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Crisp declares state of emergency

Crisp County’s Board of Commissioners passed an emergency declaration Friday in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic as Crisp Regional Hospital President and CEO Steve Gautney reported that he expects a positive COVID-19 test from a Crisp County patient to be returned by public health officials any day now.

The emergency declaration, which was also signed off on by Cordele Commission Chairman John Wiggins and Arabi Mayor Craig Huckaby, does not specifically impose a curfew or close down businesses, but it does provide the framework for law enforcement to ramp up enforcement if social distancing measures don’t slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock, who also serves as the county’s emergency management director, said every resident in Crisp County should be taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

“We’re going to have to take it seriously, because there could be deaths. I hope our community realizes there have been a lot of professionals watching this and looking at it around the clock. Everything we’re doing in terms of emergency management is looking to the future. We’re trying to make sure we don’t have a large number of people that get COVID-19, and we’re trying to make sure that, if we do, that we have the proper equipment to treat those people safely,” Hancock said.

The emergency declaration notes that, beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday and ending no sooner than Sunday, April 5 at 11:59 p.m., “a voluntary shelter in place policy is hereby implemented requesting that individuals not loiter, wander, stroll, or play in any public place within the territorial limits of Crisp County.” Exceptions are in place for people traveling to and from work, procuring food or medicine, or seeking medical care, and in other situations (see full text of ordinance on page three).

The declaration also decrees that “all public assemblages, events, and gatherings within the territorial limits of the Unified Government of Crisp County, Georgia shall be prohibited of ten (10) or more people, not including employees, in restaurants, bars, and/or entertainment establishments…”

The ordinance also mandates local restaurants to “immediately limit its occupancy to 50 % of its current building occupancy,” ensure a 6-foot distance between any group of patrons, limit parties to no more than 10 people, and to screen employees who may have symptoms of a respiratory infection, “including cough, fever, shortness of breath or sore throat” or have traveled through an airport, on a cruise ship, or been in contact with anyone known to be infected with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.

“We still don’t have a positive result [for COVID-19] here in Crisp County,” said Crisp Regional Hospital President and CEO Steve Gautney. “We’ve tested around 25 people. I expect some of those to come back positive. The testing timeline is running about seven to eight days.”

Gautney said the goal of social distancing in general and the county’s emergency declaration in particular is to prevent the local healthcare network from becoming overwhelmed by a swarm of new cases all at one time. He praised people who are volunteering to sew masks for healthcare professionals and for innovators who are working to solve problems related to the coronavirus pandemic.

But, he said, the time is now for an emergency declaration to be in place in case the problems coronavirus has visited on Albany’s health system come to Crisp County.

“It’s not going to be popular, but it’s going to save lives,” Hancock told commissioners before they voted unanimously to adopt the emergency measure and a companion piece of legislation that provides for county business, like business license renewals and similar permitting matters, to be continued through the end of the emergency period.

The sheriff stressed that the county emergency declaration is designed with flexibility for local business owners in mind.

“If anything, this measure errs a little bit on the side of the businessman. There may come a time when we have to tighten it down,” Hancock said. “This ordinance tries to reach a balance so we can allow people to operate their business but take care of the citizens. It’s okay to get in your car, go through the drive-thru somewhere, get something to eat, and go home. It’s okay – if you need something – to go to the grocery store, wash your hands, sanitize your cart, pick up what you need, and then go home. But don’t go out if you have a fever or are experiencing symptoms. Common sense will go a long way in combatting this virus.”

The full text of the county’s emergency declaration is as follows:

“WHEREAS, Crisp County, Georgia has experienced an event of critical significance as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease; and

WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (the “CDC”) indicates that COVID-19 is a new and contagious respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in more than 100 locations internationally, including in the United States; and

WHEREAS, as reported by the World Health Organization (“WHO”), the world has experienced a deep humanitarian crisis with more than 209,800 cases and more than 8,778 deaths due to COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, COVID-19 is officially a global pandemic according to the WHO; and

WHEREAS, President Trump has declared a national emergency for the United States of America in response to COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, on March 14, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp declared a public health state of emergency and several Georgia counties have declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19;

WHEREAS, as reported by the DPH effective as of March 19, 2020, Georgia now has 287 confinned cases of COVID-19 and 10 COVID-19 related deaths; and

WHEREAS, the CDC has issued guidance on the emerging and rapidly evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how to protect oneself from illness; and

WHEREAS, social distancing is recommended by the CDC to prevent the continued spreading of the illness in the community; and

WHEREAS, the CDC expects that additional cases ofCOVID-19 will be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States, and that person-to-person spread is likely to continue to occur; and

WHEREAS, if COVID-19 spreads in Crisp County and the rest of Georgia, at a rate comparable to the rate of spread in other affected areas, it may greatly strain the resources and capabilities of county and municipal governments, including public health agencies, that provide essential services for containing and mitigating the spread of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19, and the situation may become too large in scope to be handled in its entirety by the nonnal county and municipal operating services in some parts of this State, and this situation may spread to other parts of the State; and

WHEREAS, in the judgment of the Commission of the Unified Government of Crisp County, Cordele, and Arabi, Georgia, as of March 20, 2020, there exist emergency circumstances as a result of COVID-19 within the geographical boundaries of the Unified Government as described in Section 26-38 of the Emergency management and response powers in the event of an actual or threatened occurrence of a disaster or emergency, which may result in the large-scale loss of life, injury, property damage or destruction or in the major disruption of routine community affairs, business or governmental operations in the county

WHEREAS, to prevent or minimize injury to people resulting from this event, certain actions are required, including but not limited to, a curfew and prohibition on gatherings;

NOW, THEREFORE, the Commission of Crisp County, and the city of Cordele, and Arabi, Georgia hereby ordains that it is hereby declared that a local state of emergency exists within the territorial limits of the Unified Government of Crisp County, Georgia and shall continue until the conditions requiring this declaration are abated.

THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED:

Section 1. That the Crisp County Office of Emergency Management activates the Emergency Operations Plan;

Section 2. That the following sections of the Crisp County Code be implemented:

a. Section 26-35. Powers during an emergency or disaster

b. Section 24-40. Authority to Waive Procedures and Fee Structures

c. Section 26-42. Closed or Restricted Areas and Curfews; Prohibition on Gatherings in accordance with the following directives:

(i) Voluntary Shelter in Place: Beginning Friday, March 20, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. and concluding Sunday, April 5, 2020 at 11 :59 p.m. unless otherwise extended, a voluntary shelter in place policy is hereby implemented requesting that individuals not loiter, wander, stroll, or play in any public place within the territorial limits of Crisp County,

Provided, however, that the provisions of this section shall not apply in the following instances:

1. When a person is upon an emergency errand;

2. When a person is traveling to, or returning directly home from, lawful employment or otherwise engaged in lawful employment that makes it necessary to be in above referenced places during the proscribed period of time;

3. When a person is attending or traveling directly to or from an activity involving the exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, or free exercise of religion;

4. When a person is engaged in interstate and intrastate vehicular travel through Crisp County, Georgia;

5. When a person is walking or running to or from their residence for recreational or fitness purposes; and

6. When a person is procuring food or medicine or seeking medical care.

(ii) Prohibition on Gatherings: Beginning on Friday, March 20, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. and concluding Sunday, April 5, 2020 at 11 :59 p.m. unless otherwise extended, all public assemblages, events, and gatherings within the territorial limits of the Unified Government of Crisp County, Georgia shall be prohibited of ten (10) or more people, not including employees, in restaurants, bars, and/or entertainment establishments or in facilities owned by the Unified Government of Crisp County, Cordele, and Arabi, Georgia or on public property.

(iii) Bars, Pubs, and Nightclubs

1. Pursuant to Section 6-199. The county commission is authorized to suspend the sale of liquor by the drink under any license for any emergency situation such that the county commission finds such suspension necessary for the protection of the public health, safety, or welfare, any licensee authorized to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises shall suspend all sale of alcoholic beverages effective at Friday, March 20, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. and ending on Sunday, April 5, 2020 at 11 :59 p.m.

(iv) Restaurants

1. A restaurant shall immediately limit its occupancy to 50% of its current building occupancy.

2. A restaurant shall follow the CDC guidance by ensuring, at minimum, a 6-foot distance between any group of patrons and limiting parties to no more than 10 individuals.

3. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation shall ensure all restaurants implement employee screening and prohibit any employee from entering the restaurant premises if they meet any of the criteria listed below:

a. Any person showing, presenting signs or symptoms of, or disclosing the presence of a respiratory infection, including cough, fever, shortness of breath or sore throat;

b. Any person who has been in contact with any person(s) known to be infected with COVID-19, who has not yet tested negative for COVID-19 within the past 14 days;

c. Any person who traveled through any airport within the past 14 days; or

d. Any person who traveled on a cruise ship within the past 14 days.

For purposes of this section, “restaurant” shall include any Food Service Establishment, Sec. 34-31.­Definitions-Restaurant means an establishment for the preparation and serving of meals, lunches, short orders, sandwiches, frozen desserts or other edible products for consumption on premises and which derive at least 50 percent of gross sale from food products.

Section 3. Severability

a. It is hereby declared to be the intention of the Commission that all sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses, and phrases of this Ordinance are and were, upon their enactment, believed by the Commission to be fully valid, enforceable, and constitutional.

b. It is hereby declared to be the intention of the Commission that, to the greatest extent allowed by law, each and every section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Ordinance is severable from every other section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Ordinance. It is hereby further declared to be the intention of the Commission that, to the greatest extent allowed by law, no section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Ordinance is mutually dependent upon any other section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Ordinance. c. In the event that any phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph or section of this Ordinance shall, for any reason whatsoever, be declared invalid, unconstitutional or otherwise unenforceable by the valid judgment or decree of any court of competent jurisdiction, it is the express intent of the Commission that such invalidity, unconstitutionality or unenforceability shall, to the greatest extent allowed by law, not render invalid, unconstitutional or otherwise unenforceable any of the remaining phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs or sections of the Ordinance and that, to the greatest extent allowed by law, all remaining phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and sections of the

Ordinance shall remain valid, constitutional, enforceable, and of full force and effect.

Section 4. All Ordinances or parts of Ordinances in conflict with this Ordinance are, to the extent of such conflict, hereby repealed or set aside.

Section 5. This Ordinance shall become effective immediately upon its adoption.

SO ORDERED AND ORDAINED this 20th day of March, 2020.

THE UNIFIED GOVERNMENT OF CRISP COUNTY, GEORGIA