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During COVID-19, Memorial Day Weekend Looks Different At Lake Chatuge

Courtesy of Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce
Lake Chatuge sits on the Georgia-North Carolina border.



Georgia and North Carolina have taken very different paths in responding to COVID-19. As Memorial Day approaches, BPR heads to a lake that lies in both states: Lake Chatuge is a man-made lake capped by the Chatuge Dam. It straddles the line between Georgia and North Carolina in Towns County and Clay County respectively. 


“It’s really gotten busy this week.” 


That’s Dwayne Phillips. He owns Lake Chatuge Boat Marine. The marina has been operating since 1972. Phillips and his family took over in 2014. He says this season has already been especially busy despite COVID-19. 


“There’s nothing like being on the lake. I’m not ready to go to a concert or a theme park where there are a lot of people yet,” says Phillips, who is also on the Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce. 


His business has been practicing social distancing and additional sanitation to keep safe. Many customers are from Atlanta and Florida.  


“There are a lot of people from our area that come from the hotspots. In fact, that’s why I’m cautious,” says Phillips. 


Candace Lee ispresident of the Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce. She says that in the summer the Towns County population more than doubles. Lee says visitors have been at the lake since spring break in March - when the stay-at-home order was still in effect. 


“It was a big surprise. We were all sheltering at home but they weren’t,” says Lee. She explains that this was especially difficult because there is just one grocery store in the county. 


Both sides of the lake have been impacted by COVID-19.  While the western tip of North Carolina has been a local hotspot for the virus, District 2 - the Georgia health district that Towns County is a part of – is now a regional hotspot. 


“We have 13 counties in our district and we’re the most Northeastern part of Georgia. We do border both North Carolina and South Carolina with our counties.” 


That’s Dave Palmer, public information officer for District 2. He’s located in Gainesville in Hall County, where there have beenover 2,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 40 deaths. A temporary 20-bed ICU was erected in the town this month. 


Gainesville is just over an hour away from Lake Chatuge.


Palmer says that the numbers of cases in his district have been beginning to flatten in recent weeks, despite the fact that they have increased testing. He has this advice over the holiday weekend:


“We would encourage people to enjoy outdoor activities, but to remain vigilant and to keep your distance from other people,” says Palmer.  


Rain is in the forecast for this Memorial Day weekend – this will potentially decrease the number of people at the lake.


Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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