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A state of emergency was declared Sunday by Milledgeville and Baldwin County officials following the confirmation of the county’s second COVID-19 case on Saturday.
Local government officials also imposed a curfew, which begins Monday and runs between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Those actions were first taken by the five members of the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners during an emergency meeting at 1 p.m. Sunday. The meeting was convened outside Baldwin County Emergency 911 headquarters adjacent to the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office.
As of Sunday at 7 p.m., there had been 620 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 25 deaths associated with the illness, according to figures from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Commission Chairman Henry R. Craig, who led the outdoor meeting, told fellow commissioners and several others in attendance, including Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan, Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee and Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord, that the state of emergency was being declared because of the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.
Similar actions were taken during an emergency called meeting of Milledgeville City Council at City Hall Sunday afternoon.
“This is very unusual circumstances that we are today, and we’re outside, which is unusual,” Craig said. “The courthouse is going to be closed (Monday) for fumigation and deep cleaning on Tuesday. And at some point this week, we’ll open the courthouse, and that’s why we’re not inside.”
Craig explained that commissioners were setting an example for the community that everyone should practice social distancing. Commissioners and others at the meeting, including Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency Director Wayne Johnson and Assistant EMA Director Colin Duke, all stood a distance apart during the meeting.
“We need to have spacing between individuals,” Craig said.
Commissioners later voted to approve the Baldwin County Emergency Management Ordinance.
Commissioners followed up with the approval of a Baldwin County Declaration of Emergency.
He noted since commissioners had seen the proposal electronically there had been a slight change made to the document.
Craig said the change involved encouraging local restaurants to limit their activity to 10 people at a time.
Commissioner Sammy Hall said what county officials were attempting to do what was in the best interest of the community.
“They’re going to be people in our community who disagree with whatever we do, but we’re trying to be cautious and err on the side of cautiousness, and so we’re doing what we feel is in the best interest of this community,” Hall said. “We ask for the people to cooperate and work with the government agencies to try to help us get through this crisis that we're in now.”
Craig later read a portion of what commissioners’ approved.
“At 1 p.m. Sunday, March 22, 2020, the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency in Baldwin County due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 virus,” Craig said. “The action was taken with the support of the Baldwin County Board of Health in coordination with the City of Milledgeville. We feel this will help protect citizens of our county by reducing the spread of COVID-19. The declaration includes provisions that prevent social gatherings of 10 or more people, which includes gatherings such as church services, funerals, family reunions, political gatherings, along with a curfew that will be imposed on non-essential travel that will be imposed from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. starting (Monday).”
While not prohibited at this time, Craig said Baldwin County, along with the City of Milledgeville “strongly recommend” that dining inside restaurants where 10 or more diners are seated be avoided.
“This does not prevent businesses from operating with 10 or more employees,” Craig said. “Work-related travel along with emergency situations are exempted from this declaration. The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and the Milledgeville Police Department will enforce the provisions of this emergency declaration. We ask that all citizens of Baldwin County abide by this declaration.
“COVID-19 is very dangerous and can be deadly,” Craig warned, noting it had been spread in the county by person-to-person contact. We, as a community, must reduce that person-to-person contact. Our citizens are urged to shelter in place when possible, and keep personal distances between individuals by at least six feet.”
Craig urged people who are sick to stay at home and not go to work.