The Rome City Commission is ordering residents to shelter in place within their homes unless for essential activities, government functions or to operate essential businesses.

The board moved Monday to further amplify the importance of staying at home and not gathering in large groups amid the continuing spread of COVID-19.

The ordinance drafted and sent to commissioners only a few hours before the group’s regular meeting passed unanimously.

Those who do leave their residences are asked as part of the ordinance to strictly adhere to social distancing practices when reasonably possible and not gather in groups of more than 10 people.

The Floyd County Commission is expected to discuss the order at its meeting Tuesday evening with a possible vote coming afterward. The city’s order goes into effect Tuesday at 5 p.m. and lasts until 11:59 p.m. on April 7. It can be extended by the city commission based on the situation at that time.

“We all know that this is a hard decision. It’s part of what we do,” Rome Mayor Bill Collins said. “I can tell you that this has probably never been done in the history of Rome. I know that every one of you out there have got to know the importance of this, but we’re doing what we deem necessary to protect our citizens in the city of Rome and Floyd County.”

Social distancing includes maintaining at least a 6-foot distance from others, washing hands as frequently as possible and covering coughs or sneezes.

The ordinance defines essential businesses as any dealing with healthcare operations, pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, banks, hardware stores, restaurants that prepare food for delivery and carryout, and childcare facilities, among many others.

The ordinance comes under the state of emergency declared in a joint resolution by the cities of Rome and Cave Spring and Floyd County that was passed by the three boards Thursday.

That order required all restaurants to close their dining areas and entertainment establishments to close while also discouraging large groups of people.

“It is not lost on me, the implications of the actions taken earlier. They have tremendous impacts,” Rome City Manager Sammy Rich said. “But from my perspective, I would plead with the community that we’ve not done enough because there are still folks who are not heeding the advice. So that’s what has led us to where we are today.”

Meanwhile, a state senator from Bartow County is among four members of that legislative body who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday.

Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, received confirmation Sunday that he had contracted coronavirus. Thompson was admitted to the hospital March 16 with respiratory issues and released over the weekend once his condition improved.

“While I am feeling much better, I plan to remain at home in self-quarantine for the immediate future,” Thompson said on Facebook.

He is among four state senators, including the chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Statewide, COVID-19 had sickened 800 people and led to 26 deaths in Georgia as of 7 p.m. Monday.

Floyd County hospitals had 11 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of 5 p.m. and were waiting on test results for 37 patients, according to Floyd EMA Director Tim Herrington.

However, Floyd County had 10 confirmed cases listed with the Department of Public Health as of Monday night. The DPH numbers reflect the place of residence, not where they are being treated.

The virus causes only minor flu-like symptoms in most people, who recover in a matter of weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death in some, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Severe cases are often only able to breathe with respirators.

First to publicly announce his COVID-19 diagnosis was Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, after attending a special session of the General Assembly March 16. His announcement was followed by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta; then Sen. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta.

Williams, who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, called her diagnosis a reminder that anyone can contract the virus.

“YOU can get this too,” Williams said on Facebook. “Many of you reading this already have the coronavirus and are showing no symptoms.”

Rome News-Tribune Editor John Bailey and Night Editor Diane Wagner as well as Capitol Beat news service contributed to this report.

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