The Calhoun City Council on Monday night approved a joint resolution already passed by the Gordon County Board of Commissioners declaring a state of emergency in the city and county in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among other things, the resolution closes all bars and restaurants to in-person dining, bans gatherings of 10 or more people, sets an occupancy limit of 10 people for businesses such as bowling alleys, gyms, salons, barbers and other personal grooming services, and prohibits the use of ball fields, playgrounds and other facilities until April 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The municipalities of Resaca, Plainville and Fairmount were expected to join the resolution as well.
City Manager Paul Worley said government officials have been in constant contact with health care providers and believe the state of emergency is the most prudent action the city can take to help prevent further spread of the virus.
The resolution was adopted Monday during the council's regularly scheduled 7 p.m. meeting, just as the Georgia Department of Public Health announced during its evening report that Gordon County now has six confirmed cases of the illness. During the meeting council members and others in attendance sat at least six feet apart.
Mayor Jimmy Palmer acknowledged the economic impact the pandemic is already having on the region, but he referenced something said by Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University.
"He said, 'The economic impact over the next two weeks doesn't compare to what would happen if we do nothing,'" Palmer quoted.
Council member George Crowley echoed that sentiment, saying the shut down will be painful for a lot of people.
"It is a difficult decision, but it's going to be more difficult if we don't," he said.
Worley also told council members that the city will create a policy specific to this pandemic that will allow city employees who become ill or are exposed to an infected person to take up to 14 days of paid leave in order to prevent further infection.
On a similar note, Utilities Director Larry Vickery announced crews in his department had been split into different teams with minimal contact so that if someone on one team becomes infected members of the other team won't be compromised.
Palmer praised the move, saying, "Keeping the city working while limiting exposure is a positive thing."
Vickery also noted that while all city utility offices have been closed to the public access, bills can still be paid online, by mail, at the drive through window or using the drop box.