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Shelter- in- place ordered through April 13

A statewide shelter-in-place started Friday in an effort to curb the rapidly growing number of Coronavirus infections in Georgia.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the state’s hospitals are being worked to their maximum capacity and are reaching a tipping point. His executive order, signed Thursday, will also shut down public schools in the state for the rest of the year.

The executive order mandates that all bars, gyms, restaurants theaters and many other businesses close their inside services. This exempts a range of activities deemed “essential services” like food and medical supply pick-ups and deliveries, critical infrastructure and those that help maintain minimum business operations.

The shelter-in-place order will last until Monday, April 13.

“We are taking action to protect our hospitals, to help our medical providers and prepare for the patient surge that we know is coming,” Kemp said. “Now is the time to fight and continue to be strong and courageous.”

Kemp’s shelter-in-place order follows mounting pressure from health experts and politicians from both parties who have called for a statewide approach. Up to this point, Kemp has allowed city and county authorities to decide whether to issue stay-at-home orders for their regions. Last week, Bainbridge issued a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all non-essential businesses.

An executive order was also passed that deputizes law enforcement personnel to enforce the shelter-in-place order. The Bainbridge City Council met digitally Friday afternoon to discuss the order, which did not authorize local police departments to enforce the new mandate unless they felt it was necessary. This would mean Bainbridge Public Safety could ask residents to comply, but not issue a citation unless the City voted to adopt the order. However, they did not feel it necessary.

City Manager Chris Hobby believes most people will comply without having to involve a Sheriff’s deputy.

“We will break up crowds and do as we our told, but if it becomes an issue, we will call our patrolmen and deputies and they will help us out,” Hobby said.

The same rules apply on the Flint River and other bodies of water. The DNR is considered a respective officer and can issue citations for groups of 10 or more people who are not complying with Kemp’s shelter in place order. The DNR’s first goal will always be to ask people to disperse, but if they do not, they will be issued a citation.

These guidelines will extend through Monday, April 13.

Decatur County has reported 12 cases and no deaths as of Friday afternoon, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. A total of 5,831 Coronavirus cases were confirmed in Georgia, with 1,158 hospitalized and 184 deaths. Dougherty County remains the most fatal county in the state for Coronavirus and ranks among the worst outbreak locations in the country. A total of 560 cases and 30 deaths have been reported there.

The best way to slow the spread of Coronavirus and ease the burden for hospitals is for everyone to practice social distancing and good sanitary habits, said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state public health commissioner.

“Until now, containing the spread of COVID-19 has been based on early detection and isolation of people with symptoms of the virus,” Toomey said in a statement Thursday. “Social distancing and keeping people apart from each other are now more than just recommendations; they are the best weapons we have to stop the spread of COVID-19.”