Rome City Commissioners had some discussion Monday on whether residents feel they’re now in a green-light economy, with businesses able to open with social distancing.
According to one medical professional, Rome didn’t even come to a complete stop.
Dr. Jay Peitzer, chief medical officer with the Florida Region 5 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, spoke to the commission Monday through web conferencing arranged by Mayor Bill Collins.
Peitzer is on the federal response team sent to Rome to set up the emergency medical unit at Floyd Medical Center and put plans in place for an expected surge in COVID-19 infections.
He said that while Rome’s level of infection is not as high as where he lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, he was surprised at the reaction of people in Rome.
“We have a very high level of COVID (in Palm Beach). If you go to the store, everybody is wearing masks. Everybody is standing six feet away, and if you invade somebody’s space in the supermarket they will turn around and get pretty angry with you,” Peitzer said.
“I notice in your Walmarts and your Publix, I don’t see many people wearing masks, and I wonder if people are taking it very seriously where you are,” he said.
Commissioners almost unanimously agreed that — while early action to shut down nonessential businesses and ask residents to shelter in place helped curb the new coronavirus’ spread — Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive orders allowing some of those businesses to reopen does not give the all-clear signal.
Commissioner Wendy Davis said the governor’s order was a balance of trying to restart the state’s economy versus treating public health as a cage to keep it locked up.
“Somehow the perception has become that this is a green light to go and jump back in the water. And I think our actions as a city show that we are smarter than that,” Davis said.
She also referenced how Kemp’s orders made it illegal for any municipal government to pass any more or less restrictive ordinances.
“I don’t think the general public really has a firm understanding that the governor’s order tied our hands,” Davis said.
“But just because we can’t enact new resolutions or change our ordinances, we still all can behave in a way, and encourage people to behave in a way, that shows we understand how serious this virus is impacting our community,” she said.
Commissioners Bonnie Askew and Jamie Doss both said they have seen people not abiding by social distancing measures while in public.
“I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a champion social distance person. It’s a challenge. I have to think about it,” Doss said. “And as we talk about red lights and green lights, I hope we’re at least at a yellow light. It’s hard to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s definitely a balancing act.”
Commissioner Craig McDaniel recommended that the city look into temporarily easing some of the restrictions on businesses as far as signage.
“Let’s find a way to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes our way. It’s going to take everybody working together. We’ve got a great consumer-based economy here. And without consumers consuming, it doesn’t work,” McDaniel said.
All action items on the commission’s agenda were passed unanimously, including the change order and consulting contracts to move forward with closing the construction and demolition landfill at Walker Mountain Site 2.