Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield issued an emergency order Monday morning, March 23, aimed at slowing the spread of novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19.
The order requires all restaurants, bars, private clubs, and similar food or drink establishments to close their dining rooms no later than 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The order applies to all dine-in food service in Walker County, regardless of whether the establishment is in a city or unincorporated area.
“We hope our restaurants will choose to continue servicing customers during this unprecedented crisis by utilizing drive-thru, curbside pickup, carryout and/or delivery options,” said Whitfield. “For eating establishments licensed to serve alcohol, we are also relaxing rules that might have prevented them from providing additional menu items.”
Along with new restrictions on dine-in food service, the order prohibits social gatherings of 10 or more people, requires gym and fitness centers to close, and restricts visitation at nursing homes, retirement homes, long-term care and assisted living facilities in Walker County. The order follows a reduction in Walker County government operations to mission-critical services that took effect today (Monday, March 23).
“There is clear evidence of widespread exposure in our region to COVID-19, presenting a serious risk to the health, safety and welfare of all Walker County residents. We must work together as a community to send a clear message about the seriousness of this pandemic if we are to slow the spread,” Whitfield said.
The emergency order will remain in effect for the duration of the county’s local state of emergency for the COVID-19 public health crisis. A local state of emergency was issued on March 18, 2020.
Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield signed a local state of emergency declaration Wednesday, March 18, at 5:30 p.m. to protect the health and safety of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move follows President Trump’s national emergency declaration and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s public health emergency declaration.
“While there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Walker County, there is a clear indication of community spread in Northwest Georgia,” Whitfield said. “The health and safety of the public is our top concern and we should be prepared to utilize every resource available to us to reduce the spread of this virus.”
This proactive move allows Walker County to tap into resources offered by the state and federal government to combat the spread of COVID-19. Some of the resources available include access to decontamination kits, medical supplies and additional manpower to staff shelters in the event they are needed.
Under the state of Georgia’s declaration, Walker County is eligible for reimbursement of expenses incurred in response to the pandemic.
Walker County government operations were reduced to mission critical services, effective Monday, March 23. Commissioner Shannon Whitfield made the announcement March 20 via the county’s Facebook page, stating it was time for the local community to do more to slow the spread of COVID-19, aka coronavirus.
“Because of the slow rollout of testing in the state and the clear evidence of community spread in our region, it is imperative that we enact additional measures to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” Whitfield said. “While there are currently no ‘confirmed’ cases of COVID-19 in Walker County, that doesn’t mean this invisible enemy isn’t here. Many residents report having symptoms, but they have not been tested due to a shortage of resources.”
Emergency management, fire rescue, law enforcement, ambulance services and 911 will remain open, along with the landfill and transit. Many other services will be impacted. A complete list of operational changes is available at https://walkercountyga.gov/covid19/.
Whitfield also encouraged local restaurants to close voluntarily their dining rooms and to serve customers via drive-thru and delivery options only. Event organizers and community groups with planned gatherings of more than 10 people have been urged to postpone or cancel their functions as well.
“This is an unprecedented crisis that we are all dealing with, but Walker Countians are fighters. We will rise to this challenge and pull through it together,” Whitfield said.
In addition to working to slow the spread of COVID-19, Walker County government will explore options to lessen the burden financially on its citizens. Whitfield is expected to announce some of those efforts this week.
Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield announced Friday, March 20, that he will temporarily suspend all campaign activities related to the scheduled May 19 election for board chair of the newly formed Walker County Board of Commissioners.
The announcement comes at a time when county resources are aimed at public safety amid health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, he said.
Citing his duties and responsibilities as sole commissioner, Whitfield issued the following statement: “As a community, we are working through an unprecedented challenge. This challenge demands my singular focus and commitment. Therefore, effective immediately, I am temporarily suspending all campaign-related activities until further notice.”
Whitfield added, “While I look forward to comparing and contrasting our respective visions for the future of our county, my duty, first and foremost, is to the health and safety of our residents during this time of public crisis.
“Additionally, I would like to publicly thank the team of men and women in county government that are working tirelessly on your behalf during this challenging time. Their effectiveness and heart for public service is both inspiring and commendable.
“Finally, our hearts are uplifted by the countless organizations and individuals that have reached out to county leadership offering encouragement, prayers, and service to those in need within our community. You are an inspiration to us all, and what makes Walker County our cherished home.”
As part of our commitment to our readers and the communities which we live in and serve, we have removed our paywall for at least the next few weeks so everyone has access to our continuing coverage of the spread of coronavirus locally and statewide. For everyone who supports local journalism through their paid subscriptions, we’d like to say we appreciate you and your continued support.
Walker County’s coroner, whose name has been stricken from the May 19 ballot, expects the issue to be resolved so that his name will be put back on the ballot.
Dewayne Wilson, an incumbent who has held the position since 2001, qualified during the week of March 2-6 to run for re-election and was expected to face off against William H. “Billy” Sims in the Republican primary on May 19.
Wilson had until noon March 20 to explain a bounced check to allow his name to go back on the ballot. Walker County Director of Elections and Registration Danielle Montgomery said she had not heard from the county attorney at that deadline whether the necessary paperwork had been completed.
“We believe that Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union should have honored Mr. Wilson’s check when it was presented,” Wilson’s attorney, David Lockhart, wrote in an email March 20. “We are working with TVFCU and hope to receive certification from the credit union that the check was returned due to bank error. There have been delays in communication because of the Wuhan virus, but we do believe that Mr. Wilson’s name will appear on the May ballot without litigation against TVFCU.”
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Walker County over the last 20 years and, indeed, to do everything possible to continue to serve the citizens as their county coroner in the future with their support and Lord willing,” Wilson said.