ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Dougherty County leaders are continuing to enact new restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus.
At a Friday press conference, Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas ordered all residents to shelter-in-place, starting at midnight on March 21.
The order allows for residents to leave their homes only for essential travel, which includes work, medical emergencies or to check on family members.
“Businesses such as grocery stores will remain open, but are not to exceed 50 percent occupancy at one time. Those patrons should be reminded to keep a six-foot distance from others for extended periods of time. Restaurants are prohibited from providing services in their dining rooms but may provide drive-through, pickup/curbside, and delivery services. Bars, gyms, and similar businesses will continue to fall under the temporary closure order,” the shelter-in-place order states.
Below is a copy of the shelter-in-place order from Dougherty County.
Business owners will be responsible for implementing a 6-foot distance between customers and employees.
“This is really just escalating it a little bit higher than what we did yesterday," Dougherty County Public Information Officer Wendy Howell told WALB News 10. “We are really trying to encourage people if you don’t have to go out, don’t go out. They are certainly encouraged to go get supplies if they need them but to limit their exposure in an outdoor setting like a store where lots of people are.”
Outdoor activities like walking are allowed, but Cohilas asks residents not to host any mass gatherings and remain vigilant about social distancing.
Dougherty County pushed for neighboring areas, like Lee County, to issue similar restrictions. They said county borders are geographical, and they need help from other governments to help prevent the spread of illness.
WATCH THE PRESS CONFERENCE BELOW:
Dougherty County received new testing kits through a federal program. On Friday, nearly 2,000 testing kits were delivered for use on first responders, health care workers in direct contact with infected patients, and people 65 years or older that are experiencing a fever and/or respiratory tract symptoms. Tests will be provided at no cost for patients. Local health officials say the program helps free up other kits for testing on the public.
The program is only in Dougherty County but is not limited to residents who live in the county.
[ Hotline number: (229) 352-6567. It will be up by Sunday afternoon. ]
A team from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Georgia Department of Public Health were dispatched to Dougherty County. Once they arrive on March 21, they will look at coronavirus transmission rates in the area and assist local agencies with preventing the spread of the virus.
Charles Ruiz, director of Southwest Health District, said there is a high rate of infections, and he expects the number to continue to increase as more test results come in. He warns just because the numbers jump, does not mean the community is that much sicker. Ruiz said the results confirm the infections they already suspected of being in the area.
The Georgia Department of Public Health is working to construct a quarantine area for those who are homeless. A site has not yet been established.
Health officials said there is a medication that’s been around since World War II that they believe could have potential in combating COVID-19. The medicine is believed to reduce the amount of viral shedding and could shorten the severity of symptoms in some patients. It is being used in critical care units.
The pilot program will start Friday afternoon into Saturday, and will be in full force by Monday.