care.
• Avoid public places. Do not go to work, school, restaurants or other public areas.
• Avoid public transportation, including ride-sharing or taxis.
• Separate yourself from other people in your home. To the extent possible, stay in one room and use a separate bathroom.
• Minimize your contact with pets and animals.
• Avoid sharing personal household items such as dishes, cups, utensils, towels and bedding. Wash them after use.
• If you have a medical appointment, call ahead and let them know you may have COVID-19.
• Clean and disinfect ‘high-touch’ surfaces at least daily.
• Monitor your symptoms and call your doctor if symptoms worsen.”
Guidelines from the CDC to help protect people and the community include:
• Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
• If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Avoid touching the face with unwashed hands.
• Cover coughs and sneezes. If using a tissue, throw it away immediately and wash or sanitize hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Use social distancing, in other words, avoid crowds and large events, don’t shake hands or give hugs as greetings and stay at least six feet away from others.
In order to slow down the spread of the virus, schools across the state have been closed until March 31.
Some local governments – including the county, Carnesville and Lavonia – have closed their offices to walk-in traffic, court sessions have been postponed and some restaurants have gone to drive-through only or delivery at the curb.
St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital, Brown Health and Rehab, The Gables and The Veranda are all restricting visitors.
County offices close doors to walk-in traffic
CARNESVILLE – Franklin County government offices have been closed to walk-in traffic until March 27.
Franklin County officials announced Tuesday that access to offices will be limited in response to requests by the state and federal government for citizens to limit social interaction to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“During this unprecedented time, organizations, businesses, and communities are adjusting to the developing COVID-19 situation,” County Manager Elizabeth Thomas said in a county announcement. “We have been charged with doing our part to ‘flatten the curve.’ We must all share in this responsibility by implementing social distancing and practicing common sense infection control.”
Following is a breakdown on how county services will operate during the coronavirus emergency:
• Franklin County Board of Commissioners office.
County staff will still be at the office to answer phone calls and to provide “essential services,” Thomas’ announcement said.
Citizens may call 706-384-2483 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. with questions or needs.
“Together, we will determine the best approach for service delivery,” the county manager said. “If in-person contact is necessary, we will schedule a time for you to come to the office so that exposure to staff and other citizens is limited.”
Those needing to pay water bills may do so online at www.franklincountyga.gov or checks can be dropped in the county’s 24-hour drop box at 141 Athens St. in Carnesville. Those who are not sure of how much they owe may call 706-384-3318.
Other forms are available online, the county’s release said.
Water forms and applications are located at www.franklincountyga.gov/water-department/.
Building permit and all zoning applications can be found online at www.franklincountyga.gov/planning-and-zoning/. Those with questions about zoning issues may call 706-384-2483.
Business license applications may be found at www.franklincountyga.gov/board-of-commissioners. Applications and/or payments may be mailed or put into the 24-hour drop box. Approved business licenses will be mailed.
Setback and manufactured home inspections will continue.
Anyone with questions about road service, solid waste or other issues may call 706-384-2483.
• Senior Center.
The senior center has been closed until further notice.
“We will continue to assess the situation and recommendations by the [Centers for Disease Control] and Georgia Department of Public Health,” Thomas said. “We will reopen the Senior Center once this concern has subsided.”
The senior center will continue to deliver meals to homes “for as long as staffing and volunteer capacity allows.” Thomas said that several county departments have pitched in to get meals delivered.
• Recreation Department.
All organized activities sponsored by the recreation department have been suspended through March 30.
“Franklin County and its partners will reevaluate at that time to determine whether continued suspension is needed,” Thomas said. “We will continue to share additional information regarding the spring sports season as information is available.”
• Tax Commissioner’s Office.
The Franklin County Tax Commissioner’s Office will be closed to the public and walk-in customers March 17-27.
“Staff will continue to work handling all aspects of the office including telephone calls, mailings, mail and online tag renewals, online tax payments, etc.,” Tax Commissioner Bobby Martin announced. “Please call our office at 706-384-3455 for any issues.”
Payments for property taxes or tag renewals may be placed in the drop box to the right of the door under the last window, Martin said.
Payments can also be made online.
Motor vehicle services may be done online at www.eservices.drives.ga.gov.
Property taxes may be made online at www.taxes.franklincountyga.com.
• Tax Assessors’ Office.
The Franklin County Tax Assessors’ Office will be closed to the public until further notice.
Presidential primary put off until May 19
CARNESVILLE – The Presidential Preference Primary scheduled for next week has been postponed over concerns about the coronavirus.
The March 24 vote was postponed until May 19 by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday.
Raffensperger said Monday his office decided to push the presidential primary back to May 19, when primary contests for dozens of seats in Congress and the General Assembly will be held along with many local races.
“We did not make this decision lightly,” Raffensperger said. “We made the decision in the interest of public health, safety and security.”
The change meant that early voting in the presidential primary stopped immediately.
