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Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz takes notes at a Mayor and Commission meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Photo/Jason Born)

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission will consider an ordinance declaring a second local state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic during a special called session Thursday at 6 p.m.

If adopted, the ordinance would require residents to stay at home — unless in certain situations — or face legal consequences.

The commission seeks to restrict movement and gatherings further as the COVID-19 outbreak worsens across the county. ACC has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of noon Thursday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Georgia now has 287 cases and 10 deaths in total.

The Mayor and Commission initially declared a local emergency on Monday, prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more people and requesting residents stay at home unless they’re doing essential tasks like buying food or seeking medical care, among other exceptions.

According to the proposed ordinance being discussed Thursday, local emergency hospital personnel have reported to the Mayor and Commission there is a shortage of protective equipment which places medical personnel and the general public at risk.

Medical professionals have also advised the Mayor and Commission that if COVID-19 spreads in ACC at the rate it has spread in other areas, it may strain the county’s resources and capabilities, become too large for the county to handle, and spread to other areas of the state.

Under the proposed ordinance, the ACC Police Department could charge people who violate any part of the ordinance with a misdemeanor, a fine or both.

If residents use shared or outdoor spaces, they would have to maintain at least 6 feet from any other person if they are outside their residence, according to the proposed ordinance.

All public and private gatherings outside a living unit or household would be prohibited under the ordinance.

All non-essential travel would be prohibited under the ordinance. Essential travel would include travel to care for the elderly, minors or other vulnerable people, travel from outside ACC to return to a place of residence and travel required by law enforcement or court order.

Exemptions include activities related to health such as purchasing medical supplies, visiting a health care center and picking up medication. Residents could leave their homes to obtain supplies such as food and products to “maintain the safety” of residences or deliver these items to others. They could also leave to care for family members or pets in another household.

Under the ordinance, all non-essential businesses could only perform “minimum basic operations” needed to keep the business running. The ordinance advises having as many employees work from home as possible and for social distancing practices to be implemented. Restaurants would also be allowed to continue operation, but only for delivery or carry-out.

All residents — including people working at essential businesses —would be required to follow social distancing practices as much as reasonably possible. These practices include staying at least six feet from other people, washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently, covering coughs or sneezes with sleeves or elbows, cleaning “high-touch” surfaces regularly and not shaking hands.

The proposed ordinance would exempt first responders, emergency personnel, law enforcement personnel and people working in similar capacities. Homeless people would also be exempt from the ordinance but “are strongly encouraged to obtain shelter,” while the government and other entities are encouraged to make shelter available to these people.

The Mayor and Commission will livestream the meeting on ACC’s website, its YouTube channel and its Facebook page. Comments can be submitted through an online form or in writing at City Hall by 5:45 p.m.

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