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Commissioners plead with youth: Stay home

Crisp County Commissioner Larry Felton told his fellow commissioners, staff, and others attending Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the county commission that one of his nieces, in her early thirties, has tested positive for COVID-19 and urged younger people to heed social distancing protocols and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s stay-at-home guidelines.

“Stay home, you know what I’m saying? I have a niece out there at the hospital now who is fighting for her life. You don’t know who might be carrying the disease,” Felton said during Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock’s report to the commission.

Felton said he has serious concerns that many residents aren’t taking the highly contagious coronavirus, which has killed at least 501 Georgians, including one here in Crisp County and another in Dooly, seriously enough.

“We know for a fact that there are people in this community sick with COVID who went to a funeral, went to a gathering after the funeral, and then got mad because law enforcement asked them to disperse and complained about us doing our job,” Hancock responded. “And now there are individuals in the hospital [with COVID-19] who were there at that gathering.”

“A lot of people could be carrying coronavirus and not even know it,” said Commissioner James Nance. “It’s very dangerous.”

Hancock reiterated that gatherings should not exceed 10 people, and those people should maintain six feet of distance.

He told the commission that for the first time in his career he monitored three separate events out of the county emergency management agency’s emergency operations center this past weekend: the COVID-19 pandemic, the statewide weather event that saw six north Georgia residents killed in storms, and local Easter Sunday gatherings.

“For the most part the community did great Sunday,” Hancock said regarding traditional Easter Sunday gatherings. “There were some people we encountered over the weekend that we had to encourage to disperse, but everybody did within reason what we wanted them to do.”

He also explained some of the procedures he has taken to ensure that the pandemic does not make its way through the county detention facility, including screening new offenders and setting up a virtual courtroom for bond hearings and other procedural matters.

Hancock also said he has heard some complaints about people not being able to use the county’s fingerprinting operation to apply for gun permits.

“It’s not essential at this time,” Hancock said, “but we will certainly do what the government and the courts tell us to on these matters.”

In other business, commissioners:

• approved a proclamation naming the week of April 19-25 as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week,

• passed a proclamation honoring Mrs. Johnnie Pickens Bell on her 75th birthday

• approved a rezoning request from Rose Land, LP for a parcel to be rezoned from general commercial to heavy commercial

• heard from Finance Director Sherrie Leverett that sales tax revenue collections will be down as a result of the economic slowdown caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Leverett said it will likely be a matter of years and not months before a complete recovery.