ATLANTA — Generally during Memorial Day weekend, families and friends come together for barbecues, pool parties, and fun activities. But this year, things will be a little different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
State officials, including Gov. Brian Kemp, are asking Georgians to keep that in mind to make wise and safe decisions.
"This Memorial Day, we want everyone to have a good, safe weekend in accordance with public health guidance," he said during a news conference Thursday about the state's response to COVID-19.
There will also be enforcement of those guidelines.
"In addition to keeping the roadway safe, the beaches will be saturated with troopers and officers ensuring everyone is compliant with the governor's order with social distancing," said Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Colonel Gary Vowell.
"We'll be looking out for large gatherings, the rules of the beaches and making sure business, restaurant owners are following the guidelines set forth in the order," he said.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams went over some of those guidelines during the briefing.
"For social distancing the current guidance is that groups be limited to ten or fewer people and they should remain six feet apart at all times," Williams said.
State park day-use areas, golf courses, cottages and campground are open. However, Williams said, their playgrounds, splash pads and swimming pools will remain closed.
The DNR Law Enforcement Division has a zero-tolerance policy for boating under the influence. They are encouraging everyone to designate an operator, wear life jackets, watch their speed on the water, use navigation lights, and don't overload boats.
DNR officials said in a news release that there were 113 boating incidents with 26 fatalities in 2019, and Game Wardens made 209 boating under the influence arrests. And so far in 2020, there have been 40 boating incidents, which resulted in seven fatalities. They also said 25 people have been arrested for BUI. Additionally, there were 44 drownings statewide last year, and 14 so far this year.
To help enforce safety protocols, the DNR Law Enforcement Division will have 85 percent of it's statewide workforce on state waterways and beaches, Williams said.
Make sure you know the rules for boating, and DNR also encouraged Georgians to report anyone who is not following the guidelines or the governor's orders by calling the Law Enforcement Division Ranger Hotline at 1-800-241-4113.
As for the roads, officers will also be out. Vowell said last year during Memorial Day weekend, troopers investigated 430 traffic crashes, resulting in 241 injuries and 13 deaths. They also gave out 1,000 citations and arrested 384 impaired drivers. He's encouraging everyone to use a taxi, a rideshare, or designate a driver.
"I want everyone to enjoy this holiday have a safe holiday weekend and I want everyone to practice social distancing," Vowell said.