Visitors flock to Towns County from heavy-hit areas

Towns County coronavirus

HIAWASSEE. Ga. – In recent days, FYN received a volume of reports from local citizens concerned with the surge of visitors from areas heavily afflicted with COVID-19. While Towns County is home to many part-time residents, several sweeps through the parking lot of the area’s lone grocery store on any given day or time confirmed a near 50/50 mix of local to out-of-state and metro-Atlanta license plates, with shoppers in search of food and supplies. Likewise, lodging accommodations are seeing a sharp spike in renters hoping to “shelter-in-place” away from urban environments. In an area that welcomes tourists with open arms, local residents are warning of potential repercussions in the midst of the pandemic.

Tpwns County COVID 19

An Atlanta resident appeals to fellow citizens on social media.

In a Georgia county with the top concentration of senior citizens, the demographic most vulnerable to virus complications, some fear not only shortages but the evident health risks involved with travel. While Towns County remains free of a confirmed coronavirus case at the time of publication, health officials warn that it is a matter of when, not if, COVID-19 arrives.

In reaction to an FYN report from Chief Medical Officer David Rearick of Onecare who focused on the dire consequences that may be in store for Fannin and Union counties, Towns County residents weighed-in. “This is how we should be looking at it in Towns County, also based on the population and any people that have immersed themselves in our community to escape their own, only to bring it with them,” Kelley Denton wrote.

Click to read: COVID-19 Pandemic Appears to be Just Entering the Psyches of Fannin/Union County Residents

“I’m curious about something,” John Dills asked in a social media group on Sunday. “With the governor refusing to take any steps towards a quarantine, and tourists who don’t see the necessity of staying home, can our city and county officials do anything to stop the influx of travelers until this virus is under control?”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp stated in a press conference last Thursday that the decision to close businesses or implement additional measures has been delegated to local officials.

Click to read: Emory expert warns point of no return approaching for Georgia, urges Kemp to shut down state

Across the state border in nearby Graham County, N.C. officials are doing just that. In response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in neighboring Cherokee County, lodging accommodations were ordered to close on March 23, and travel restrictions – allowing only property owners and those conducting legitimate business to enter its border – are scheduled to go into effect on March 27.  For similar measures to take place in Georgia counties, a local declaration of emergency is the initial step in following suit. While Towns County officials have given no indication of enacting such at press time, FYN remains confident that local leaders are diligently monitoring the unfolding situation.

Last week, Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stated that the county was in “phase one” of mitigation. “My department heads have been working on this for a couple of weeks for where we’re at right now, for these closings, how we’re handling it, how we’re handling our employees,” Bradshaw said. “If it gets worse, and it possibly could and we pray that it don’t, but if it gets worse and we get people in the county that’s affected with it and showing positive to the virus, we are working now – the department heads and myself – on the next phase.”

Towns County Emergency Management Agency stated on Monday that the issue has been documented with the State.

County officials continue to urge calm, discouraging citizens from engaging in online speculation.

FYN remains in remote contact with Towns County authorities on a continual basis, vowing to provide now-news updates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.





  1. Darrell Barrett March 23, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Soon the horse will be out of the barn and then they’ll close the door.

  2. Pam Bonner March 23, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Some of us “part-timers” got caught, quite by accident, by the onset of this pandemic after we were already here. We are being responsible by sheltering in place. Sorry if my out of state license plate is a “trigger” for you.

  3. Rhonda March 23, 2020 at 10:50 am

    If Key West and Miami can order all visitors out, why are we feeding and chancing contamination and shortage of hospital beds and food to those that have homes elsewhere. They are not helping our economy right now. They are draining our resources. They can return when it is safe. Is this selfish?

    • Kate Johnson March 23, 2020 at 12:27 pm

      You pay taxes, too. If they don’t want us part-timers to buy real estate here and support the economy, don’t sell us property!

