The latest spike in local cases of the coronavirus has closed the Franklin County Tax Commissioner’s Office during its busiest time of the year and hospitalized the county’s sheriff.
CARNESVILLE – The latest spike in local cases of the coronavirus has closed the Franklin County Tax Commissioner’s Office during its busiest time of the year and hospitalized the county’s sheriff.
Tax Commissioner Bobby Martin closed his office Tuesday morning for an indefinite length of time after two employees had positive tests for COVID-19 and others in the office were showing symptoms.
Martin reported Thursday that five people in his office, including himself, have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Sheriff Stevie Thomas also tested positive for the virus, his family announced Saturday on Facebook, and he is hospitalized for treatment.
A total of 105 new cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed in Franklin County in the last two weeks.
During that time, 14.8 percent of all tests performed in the county came back positive, up from the county’s 10 percent positive rate overall since the beginning of the pandemic in the spring.
Martin said he was notified over the weekend that one of his clerks had tested positive for the virus and a second clerk went home sick on Monday.
After receiving confirmation Tuesday morning that the second clerk was also positive, Martin decided to close the office.
The tax commissioner said other employees in the office, including himself, had headaches, the loss of taste and smell and other symptoms associated with the coronavirus.
“We hate this but to follow the protocols of public health and the public good, this is the best option,” he said of closing the office.
Martin said he would “play it by ear” as to when to open up, but right now, “It sure looks like an extended closure.”
The two clerks who have been diagnosed with the virus must quarantine for 10 days, Martin said.
With them out, the office doesn’t have enough staff to keep the office open.
This is the busiest time of the year for the tax office. Property tax bills are due Nov. 15.
Martin said that those needing to pay property taxes, which are due this month, may mail payments, put them in the office's dropbox or go online at pay.franklincountyga.com to pay online.
Martin said that he has spoken with the Georgia State Patrol and Franklin County Sheriff's Office to urge them not to write tickets for any tag that expired on or after Nov. 3.
People with new cars needing tags can drive on their drive-out tags until the office reopens, Martin said. The tax office will not charge any penalty for that.
More information about paying other taxes is available on the office website at www. taxes.franklincountyga.com.
Sheriff Thomas is in the hospital receiving treatment for double pneumonia after testing positive for the virus, according to updates posted on Facebook and sent out in a press release by his family.
“They have started him on IV medicine,” an update sent Monday said. “The medicine is a five-day process. He is not on a [ventilator]. He is hooked up to oxygen. His spirits are still high, and his humor is still great! Please continue to pray for a healing, for him and everyone else affected by the virus. Thank you all for your prayers.”
Thomas announced Oct. 19 that there had been an outbreak at the Franklin County Detention Center among staff members and inmates.
All inmates were tested and staff members and inmates were issued masks, the sheriff said at the time.
Thomas also encouraged citizens to call his office to file or get copies of reports.
Thomas’ announcement of the outbreak at the jail came the same day that the latest surge of cases in the county began.
Twenty-two cases of the virus were confirmed on Oct. 19, with another 10 on Oct. 20, 30 on Oct. 22 and 18 on Oct. 23.
After a week of reports of less than 10 cases per day, the county saw 17 new cases reported Oct. 30.
“Cases in congregate settings like jails are fairly common, and we see increased cases from those settings from time to time,” Dave Palmer of Area 2 Public Health in Gainesville said. “However, public health is also observing an increase in cases in the general population in some of our counties. Much of this increase we feel, is due to people not following the recommendations to wear face coverings, social distance or limit gatherings.”
The health department advises people to protect themselves by following CDC recommendations:
• Keep six feet or more between yourself and others;
• Wear a face covering when around others;
• Wash your hands often;
• Cover coughs and sneezes;
• Avoid sharing personal household items;
• Clean and disinfect "high-touch" surfaces everyday.
Those who have been in close contact with someone with the coronavirus should quarantine themselves.
Close contact means that “you were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more; you provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19; you had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them); you shared eating or drinking utensils; or they sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.
People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again.
Those who are quarantined should stay home for 14 days after last contact with a person who has COVID-19; watch for fever (100.4 degrees), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19; and if possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, the website says.