ATHENS, Ga. — Athens-Clark County residents are now under a 24/7 shelter in place order after the mayor and commission unanimously approved an ordinance Thursday night.
The county said the order will last until April 7 "or until it is extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing by the Mayor and Commission."
According to the county, the purpose is "to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible."
The order to stay at home is critical, according to Athens-Clarke Mayor Kelly Girtz, in order to support hospitals and healthcare workers. Mayor Girtz said the county was already challenged to provide enough doctors, nurses and support staff even before the inclusion of coronavirus cases.
"So under any normal circumstances things are already tough," the mayor said. "Under these critical crisis circumstances, things are even more difficult. So we have to use every measure to make people practice social distancing and keep the spread of COVID-19 virus from happening."
The ordinance does allow that "essential services" and "essential businesses" continue -- as listed on page five of the provision. It prohibits all public gatherings outside of a household, requires all nonessential businesses to cease "except for minimum operations," prohibits nonessential travel, requires everyone to practice social distancing and more, including setting up housing for the homeless and installing temporary hand washing stations.
"You need to jog, we need you to jog," Girtz said, in regards to the exception for outdoor activity. "You need to get some sun. You need your mental health sound. If you're in a critical employment sector, we also need you to go to work, but what we don't need is unnecessarily browse for new lamp shades or jackets when we're in this critical time."
Among the exceptions are:
- To travel to work or school to obtain supplies/materials
- To obtain necessary supplies or medicines for your health or safety
- For outdoor exercise (as long as you abide by social distancing guidelines)
- To care for family members or pets
- To return home from outside of the county
- If you are ordered to be out by a police officer or judicial officer
Many businesses must close to the public, but many types are allowed to stay open. Among those are:
- Healthcare providers and facilities
- Retail businesses that sell food, like grocery and convenience stores
- Restaurants may be open for drive through and carry out only
- Social Services and Homeless Shelters
- Gas Stations and car repair/parts stores, hardware stores
- Service providers like plumbers and electricians
- Post offices and Shipping providers
- Laundromats and dry cleaners
- Transportation providers
- Legal services, accountants and realty companies
The ordinance reads, law enforcement "are authorized to support compliance with this Order through information delivery and education of individuals regarding the imminent threat to public health posed by COVID-19."
According to the mayor, businesses who do not follow the ordinance could be cited until they meet compliance.
'We care about the health of our people, and while we have to make some tough decisions in the short time, we want to make sure we get through this and come out of it successfully in the long term," Girtz said. "I need to make sure everyone of my residents here in Athens-Clarke county is someone I can continue to have a conversation with in twelve or eighteen months when we come out of this. We're acting to protect the public health."
Residents and businesses are encouraged to read the full document, here.
Flattening the Curve
Athens-Clarke County is the first metro Atlanta county to issue such an order. Earlier in the week, the City of South Fulton enacted a mandatory curfew.
In the City of Atlanta, the mayor signed an executive order closing restaurant dining rooms and closing bars, gyms and social clubs.
All of these efforts are to help flatten the curve of this pandemic.
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