Just a handful of Georgia counties have no reported coronavirus cases

Rural Georgia communities fear it’s only a matter of time
The historic Peebles House in Glascock County, where there were no reported cases of COVID-19, as of Friday morning. Jennifer Brett/jennfer.brett@ajc.com

The historic Peebles House in Glascock County, where there were no reported cases of COVID-19, as of Friday morning. Jennifer Brett/jennfer.brett@ajc.com

About 125 miles southeast of Atlanta lies rural Glascock County, where there is a pervasive fear that it’s just a matter of time before someone tests positive for the novel coronavirus.

As of Friday afternoon, the tiny community was among just three out of Georgia’s 159 counties with no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

It helps that Glascock – named after Thomas Glascock, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Seminole War — is small, spread out and not bisected by an interstate, said Lori Boyen, chairman of the Glascock County Commission. Glascock is home to roughly 3,000 residents.

County officials have closed school classrooms and government offices and encouraged people to follow Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order. Local churches have shut their doors.

But Glascock cannot seal itself off from the rest of the state. Many of its residents work as nurses in Augusta and Richmond County, which has dozens of confirmed COVID-19 cases. And shoppers come from outside Glascock to buy groceries there.

“That has been the conversation that our group has had all along — that it is not a matter of if, it is really a matter of when,” Boyen said. “The fact that we may get one — it would not surprise anyone. But we are doing everything we can and encouraging everyone to stay at home and obey (the governor’s) order.”

Evans County learned of its first case Friday, said Evans County Administrator Casey Burkhalter. Montgomery and Taliaferro counties had no confirmed cases as of Friday morning, although officials expected things could change.

“I cannot tell you that Montgomery County will not have a confirmed case in the future, but I can tell you there are more prayers and faith being spread here than this virus,” Montgomery County Manager Brandon Braddy said in an email, adding that the county had declared a state of emergency and is promoting state and federal health guidelines.

» RELATED: Outbreak apparently taking a heavier toll on blacks

To help prevent the spread of the disease, Rachel and Fred DeLoach set up a handwashing station outside Hometown Market & Meat, the grocery store they own in Gibson, Glascock's county seat. They are not allowing more than three customers in their store at the same time during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the scarcity of meat in neighboring counties has created more business for them.

“I just had a lady in here from Sandersville, which is 30 miles away, tell us that they still don’t have any meat in Sandersville,” said Rachel DeLoach, who buys her store’s produce and eggs in Atlanta. “So we are pulling people from other counties that have (COVID-19) into our store. We are a little worried. And that is why I take extra precautions.”

Scott Veal owns Scott's Place in Gibson. His restaurant has suffered a roughly 15% decline in sales amid the pandemic, though his takeout and delivery sales are brisk. His burgers are been among his biggest sellers.

“We are hanging in there,” he said. “I have added another phone line because of people calling in for takeout and deliveries. We do curbside (sales.) All our people — they have been really generous and they support us really good. We have been blessed in all of this. It is not nearly as bad as it could have been.”