Gilmer County joined the ranks of Georgia counties with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on Monday.
It was recorded on the Georgia Department of Public Health website which records confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the state separated by county. It also details deaths from the virus and hospitalizations.
“I do know we have a positive, but I don’t know who or any details,” said Gilmer County Chairman Charlie Paris. “It was inevitable that we get one or more.”
He said the cases are reported by the testing agency by county of residence.
As on Monday night, the state reported 3,032 confirmed cases, 773 hospitalizations and 102 deaths. It equates to roughly 25 percent of confirmed cases requiring hospitalization and slightly more than 3 percent resulting in death.
Every county contiguous to Gilmer is reporting at least one case.
A week ago Georgia was reporting 1,097 confirmed cases and 38 deaths. Gilmer County had no confirmed cases according to the Georgia Department of Health.
Last week, Gilmer County commissioners issued a shelter-in-place order for the county. The cities followed the next day.
“I regret the closing,” Paris said. “I regret the restrictions. I understand how everybody feels about it. We’re in unchartered territory.”
As part of the order to shelter, nonessential businesses were asked to close and people were asked to stay home except for essential travel to work, get grocery or medicine, exercise using social distancing guidelines or an emergency.
No curfew was put in place.
“I think there has been great cooperation for the most part for the county,” Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said. “Even for the cities, as far as my observations.”
Last weekend he observed people out and doing things allowed under the shelter order.
“Problem is, there are a great amount of folks still out there doing things,” he said. “[Authorities] are telling people to stay in unless you need to get out.”
Many people are out just to be out, he said.
Paris said there is talk of extending some of the restrictions.
“The parts that need to be changed first is we are getting a lot of day visitors,” he said.
In one case several cars tore down a barricade at River Park. In another, there was supposed to be a big party planned by some younger people at a local campground.
“I just don’t see respect for Gilmer County from the people coming in from outside,” Paris said.
There are complaints individuals are still renting to people through online rental services, he said.
One point of the order was to keep people from larger counties with more cases from coming to Gilmer County.
Nicholson said the county relies on tourism, but it needs to be on hold.
“We need folks to not come here for a little while,” he said.
Closing River Park was a tough decision. Paris said people need a place to walk, but the majority of people who use the trail were high risk.
As for the playground, county employees were spending four hours a day sanitizing the equipment. After a few minutes of play, it would be necessary to sanitize everything again.
“It was a dangerous situation I think,” Paris said.
Nicholson said Gilmer County residents need to take care of the necessities, including exercising for their mental and physical health.
“It is not time for people to freak out,” he said.
But, he said, it is time to stay home unless you need to be out.