COVID-19

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No reported cases in Rabun County; many public events cancelled; schools closed; residents urged to avoid crowds; relief efforts underway

  • Photo courtesy Kristin Schupp Rabun County Primary, Elementary, and High School cafeteria staff come together to prepare 4,000 meals that fed 400 children for 5 days Monday. Director of School Nutrition Kristin Schupp said the Board of Education will continue this service as long as schools are closed for any child in our community.
    Photo courtesy Kristin Schupp Rabun County Primary, Elementary, and High School cafeteria staff come together to prepare 4,000 meals that fed 400 children for 5 days Monday. Director of School Nutrition Kristin Schupp said the Board of Education will continue this service as long as schools are closed for any child in our community.
  • Megan Broome/The Clayton Tribune Customers are seeing empty shelves as they visit various stores around Rabun County due to an influx of people buying products in bulk amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Store personnel continue to work to constantly restock the shelves as quickly as possible, and supply trucks are arriving daily. Shown is the vacant toilet paper aisle at Walmart on Monday.
    Megan Broome/The Clayton Tribune Customers are seeing empty shelves as they visit various stores around Rabun County due to an influx of people buying products in bulk amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Store personnel continue to work to constantly restock the shelves as quickly as possible, and supply trucks are arriving daily. Shown is the vacant toilet paper aisle at Walmart on Monday.
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Schools, public events and some services have been shut down or altered in Rabun County due to the COVID-19 national emergency.

The Clayton Tribune has compiled the following list of Rabun County resources that have been affected. This list is constantly being updated, and we urge you to check our website, www.theclaytontribune.com, or visit our Facebook page often.

During this emergency, The Clayton Tribune is making all of our coverage concerning the COVID-19 free of charge on our website as a public service, Publisher Wayne Knuckles announced Saturday.

Many restaurants have altered their hours and/or seating arrangements due to the emergency. 

A large number are offering drive-through, curb-side or pickup service.

Local stores report that supply trucks continue to arrive daily. Although some items are going as quickly as shelves can be restocked, new supplies are constantly being received.

Senior Center

Wanda Henry, director of the Rabun Senior Center in Tiger, said the facility will be closed through March 31 as the county undergoes precautions for elderly sickness.

Rabun Transit will operate for public rides and Department of Aging rides. The Meals on Wheels program will continue, but those interested should be advised of updates as the end of the month approaches.

“We are still trying to run Transit rides and we are still running Meals on Wheels as long as we can have some volunteers that still show up to help us,” she said. “Meals on Wheels, we have about 95 meals per day that we deliver.”

Tallulah Falls School

Following guidelines from national, state and local government officials, all Tallulah Falls School campus events, including athletics, are suspended until April 14, when students are scheduled to return from spring break, President and Head of School Larry Peevy said Tuesday. Spring break is April 3-13.

As the school follows the developing situation of COVID-19, its thoughts are always centered on decisions that are best for students, faculty and staff.

“I am working closely with our senior administrators to monitor and respond to this unprecedented public health situation,” he said. “The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remain a top priority.”

The school will re-evaluate these activities and communicate plans as soon as conditions develop. Peevy said information about further changes or adjustments to school-related activities will be posted on tallulahfalls.org and communicated directly to the TFS community.

The school is focusing on the transition to an online learning platform, which was set to launch Wednesday, March 18. Students, he said, are already comfortable with the Google platform using school-issued Chromebooks.

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School

The Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School posted last Saturday to its Twitter page that students would not return to campus from spring break until March 30 and on-campus classroom instruction would be scheduled for March 31. The school’s scheduled spring break was Feb. 28 through Monday.

“The very nature of Rabun Gap is built upon the importance of a tight-knit community, so it was a hard decision, albeit a necessary one, to not have our students return to campus from spring break,” said Head of School Jeff Miles.

The situation is changing daily, he said, and the school is constantly monitoring it while transitioning to an online learning program.

“Our top priority remains keeping our students, families, faculty and staff safe during this time,” Miles said. “In addition to focusing on safety, we are also committed to staying connected to and supporting our school family.”

Presidential Primaries

The Georgia Presidential Primary has been postponed from March 24 until May 19, elections officials said Monday. 

If you already voted, your vote WILL count, but Rabun County elections supervisor Tammy Whitmire is asking everyone to request an absentee ballot for voting in the presential primary election, but you can also vote your presidential preference in the May election. 

Around 250,000 ballots had already been cast during the early voting period for the partisan contest before the precincts were closed Saturday amid the COVID-19 scare, according to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. Elections officials were facing their first major statewide test of Georgia’s 30,000 new ballot-marking voting machines, which have been rolled out since summer to replace the state’s old touchscreen devices.

But as last week wore on, growing concerns about the health and safety of voters and workers at polling places led many poll workers to quit or not show up for training. The average age for poll workers in Georgia is 70, leaving them more at risk for harmful effects from the respiratory virus than younger age groups.

