The City of Cedartown, Rockmart and Polk County have by now determined that a joint resolution requiring that people maintain social distancing practices be enforced, and voted to approve in emergency sessions to enact a measures to curtail potential transmissions any further.
Gatherings of 10 or more people are now prohibited, and officials are asking people to stay in their homes as much as possible until the provisions in the resolution are lifted as the spread of COVID-19 dies down. As of now, no specific date will bring the emergency declaration to an end.
The order is not a shelter in place order, but the cities and county are asking people to stay indoors as much as possible. People who have jobs and scheduled to go in are still able to report to work, and businesses will remain open.
Among the provisions in the order, restaurants and bars that offer dine-in service will no longer be able to serve patrons on premises but will be allowed to offer curbside service, and will even allow patrons to purchase unopened alcoholic beverages to take home.
The order - passed by Rockmart, Cedartown, Aragon and Polk County's councils and commissions - declared a local emergency due to the spread of COVID-19, and it is hoped the provisions within will help slow the spread of the virus and communicable diseases generally.
First, to do so they have specifically prohibited any gatherings of 10 or more people with the following exceptions:
1) Those employers or employees gathered at work
2) People can still go to grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hardware stores, department stores, building supply stores and the like. However, residents are being asked to maintain whenever possible a six-foot distance between people.
3) Hospitals, doctors offices, and other healthcare facilities
4) What is deemed as "essential infrastructure workforce" as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Those are usually those involved in law enforcement and public safety roles.
Also, anyone who lives in a household with more than 10 people can still stay at home with those within the house.
In-person dining at bars, restaurants or other businesses is closed to the public. Curbside takeout is permitted so long as customers take their food home or elsewhere to consume. Those employed at restaurants are required to keep the six foot bubble between individuals as much as possible as well.
Those restaurants and bars that serve beer, wine and spirits will also be allowed to continue sales, but with the requirement that they leave any alcoholic beverage in a closed container for customers to take home with them.
Those provisions will be further evaluated as the situation surrounding COVID-19 develops.
When passing the order, local officials did address some concerns they had over large gatherings. During a conference call session of the Polk County Commission to consider the resolution, Commissioner Gary Martin wanted the county to determine how best to deal with funeral gatherings.
He doesn't want services with 10 or more people to be allowed, but also doesn't want enforcement of the rules to go overboard.
County Manager Matt Denton said that it is his intention to ensure that the rules being followed, but that law enforcement be provided guidance on how to treat situations where public health and safety is in danger due to any gatherings being reported.
"The point of this whole thing is not to punish people, it's our intent to educate them and help them do the right thing," Denton said.
Commissioner Chuck Thaxton also noted that with the open-ended resolution in place, he hoped that regular evaluation of conditions as they stand with the spread of COVID-19 will allow for the resolution to expire. Commissioner Ray Carter sought to ensure that weekly updates on the situation to either increase or decrease provisions of the ordinance should be taken up by conference call.
Cedartown City Commissioners, who met in person but held their session on a Facebook livestream for the public, cited the necessities of the time for the new rules to limit public exposure to COVID-19.
"This is just common sense, and I think that common sense will prevail," Commissioner Dale Tuck said. "I hope that our citizens in Polk County and everywhere will take this seriously."
Commission Chair Matt Foster added that he hopes everyone who has to travel for work outside of the city limits and Polk County will take precautions and remain safe as well.
"We don't take this situation lightly," he said. "This is something I don't think anyone in Polk County wanted to do. But it is certainly necessary."
Rockmart Mayor Sherman Ross added that the city is committed to ensuring that everyone stays safe with their passage of the resolution.
"We want people to be aware of the real danger that COVID-19 poses on our community, and that we hope they will follow these provisions as we've passed and help end the spread of this outbreak that has disrupted our lives across the globe," Ross said. "We're concerned about the potential to overload the healthcare systems, so that is one thing that we're focused on too. We don't want to get into a situation where we exceed capacity for taking care of people."