HIAWASSEE, Ga.- As the COVID-19 crisis sweeps the nation, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw is asking tourists to think twice before visiting the area. As mountain residents struggle to find items that were once in ready supply at the county’s lone grocery store, the anxiety of travelers introducing the deadly virus to a highly susceptible community is a viable threat.
In a county with limited healthcare options – combined with a steep senior population – Commissioner Bradshaw made it perfectly clear that the safety of residents, first responders, and healthcare providers is his top priority.
“I called Senator (John) Wilkerson,” Bradshaw said on Tuesday. “We had a long conversation and I asked him to please make it known to the Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp that we love our tourists. We do. We love our tourists. We love our visitors, right? Right now is not the time for visitors. We don’t want visitors right now. When this is over, we’ll welcome them with open arms.”
The commissioner explained that while he would require assistance from Governor Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health to legally “close the county down,” Bradshaw hopes that visitors will heed the advice of local, state, and national leaders and remain at home.
“We don’t need people flocking up here, you know, we don’t need that. For their health and ours,” Bradshaw said. “And the second thing I told Senator Wilkerson is please, talk to the governor and close the Appalachian Trail. If you get somebody on the trail and they don’t know they have this virus, and maybe it’s the third day into the trail and they become sick, our public safety has to go get them. That’s putting a strain on our public safety now and also exposing them to a virus.”
In a county that reaps the economic benefits of tourism, Bradshaw stressed that he will spare no expense when it comes to the health and safety of Towns County’s citizens and staff.
“We love our tourists. We want them back,” Bradshaw said. “But right now they need to stay home. So I’m just making that clear.” Bradshaw received high approval and appreciation from residents on social media following his bold stance. Towns County declared a State of Emergency on March 24, 2020, in response to the unprecedented health crisis, closing restaurant dining and numerous, at-risk businesses.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Towns County declared a State of Emergency on March 24, 2020, in order to protect the health of its citizens. Effective at noon on Friday, March 26 through April 6, 2020, restaurants within Towns County are ordered to close with the exception of drive-thru, delivery, or curbside service. Restrictions do not apply to hospital cafeterias, nursing homes or similar facilities.
Establishments licensed to sell beer or wine may continue to sell alcohol by the drink in sealed containers without obtaining an additional license. The sale of beer or wine, however, must be incidental to the sale of food and cannot be sold separately.
All establishments offering body care services that require bodily contact between the provider and client shall be closed for business. Businesses include barbering, hair design, cosmetology, massage therapy, tattooing, body waxing, tanning salons, and nail studios. Restrictions do not apply to services offered by a licensed healthcare provider.
The City of Hiawassee and City of Young Harris enacted identical measures. Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby was in attendance, and in agreeance with the actions taken. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that city services will not be disconnected for 45 days due to customer non-payment, reminding residents that bills can be paid via dropbox at city hall, online, or by check.
There are no curfews in place at this time.
Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw strongly urged citizens to remain at home unless absolutely necessary, discouraging visitors and tourists from visiting the area until the threat of the virus is under control. Bradshaw stated that the State of Emergency may extend beyond April 6, depending on circumstances, and that more stringent measures may be enforced in response to the pandemic.
Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick, and Towns County Health Department Manager Laura Ide attended the called-meeting.
Continue to follow FYN for dedicated coverage of the COVID-19 crisis as developments occur.