Lumpkin County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday morning to adopt a resolution declaring a state of emergency in the county, aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19. “Get ahead to stop the spread,” said Board Chairman Chris Dockery. Also adopted was a resolution urging the public to follow CDC guidelines—social distancing and limiting interaction with others—while Northeast Georgia Health System and other local medical officials would like to see people stay home for the next 14 days.
The BOC didn’t go that far. However, it has ordered all indoor recreation, gym, fitness and entertainment facilities to close effective immediately.
All restaurants and anywhere food is served—including vineyards/tasting rooms and B&Bs—are to discontinue seated dining, inside or outside. Delivery, take-out and drive thru are still allowed.
Public and private gathering are limited to 10 people outside of a person’s home. This includes wedding venues, but not business activities or medical services.
Those exhibiting symptoms recognized by the CDC are being told to remain out of the public.
Churches are to limit density at all services, and are encouraged to use social media or other methods of broadcasting services. Funeral homes are likewise to limit density, even at graveside services.
Commissioner Jeff Moran objected to shutting down the area’s restaurants ability to serve sit-down dining.
“Unless we’re going to shut down gas stations, convenience stores, shops [and other businesses] it seems to me we are unfairly targeting the restaurant industry, and we’re not willing to bail them out [financially]. It seems like government overreach to me,” he said. “I talked to one of the wineries. They have changed their business model. They’re using disposable salt and pepper and cups, distancing tables.”
He added that many of the wineries have outdoor seating and customers would not be in an enclosed space.
“If we allow it at wineries, what about all the restaurants in town that have outside seating?” Dockery said.
Dockery said Dahlonega Mayor Sam Norton spoke with Shenanigans owner Deb Rowe over the weekend. Shenanigans does have outdoor seating.
“When they looked there were three metro-Atlanta license tags for every one local, he told me,” Dockery said.
Commissioner Rhett Stringer is also concerned about people bringing the virus from the southern counties northward.
“You’ve got 200 people coming up here, walking our trails then coming into town to the restaurants. I think we should just close down all the parks and trails and that will take care of the problem,” he said.
“Anything that would discourage outside visitors would be wise,” Dockery agreed. “We’ll put a sign at the reservoir and picnic area that they are closed, and get with the city to see about Hancock Park.
“In the end, we’re going to be judged by what we do now. We need to get in front of this thing. I don’t think we know how bad it’s going to get. We can’t weigh economics against the public’s health. I’m on the side of caution.”
‘DO WHAT’S RIGHT’
Dockery encouraged his fellow commissioners to adopt the resolution as presented, do some research and get expert advice on whether outdoor dining should be restricted.
“We can always come back and make adjustments. We can reassess weekly—daily if you want. But right now we need to do what my old sergeant used to tell me—do what’s right, not what’s popular,” he said.
In the end, the vote was unanimous. Moran said he felt there were “too many holes” in the resolution. But as long as the resolution would be revisited, he was willing to vote yes.
Unless changes are made, the resolution will expire April 30.
There are penalties for noncompliance with the provisions of the ordinance. If convicted, the offender would be guilty of a misdemeanor that carried a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 60 days.
The ordinance can be enforced by both the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office and the EMA Director.