Tag office photo

Matt Hamilton/Daily Citizen-News

Krista Smith works at the tag office at the Whitfield County courthouse. When the courthouse reopens to the public on Monday, customers at the tag office will notice glass has been installed on the counters to help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

Whitfield County officials will begin reopening some of the county's administrative offices to the public on Monday. But people entering the buildings will be asked to observe federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on social distancing.

“It’s not business as usual,” county Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said Thursday night during a live-streamed conference call with the public. "But we’re starting to open up."

Laughter said the commissioners' called meeting on Monday at 5 p.m. will be "virtual" and will be live-streamed.

She said some staff will continue to work at home until Monday, May 11.

The county closed administrative offices in the Wells Fargo building, Administrative Building 1 and the courthouse on March 18 because of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Visitors to some county offices, particularly those in the courthouse, will see some changes when the offices reopen.

Tax Commissioner Danny Sane said he has installed glass on the counters in the tag office and has staff wearing gloves and masks, and will be limiting the number of people inside. He said he also has spaces lined off with tape 6 feet apart outside the office to remind anyone lined up to maintain social distancing.

"I'm asking people if they just need to renew a tag, and not get a title, to please, please not come in," he said. "We've got a dropbox outside you can put that in. You can put it in the mail or do it over the internet. We are taking credit cards over the phone."

The state extended the deadline for tag renewals due between March 16 and May 14 to May 15.

"We are just short of 8,000 transactions behind, and we don't have many days to take care of that before May 15," Sane said. "Plus, we have our normal 475 decals a day we have to do. So you can imagine if people start coming in, they are going to be in line for a while."

Whitfield County Chief Registrar Mary Hammontree said the elections office will open on Monday "but with caution."

"There will be a table outside our door entrance with voter registration forms and applications for absentee ballots," she said.

She said she will be following CDC guidelines and limiting the number of people in the office.

"The ballot drop box is outside the front of the building for voters to drop off their absentee ballots so they will not have to come into the courthouse," she said. "It is under surveillance and is locked, it will be checked twice daily on the weekdays and one time each day during the weekend."

Hammontree said she plans to have glass installed on the counters inside the office.

Chief Justice Harold Melton of the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an order extending a declaration of statewide judicial emergency until May 13 and that will remain in effect.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington said city offices will reopen to the public on Friday, May 1.

Murray County Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan said he will continue with plans to reopen county offices there to the public on May 14.

Editor's note: In an effort to keep the community updated on news about the new coronavirus (COVID-19), articles posted to our website under "Breaking News" are available to everyone for free, whether or not you're a subscriber. We encourage you to support us by subscribing to the Daily Citizen-News or by buying a copy of the newspaper at a local store or newspaper box.

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