The City of McCaysville City Council declared a public health emergency Tuesday afternoon, March 24, to "protect and promote the health, safety and welfare of its citizens."
This action is intended to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 in the city for 30 days from the start of passage, and can be renewed and continue for 30-day periods thereafter unless repealed or amended by the council.
The emergency ordinance will go into effect Wednesday, March 25 at 9 p.m.
The emergency ordinance will close city facilities to the general public, allow the city to process open records requests electronically, prohibit public and private assemblages, events and gatherings of 10 or more people outside of a household or living unit, and allow the council to conduct all city council meetings electronically.
The ordinance also states that all bars, restaurants or businesses that sell food and beverages on premises or provide entertainment on premises are to be closed to in person dining, consumption of alcohol or entertainment until the expiration of the ordinance.
All gyms and fitness centers, movie theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys and arcades, pools, parlors, nail salons, hair salons and private social clubs and any facility used for entertainment, social, and grooming, within McCaysville, will be closed to in person events, entertainment, meetings and activities of any kind until the expiration of the ordinance as well.
Establishments not covered in the ordinance such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses that remain open must post signs on entrance doors to inform consumers to maintain at least 6 feet of personal distance. The ordinance will also not allow more than 10 people into an establishment at any one time if social distancing cannot be maintained.
The ordinance does not prohibit the gathering of individuals for the purposes of carrying on business certified as "essential" by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency or designated by the Governor as "critical infrastructure" or the provision of medical or health services.
Council member Jason Woody asked if the ordinance could wait until the council received community and business input to see if they would agree to follow these guidelines without an ordinance.
However, Police Chief Michael Earley said he would prefer to enact it because he had received feedback that businesses would not comply. Without the ordinance, he felt the city would not be able to enforce necessary closures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Blue Ridge Medical Group’s Dr. Dillion Miller encouraged the council to implement the ordinance and explained that it was only a matter of time before someone in the county tested positive for COVID-19.
"The challenge is that it takes about a week to get a test result back, so all the statistics that we’re seeing on tv or the department of health, a lot of them are about a week old,” Miller said. “I can tell you we’ve seen a lot more respiratory issues within the clinic. We’ve done a lot more testing. If I was a betting man, I’d say within the next week we’re gonna have a positive test that comes back for the county, and it only takes one to turn into two and three."
Following Miller’s comments, Woody said he felt the city did not have a choice other than to pass the ordinance, and the ordinance passed unanimously.
The City of McCaysville Police Department can patrol and enforce the ordinance.
City Clerk Nancy Godfrey read the ordinance explaining that COVID-19 is a "deep humanitarian crisis with more than 332,930 cases and more than 14,510 deaths."
The ordinance may not "levy taxes; grant, renew or extent a franchise; regulate the rate charged by any public utility for its services or authorize the borrowing of money except for loan to be repaid within 30 days."