After two emergency called meetings and extensive overnight discussions, the Jesup City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday morning authorizing city officials to enforce restrictions on local businesses and organizations in accordance with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order.
The city ordinance, which took effect as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, also lists specific businesses—including fitness centers, theaters and salons—that must close and remain closed for the two-week duration of the emergency order.
Kemp said of his executive order Monday, “This order will close all bars and nightclubs, and it will ban all gatherings of 10 or more people unless you can maintain at least six feet between people at all times.”
The Jesup ordinance requires that any business or organization remaining open ensure that all customers maintain the minimum six-foot spacing. A requirement to post this restriction on the entrance doors is included in the ordinance.
The announcement specifically addresses food service, stating that “restaurants and other eating and dining establishments where food is served must cease offering dine-in services but may continue preparing and offering food to customers via delivery, drive-through, take-out and curbside services.”
The provision also specifically directs that patrons and employees maintain six feet of space between them “as much as possible given the physical constraints of the premises.”
In addition, all public or private gatherings outside of a household regardless of number must maintain the six-foot spacing between participants, according to the announcement from the city.
The Council plans to meet again April 3 to evaluate the situation and make plans for the following weeks.
A meeting of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners was planned for 4 p.m. Tuesday, but results of that discussion were unavailable at press time.
Commission Chairman Herschell Hires, however—who joined the Jesup Council’s Monday-morning meeting via conference call—said following the meeting that he was in general agreement with what was said in that meeting.
Meanwhile, the city of Screven has made only minor changes to its announcement from last week, noting that essential services and the drive-through meals program continue but limiting the opportunity for phone payments via debit or credit card to Fridays.
Mayor Jason Weaver encouraged citizens to follow Kemp’s guidelines for gatherings.
Wayne Memorial Hospital is limiting its visitors to one person per patient as of this week.
Jesup Mayor David Earl Keith and Commissioner Nick Harris both said that the Jesup decision was the hardest thing they had ever had to do in office. The other commissioners agreed that the action was not something they were happy about taking but that it seemed necessary.
“I think we need to move forward with it. But it hurts my heart,” Harris said.
“These are extenuating circumstances we are faced with now. These measures we’re taking are intended to ensure the health and safety of our community,” Keith said. “We ask everyone to cooperate over the next two weeks to help slow the spread of this virus. We’re hoping for the best but planning for the worst.”
Commissioner Ray House said he had “had to think long and hard about shutting people’s businesses down.”
“But I think we have to do it,” he added.
The other commissioners agreed with him, passing the ordinance unanimously at the end of the Tuesday discussion.
Keith also thanked the commissioners for their leadership in the difficult situation.
He said that he had initially hoped on Monday that the restrictions would not be necessary but as the situation developed, he and the commissioners—some of whom worked on the proposal for long hours Monday night—had arrived at the emergency action as necessary for the city.
“Please help us avoid further restrictions,” Keith said Tuesday.
“Gyms, fitness centers, pools, social clubs, amusement facilities, bowling alleys, pool halls, theaters, skating rinks, community centers, bars, nightclubs, parks, recreational facilities, massage clinics, tattoo parlors, hair salons, barber shops and nail salons located within the city of Jesup must close and remain closed for the duration of this emergency,” the city announcement says.
The city is also closing all city parks and community centers.
“The declaration of a state of emergency further triggers application of the city’s existing code provisions concerning governmental actions during such emergencies. Those code provisions provide the mayor and city manager with additional authority to promote measures necessary to promote public health and welfare,” the announcement states.
Kemp’s Monday-evening announcement and the Jesup action were both in part prompted by recent surges in the state’s totals in the virus pandemic.
Georgia was reporting 1,026 cases and 32 deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s daily count on Tuesday. The totals are up from 620 cases Sunday and 772 cases Monday, with 25 deaths reported at the time of the governor’s address.
Georgia ranked ninth among the states in number of cases, according to the CDC’s noon report Tuesday.
Cases have been confirmed in three counties adjacent to Wayne: Glynn, Tattnall and Pierce.