April 20, 2020
Dear Blue Ridge Residents and Friends,
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Governor, Brian Kemp, Covid-19, Coronavirus, Business, Reopen

City of Blue Ridge Mayor Donna Whitener

Gov. Brian Kemp rolled back many of the social distancing restrictions today that have been in place to mitigate the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Fitness centers, body art studios, bowling alleys, barbers, hair and nail salons and massage therapy businesses can reopen Friday, April 24. Theaters and restaurants can reopen on Monday, April 27. Bars, music venues and nightclubs will remain closed for now.

The governor’s action preempts local restrictions. The state policy will be mandatory for all counties and cities – although citizens are certainly entitled to continue their own practices to avoid exposure to the coronavirus.
At a press conference today, Kemp said: “In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus’ spread, today we’re announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy.”

Just as many people in our community opposed the stay-at-home restrictions that Blue Ridge, Morganton, McCaysville and Fannin County adopted last month, many other citizens said we did not act fast enough. With Gov. Kemp’s action today, there will be similar division among our neighbors.

My recommendation is to adhere to the stay-at-home, social distancing guidelines that we have followed for a month. Wear masks when going outside. Avoid unnecessary trips. Wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer often.
The spread of the coronavirus appears to be slowing – but the spread continues. There are 19,399 confirmed cases in the state, and 775 deaths. A day ago there were 18,489 cases and 689 deaths.

The latest number is 19 confirmed cases in Fannin County, up 4 cases in just a day. True, the number of cases remains small, but any increase is troubling.

Sadly, we’ve had our first death.

How to stop that sort of spread: The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce issued a statement: “Community members have contracted COVID-19 from contact at area big box stores. It is essential for your protection, the protection of others and for the flattening of the curve – that we all wear masks when in public. This is a CDC recommendation. A mask can be as simple as a bandana or a scarf that covers your mouth and nose. Continue to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.”

Wearing a mask is strongly suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: People can “transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).”

The Fannin County Emergency Management Agency makes the same urgent request: Wear a face mask when going out in public.

The latest projections show the peak numbers of cases and deaths in Georgia hitting during the first days in May, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Those projections show that the peak number of deaths per day at 91 on May 3. More than 3,700 people in Georgia will have died by August 4, according to the IHME. Those projections are if – and only if – we follow the current social distancing guidelines in place.

And, while the numbers of total hospital beds in Georgia is sufficient for the peak, the state’s hospitals will face a shortage in early May of 218 intensive care unit (ICU) beds.

Those projections are not certainties. The increase in deaths, for example, would be a five-fold increase in a mere two weeks. If we continue the social distancing and other precautions, it is my prayer that we beat the predictions.