Rabun County Political Parties

Speakers for The Rabun County Republican meeting set for May 21 have been cancelled. The Republican party board of directors only will meet to vote on the delegates and alternates for the district and state levels 

The Rabun County Democrat Party has announced plans to meet by teleconference and other means to avoid bringing people in close contact with one another.

State Parks

 According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website, all DNR-managed Georgia State Parks and Historic Parks remain open.

Safety is the utmost priority, so the DNR assures visitors that facilities are being properly cleaned and restrooms are well stocked with soap. Hiking trails, fishing docks, campsites, accommodations and other amenities are available for those seeking quiet time in nature. Ranger programs are being evaluated to be consistent with public health recommendations.

To reduce check-in times, patrons may pay remaining balances online through their accounts and enjoy the convenience of going straight to your campsite, cabin or yurt. If checking in to a cabin, yurt or other locked facility, call the park office directly to receive additional check-in instructions. If preferred, visitors may also call the park office to pay balances. Park staff will be onsite to assist.

Foxfire Museum

The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center in Mountain City is taking precautions but staying open during the COVID-19 situation, and starting an oral history project about those affected.

An outdoor community space, Foxfire, according to executive director T.J. Smith, is implementing onsite safety measures to limit close interaction between visitors to the gift shop. Hand sanitizer is available in the gift shop, and the center encourages patrons to bring their own.

Smith said Foxfire is offering free bags, activity books, writing sticks, buttons-on-a-string and free admission to children ages 12 and younger. All other visitors will pay regular admission.

The bags were made up for school groups visiting in March and April, but several groups cancelled.

“We’ve got a surplus of educational materials that we want to make sure we get out to parents if they want to get their kids out of the house for a little bit in a space that’s open and outdoors,” Smith said.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Foxfire is inviting the community to help the museum document this moment in history.

A campaign to collect oral histories via crowdsourcing started Tuesday and will run through April 30, with possible extensions. The project is collecting self-recorded testimonies from individuals, families and groups from West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina or Alabama.

Those interested can find more information about format and submission requirements at www.foxfire.org or on the museum’s Facebook page.

Rabun County Library

The Rabun County Library is offering curb-side service to patrons while the library is closed temporarily.

Caroline Frick, library manager, said that patrons who have books on hold can come to the library and park.

Once they are in the parking lot, they call the library and give their library card number. Library staff then deliver their books to their cars, Frick explained.

“This is only for items they have on hold,” Frick said.

Patrons can return books at the blue boxes outside the library.

Frick said that the library has a large selection of “eBooks and audiobooks for adults and kids.”

She said that during this library closure, patrons can drop these off in the blue boxes as well.

Patrons can put library books on hold by going to rabuncountylibrary.org and choosing the box on the right-hand side labeled “PINES-Search the Catalog.”

Contact the library by phone at 706-782-3731.

Rabun County Welcome Center

The Rabun County Welcome Center will remain open but operate on a limited staff, according to Juanita Shope, president of the Rabun County Chamber of Commerce, on Monday.

“At this point, we have no plans to be closed,” Shope said.

Contact the Rabun County Welcome Center at 706-782-4812

City of Sky Valley

Sky Valley council members discussed COVID-19 at their meeting on Tuesday.

“I don’t think I need to tell you all that we are living in strange times,” said Mayor Hollie Steil, to a group of about 30 people who attended the meeting.

Steil said that amid this pandemic, it is necessary to address the business of the city and not isolate the citizens or limit public comment.

Steil said that basic services such as police patrolling, garbage pickup and street cleaning will still be in service.

“We as a city government want to make sure our citizens are healthy,” Steil said.

She said that they are consulting with the attorney about the legalities, but plan to conduct future meetings via online during the situation.

“We’re going to be prepared but we don’t need to panic,” Steil said. 

Food Bank of Northeast Georgia

The Food Bank is providing meals to first responders and medical personnel.

The Food Bank of Northeast Georgia Teaching Kitchen will be providing meals to all first responders and healthcare personnel beginning Wednesday, March 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

“During this time of uncertainty, the staff and volunteers of The Food Bank Northeast Georgia Teaching Kitchen will be preparing casseroles, soup and a variety of other dishes for local law enforcement, first responders and medical/healthcare personnel, according to Inger Smith, on the Teaching Kitchen Facebook page. 

There will be a refrigerated truck in the parking lot of The Food Bank for distribution and all patrons are asked to bring their credentials or show up in uniform. 

“We understand that you all are working extra hours to make sure our community remains safe and healthy,” Smith said. “Thank you so much for your service. The Teaching Kitchen is honored to support you as you support us!” 

“If anyone would like to make a financial contribution to support our efforts to feed those who are taking care of us, we would appreciate it,” Smith said. 

Celebrate Clayton

Celebrate Clayton is cancelled for April 2020. 

“Because of the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and calling off events for about eight weeks, we are going to cancel Celebrate Clayton until April 2021, said Cathy Ford, event coordinator, on Monday. 

Celebrate Clayton was scheduled in for April 25 and 26. 

Rotary Casino Night

The Rotary Club of Clayton has announced that Rotary Casino night, scheduled for April, has been postponed. The club hopes to reschedule the event for early fall.