    • Charles thompson March 26, 2020 at 7:54 am

      I’m a legal Florida resident that happens to own a home in Towns county paying big real estate taxes,and supporting your economy for 9 months out of the year. Don’t bad mouth my Florida tag just because it’s sitting in the parking lot of the only grocery store in town that I support.

  4. Jackie Hunter March 23, 2020 at 11:24 am

    Our Governor should step up and be a leader. He should declare travel restrictions so people are required to stay home. All you have to do is ride through the parking lots of department stores in Hiawassee, Blairsville, Murphy or Blue Ridge and you will see why this is needed. Shopping carts piled high with groceries and other supplies going back to places other than here. I believe in helping people but I believe you should help your own people first.

    • Kate Johnson March 23, 2020 at 12:29 pm

      People who live here 6 months a year, are your own people! Sorry you feel otherwise.

  5. LaJean Turner March 23, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Important information for our community! How will our County deal with the influx of tourists that will be here soon? It seems that the highest stage of preparedness is where we should be now. Most people realized that Towns County could be hit with the virus later than other areas of much congestion. That means that once the influx of visitors, this community may be hit extremely hard, and may be the last to recover being that Towns County has the largest group of the oldest population in the State of Georgia.

  6. John March 23, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    I think they should block the mountains off! Period! They should have to show proof of residency to get across! Stay away! Please do not come up here and ruin us!!

    • Ruth Pratt April 11, 2020 at 7:26 am

      I totally agreei with you I totallydo.i have a sister in Hiawassee and one in mineral Bluff Ga.they should block off the Mtn.Hwy.they need to stay home.

  7. William Dailey March 24, 2020 at 7:23 am

    After we have a case then we will act ,just like Trump did. He waited until we got infected by a hoax virus as he called it and then he closed the borders. That’s like letting a killer into your house and then locking the doors. It’s to late.

  8. Joe Shullson March 26, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Thank you FYN for your humble service to this county! Your the FOX NEWS of the mountains!

  9. ILENA ROYSTER March 26, 2020 at 11:44 am

    I think most year round residents understand that there are people from Florida who have homes here where they spend several months a year, and yes, they are a part of our community. What’s at issue is the timing of their arrival due to COVID. What is being asked of people is if you’re not already here, do not come. It’s safer to shelter in place where you are than travel and stop at numerous places along the way and risk not only bringing the infection with you, but overloading our already strapped resources and medical services. The article did say that it’s the license plates from Atlanta and GA communities south of that made it obvious that they were “visitors” who may be here and shouldn’t be. Campers have filled the campgrounds that are open and that’s a huge problem. They should have been closed for camping early on, IMO. Those folks are putting additional pressure on weekly runs to the grocery store.

  10. Eddie Gosnell March 27, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Can’t understand why leaders want to wait till the virus hits and then try doing something about it. Just look at the numbers state wide and see how that has worked out.At least Fanning county has locked down their county, Sheriff Dept said were stopping all out of town tags and inquiring about reason for being there. $1000.00 fine for breaking their stay at home shelter rules.

    • Priscilla March 31, 2020 at 8:53 pm

      My husband and I use to come to Hiawassee off and on and purchased a small place here. I understand how visitors feel like they are left out or got some horrible diseases. But after my husband passed away I have made Hiawasse my home nearly 3 years. The problems is Towns county can’t get deliveries here as fast as people down the mountains. When visitors come we run out of neccessary items that can’t be replaced fast enough for many people. Just think about that before you shop at our only 2 places here. INGLES AND DOLLAR GENERALL. Thank you

  11. Harry Rowland March 28, 2020 at 12:55 am

    Dear Florida People, thank you for your financial support for Towns County. You are lucky people. You have your cake and get to eat it also. The mountains of northern Georgia serve as a refuge and resort to many people. Please understand that the local residents have no place to run to like you do in the midst of this outrageous viral epidemic. So please just let all derogatory comments about you be like water off a ducks back. Thanks, Harry Rowland

  12. Kate Roberts March 28, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    I am reading this from South Fulton and couldn’t agree more. Stay home Atlanta! I would love to visit my father up there but have enough sense to stay away!

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