Friday the Governor moved from a position of letting local governments determine their approaches to the COVID 19 pandemic to one of establishing the dimensions of a state-wide sheltering place. On Thursday, I had signed an amendment to the County’s Declaration of Emergency. The highlights of the amendment were (1) an extension of the Emergency to April 24th, the maximum length that I could issue the declaration without requiring authorization from the Board to extend it, (2) further definition of which non-essential businesses could operate and, (3) establishment of social distance requirements on food stores and encouraging other measures. Below is my message to the public after I signed the amendment.
The Governor’s Executive Order was effective until April 13th and superseded my extension of the Emergency Order. All other measures of my amendment were in line with the Governor’s order and remained in place. There were some who believed that the Governor’s order re-opened the County parks. However, our park closures were a separate action that were not part of the County Declaration of Emergency and not addressed by the Governor’s order. His order did not override all aspects of local control which is how some read his actions. In short, the State has oversight over state parks but not county amenities. That’s not to say that the State cannot do so; it just has not done so yet.
So, where are we? From my perspective, the County has taken significant steps to emphasize the essential action to mitigate this pandemic: Stay home. If we want to stop the spread of this virus, then people have to limit travel outside their homes, practice social distancing when they don’t, and appreciate that the virus still has the initiative and momentum, We don’t know who has the virus and how they are transmitting it. A clear example of this is the worrisome increase in the number of COVID 19 cases in nursing and long-term care homes. Despite the fact that most of them imposed severe access restrictions weeks ago, the virus has now found its way into many of them. This spread of the virus in these locations can have potentially catastrophic implications not only for those in those homes but also in overwhelming the capacity of our health care system.
It is now clear that from day one we should have been encouraging people to wear face masks. So not only have I limited my movements but I am also wearing a face mask when I leave my house. It has been wonderful to see the response of the public, including my wife Judy, in directing the efforts of their social circles to sewing masks. This effort is but one of the many ways that we can say that during the COVID 19 Pandemic we did our part.
April is going to be a month that tests our faith. Any thought that we shall emerge from this before the end of the month is whistling in the dark. I have little doubt that the Governor will extend his shelter in place beyond April 13th for one reason: the projected date that the virus will peak in Georgia is April 23d. I encourage you to seek your information from trusted web sites, not comments on social media. From my point of view, the vast majority of people in the County are taking the necessary precautions. But everyone needs to be doing so. By uniting in this common effort, we can begin to find our way back to a better time.