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Think you can escape to the North Georgia mountains to avoid COVID-19? It depends

The Bear Claw Winery in Blue Ridge is usually a popular tourist spot in the spring in Fannin County.
The Bear Claw Winery in Blue Ridge is usually a popular tourist spot in the spring in Fannin County.

Credit: Contributed by Bear Claw Winery

Credit: Contributed by Bear Claw Winery

While most of metro Atlanta has been sheltering in place or enduring curfews due to the coronavirus pandemic, those in the North Georgia mountains have been enjoying the beginning of spring.

Across the nine northeast Georgia mountain counties, the Georgia Department of Public Health has found and confirmed only 10 cases of COVID-19. Five of those counties — Gilmer, Habersham, Rabun, Towns and Union — don't have a single recorded case.

By comparison, Fulton County has more than 370.

RELATED: In hard-hit Georgia, virus expected to linger

However, more than half of those nine counties declared states of emergency this past week, with one making it illegal for Atlantans to visit.

As the Fannin County Sheriff's Administration wrote on its Facebook page Thursday, people from Atlanta will "ABSOLUTELY NOT!!" be allowed in the county, even if they own property.

While the sheriff's office itself does not have an official Facebook, the department has posted coronavirus information on its website.

The county’s state of emergency prohibits people in cities and counties who are under a shelter in place policy or curfew from visiting, since that would be breaking their county’s laws. That includes people who own land in both areas.

MORE: Shelter in place order: What it means for you and local businesses

“Any person who is a resident of a State, County or County subject to a stay-at-home Order or stay-at-home restriction and who is not currently physically present in Fannin County Georgia shall not be allowed to enter the County limits during the period this Ordinance is in effect,” according to the Fannin state of emergency, which went into effect Wednesday.

Violators could be fined $1,000. But it’s unclear how the county plans to enforce the policy, since federal and state highways will remain open and unaffected.

Habersham County sheriff’s Lt. Matthew Wurtz told AJC.com that he lives in neighboring White County, which is among those that enacted its own state of emergency. However, only the city of Blue Ridge has a section similar to Fannin’s order, and Wurtz is curious how it could be enforced.

“If that be the case, I wouldn't be able to get out and go to work, and I'm in law enforcement,” Wurtz said. “... I don't know how the logistics work out without burning the candle at both ends, so to speak.”

ALSO: Kemp bans many gatherings, orders shelter in place for 'medically fragile' in Georgia

AJC.com reached out to the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office to try to learn more about the policy’s enforcement, but Sheriff Dane Kirby was not available before publication.

Even if someone escaped to the mountains and expected an extended vacation in the wilderness, their outdoor options are significantly limited.

The counties with states of emergency in place have closed dine-in restaurant service and tourism-related activities and have either encouraged or mandated shelter in place policies of their own. Some counties without states of emergency, such as Stephens, have also canceled many events and gatherings.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture closed most recreation sites, including many in other regions of Georgia. For a full list, click here.

To read the full states of emergency passed by cities and counties in the North Georgia mountains, click the links below:

• City of Blue Ridge

• City of Cleveland

• City of Dahlonega

• City of Ellijay

• Fannin County

• Gilmer County

• Habersham County

• City of Helen (via WhiteCountyNews.net)

• City of Hiawassee

• Lumpkin County

• City of McCaysville (via FetchYourNews.com)

• Towns County

• White County

In other news:

The man is now in self-quarantine because he spent 24 hours in jail.