Both Raffensperger and Franklin County Elections Supervisor Gina Kesler emphasized that anyone who had already voted in the presidential primary would have their ballot counted and would not need to vote again.
A total of 325 Franklin County voters had cast ballots in the presidential primary. Of those, 96 were absentee ballots and 41 were cast Saturday in a special day of early voting.
“Our office will continue to mail out absentee ballots until the March 20 deadline, which is Friday,” Kesler said. “We will also continue to accept absentee ballots that have already been mailed out. A date for this hasn’t been given yet. That information is still being worked out.”
If a registered voter already voted in the March presidential primary, then in May, he or she will pick a party ballot and be issued a May only ballot.
Registered Voters who did not vote in the March presidential primary will be issued a combined ballot for both elections.
“Voters who voted in March have already been given credit for voting in our state system and in the Easy Vote software that we use during Early Voting,” Kesler said. “On Election Day, the Poll Pad will show if they voted in the March [primary] and our paper electors lists will also be marked as to who had already voted in the [presidential primary].”
A portion of a story written by Beau Evans of Capitol Beat News Service was used in this report.
State testing suspended by coronavirus
ATLANTA – State School Superintendent Richard Woods has suspended state testing administration and accountability requirements due to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak until further notice.
In a press release issued on Monday, Woods said he was suspending the state assessment window, including Georgia Milestones End of Grade and End of Course tests, the Georgia Alternate Assessment/GAA 2.0, all other required testing, teacher and leader evaluation requirements and reporting and state-level attendance-related consequences, including College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI), school climate star rating and make-up day requirements.
“Right now, schools’ focus needs to be on the safety of their students and staff,” Woods said. “The focus should be first and foremost on health and safety, then on flexible and creative ways to keep learning and growing. It’s common sense: testing and accountability requirements should not place an additional burden on students, parents and educators during this time and they will not in Georgia.”
At the State Board of Education meeting March 27, which will be conducted via teleconference, Woods will recommend the approval of a package of waivers, including suspension of the 20 percent course grade requirement for the Georgia Milestones tests.
“I’m thankful Superintendent Woods suspended state testing, but I’m anxious to see if it will be canceled,” Franklin County School Superintendent Chirs Forrer said of the announcement. “Testing has been suspended, but in theory, this means that we could still test. I’m waiting to hear how long it will remain suspended or if it is canceled.”
The Georgia Department of Education plans on seeking the maximum authority and waivers afforded by the United States Department of Education and other federal agencies to accommodate this situation.
What accommodations are or aren’t given may be the deciding factor on whether or not testing for the 2019-20 school year is canceled.
Court functions closed due to virus
CARNESVILLE – Court functions and law enforcement is also being affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton issued a statewide judicial emergency declaration last week due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
The Northern Judicial Circuit – which includes Franklin, Hart, Elbert, Oglethorpe and Madison counties – also declared an emergency.
As a result, most civil and criminal judicial functions have been continued or suspended.
“Exceptions include hearings for temporary protective orders, initial bond hearings and other emergencies as deemed such by the assigned judge,” a press release from the Northern Judicial Circuit said.
The Franklin County Clerk of Courts office has asked members of the public not to come in unless it is absolutely necessary.
The clerk of court staff is still working and conducting business by phone and email.
The Franklin County Magistrate Court is also restricting walk-in traffic but is available for emergency needs.
The Franklin County Probate Judge’s Office is asking people to call 706-384-2403 with questions or emergency matters such as petitions of emergency guardianship of an adult, other emergency petitions, orders to apprehend, an urgent need for a vital record or a marriage license.
All traffic court arraignments have been postponed until June 11 and anyone with firearm licenses that are expiring will be valid for 30 days after April 13.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has also made several changes for the safety of its staff, inmates and citizens
Those changes include:
• No inmate movement for special contact visits, though video visitation for inmates is continuing as normal.
• No funeral transports for inmates until further notice.
Anyone needing a copy of a report should call the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and it will be mailed.
Anyone needing to file a report that does not require an officer to meet with them may call the Sheriff’s office at 706-384-2525.
Musical, salad supper postponed
A number of events have been cancelled or postponed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Franklin Community Players has postponed the live stage musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
The original dates were March 20 -23 at the Lavonia Cultural Center.
“We have been paying close attention to governmental recommendations about limiting group size and the importance of social distancing,” said FCP President Amy L. Burns. “The health and safety of our cast, crew and patrons are our primary concerns. We plan to announce the new dates very soon. We at FCP are all very disappointed because we were all really looking forward to this production.”
In addition, the Lavonia Pilot Club’s 26th annual Fashion Show and Salad Supper, scheduled for tonight has been postponed as well.
Tickets previously sold will be honored at the later date.
The club will offer a refund for those who cannot attend at the later date.
Anyone wishing for a refund will need to contact the member who sold them the original ticket.
The Commuity Calendar normally published in the Franklin County Citizen Leader each week is not being published this week because of uncertainty about events in the calendar being rescheduled.