City issues stay-at-home order, tightens restrictions

  • The Dahlonega City Council unanimously passed a stay-at-home order within city limits during a Special Called Meeting via the ZOOM teleconferencing app on Wednesday, April 1. The order will take effect this Friday, April 3.
    The Dahlonega City Council unanimously passed a stay-at-home order within city limits during a Special Called Meeting via the ZOOM teleconferencing app on Wednesday, April 1. The order will take effect this Friday, April 3.
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Daycares facilities, barber shops, fitness centers and many other businesses deemed “non-essential” will be forced to close in the City of Dahlonega after the council tightened the restrictions of its coronavirus-related State of Emergency while also issuing a stay-at-home order for city residents.

The decision came after much discussion and comments from the public during a Special Called Meeting on Wednesday, April 1, held via Zoom teleconference.

The measure will go into effect Friday, April 3.

“This thing has taken off like a rocket,” said Mayor Sam Norton in reference to the spread of the virus. “You may not believe in the virus, but the virus believes in you. Public safety is our main priority with economics being below that.”

The number of positive cases for Lumpkin County went up to seven people after holding steady at four for three consecutive days. (This number was actually reduced from an announced total of eight Tuesday morning.)

Councilman Johnny Ariemma agreed that swift action needed to be taken.

“The tsunami is definitely coming,” he said. “At first, I looked at this situation and said, ‘let’s let folks here and everywhere else to do the right thing.’ Unfortunately, a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch of barrels. A lot of people know what my position was a couple weeks ago, with the curfew and other things, but I didn’t get it. I get it now. I know how serious this is now. We’re all paying a huge price. These a tough decisions we are making, but let’s all play a role in this and be on the same page here.”  

The new stay-at-home order dictates that City of Dahlonega residents must “stay at their place of residence” unless they’re engaging in a list of approved activities. The order also closes all businesses deemed non-essential

(For all exempt activites and essential business see the list at the bottom of this story.)

GIVING UP GOLF

Golf at Achasta remained on the non-essential list of businesses, despite a push from councilman Ron Larson and councilwoman Helen Hardman to keep the course open to Lumpkin County residents only.

“We all have to make sacrifices,” said councilman Mitch Ridley. “With us passing a stay-at-home order, it doesn’t look good from the road to see people in Achasta playing golf.”

Lumpkin County Commission chair Chris Dockery agreed and told the council that the county is postponing reopening Yahoola Creek Park for some of the same reasons.

“With the city putting in place a stay-at-home order, it would be unwise for the county to reopen the park as it would give the wrong impression,” said Dockery. “The county is postponing reopening the park and there is no projected date to reopen it at this time.”

NEW RULES AND REGULATIONS

For operation of essential businesses, outside of health care operations, the number of persons including employees and others allowed inside each location at any given time shall be no more than one per 300 square feet of interior floor space and that persons shall not be within six feet of each other for extended periods of time. Additionally, any essential businesses which remain open must post signage on entrance doors of the business informing customers that they must maintain at least six feet of personal distance between themselves and others as much as possible given the physical constraints of the premises.

Persons who are performing or accessing essential governmental functions are exempt from this order. Other exemptions include all essential infrastructure employees identified in the amendment.

Businesses and services deemed non-essential per the amendment would be all establishments providing body care services which require close physical contact between the provider and client such as barbers, hair design and salons, spas, cosmetology, esthetician salons, massage therapy, tattooing and nail care. Per the amendment those businesses would be order to close for business. Day care facilities and similar child care facilities would also be closed per the amendment.

Non-essential businesses are still allowed to continue minimum basic operations such as inventory, ensuring security, processing payrolls and employee benefits or other related functions. Non-essential businesses can also perform the minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.

ALCOHOL ORDERS

The council also discussed and passed by a measure rewording the language concerning alcohol sales by restaurants and other consumption on-premises alcohol licensees. The amendment changed the wording of the original provision of Ordinance 2020-18 by specifying that “such sales can only occur on a day or at a time when the sales of package beer or wine is allowed by law.”

The amendment further specified that “a restaurant or other consumption on-premises alcohol licensee is prohibited from selling distilled spirits for carry-out purposes or through its drive-in window.”

The sales of alcohol by these establishments is only permitted “as part of a food order.”

The alcohol sales amendment took effect immediately after the council voted on the provision and will be in effect until April 9, 2020, unless terminated or extended by further action of the council.

STATE ACTION

Much of the stay-at-home order may be preempted by Governor Brian Kemp’s stay-at-home order that took place at the same time as the council’s meeting. However, some of the city’s restrictions are stricter than those proposed by Kemp.

“The Governor has been slow to act,” Norton said. “Given the fact that we don’t know what actions the Governor will take, we’re going to push forward and have this waiting in the wings to ensure the safety and health of our community.”

The amendment to Ordinance 2020-18 (alcohol sales) and the passing of Ordinance 2020-20 (stay-at-home order) will be enforced by the City Marshal’s office through information delivery and education of individuals about the terms of the order and the imminent threat posed by COVID 19.

The enforcement duty was given to the Marshal’s Office in recognition that “the City does not have the personnel or resources to monitor and police these requirements.”

“Most of what is in the stay-at-home order will be self-enforcing and self-policed,” Norton said.

The stay-at-home order was passed unanimously with the amendment made for short term lodging for essential business visitors only and the order will take effect on Friday, April 3, 2020, and will expire by its own terms at 11:59 p.m. on April 17, 2020, unless terminated or extended by further action of the council.

The order will be revisited during the council’s standing meeting on Wednesday, April 15.

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The approved stay-at-home order dictates that City of Dahlonega residents must stay at their place of residence, except to engage in activities or tasks essential to an individual or family member’s health and safety (including pets); to obtain necessary services and supplies for themselves, their family or household or to deliver those services or supplies to others; to engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals remain at least six feet from each other; to perform work for essential businesses or essential services; to care for an elderly person or someone who is medically fragile or a family member or pet in another household; and, to engage in essential governmental functions, which are defined as any and all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of any governmental agency.

The amendment defined essential services as: all types of health care operations, including but not limited to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, physical therapy, dental offices, doctor’s offices, research and laboratory operations; home-based care for seniors and adults; veterinary operations, federal, state, county and municipal services; utilities; banks and credit unions; essential infrastructure such as telecommunications, including Lyft, Uber, taxis and delivery services which deliver or ship foods or goods to homes or businesses; manufacturing and construction, provided all persons are required to remain at a distance of six feet from each other; businesses selling food as part or all of their inventory; businesses that supply products needed for people to work at home; pharmacies; professional services such as legal, accounting and real estate provided they maintain six-foot distancing throughout the work day; businesses that perform repair work for businesses and homes; trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal; mail and shipping services; lodging businesses, including hotels and motels, which was amended by the council to be for essential business visitors only; laundromats and dry cleaning; janitorial services, including residential and commercial cleaning and maintenance; providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations such as homeless and battered women populations; auto service, repair and gas stations, including convenience stores; and, public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, if operating under rules for social distancing.

The amendment specifies that gyms and fitness centers are not considered health care operations.

The entirety of the stay-at-home order can be read at the city’s website (dahlonega.gov).