Local politicians dine with Joe Diffie before coronavirus death

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) Less than a week before Joe Diffie tested positive for coronavirus in Nashville and two days before he dined at Lorrie Morgan's Spicy Hot Chicken Coop in Panama City Beach, the singer was a guest alongside approximately 70 others—including local politicians—at a John Pitts Men's Club gathering March 17.

Country singer Joe Diffie was in Panama City Beach days before testing positive for coronavirus. (WJHG)

NewsChannel 7 has confirmed Bay County commissioners Bill Dozier, Tommy Hamm, and Keith Baker attended, as did Panama City Beach city councilmen Paul Casto and Phil Chester.

Although nobody on site was aware of Diffie's condition until after his death, guests we've spoken to say they took reasonable care that night and nobody has experienced any symptoms.

"Everybody there was practicing good common sense," District One Commissioner Tommy Hamm said. "There was hand sanitizer, no shaking hands. Tables were spaced far apart. We were sitting outside in a field."

The event took place one day after a March 16 CDC advisory to "avoid social gatherings in groups of ten or more people" to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Hamm and Casto told NewsChannel 7 they did not know Diffie was there that night. District Three Commissioner Bill Dozier spoke to the musician briefly.

"As I was leaving, somebody said, 'Hey Bill, I want to introduce you to my friend!' It was Joe Diffie," Dozier recalled. "I shook his hand. Since I was headed out, I told him 'it's good to meet you' and gave myself a few squirts of hand sanitizer and headed out to my truck. We've learned a lot more in these last two weeks. Everybody is very cautious about keeping their six feet and I recommend that."

Dozier added he is isolating for two more days despite showing no signs of the illness.

On March 19, Diffie dined with friend and country collaborator Lorrie Morgan at her Laketown Wharf restaurant, complaining of a stomach ache before arriving. He tested positive upon returning to Nashville the following day and died March 29.

Morgan closed the restaurant and all employees are isolating. None have reported symptoms.

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