I am writing during challenging times, as the COVID-19 virus has been declared a global pandemic, with national and state declarations of emergency. However, we know that our loved ones have been in challenging times before. Just in this last year, I have lost both of my grandmothers, women who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, a huge polio outbreak and the Cold War. And the way they survived all of those experiences, not to mention the fifteen children they had between the two families, was to hang together with their communities and work hard in the best interest of all those around them. That is the way we will weather this storm — together.
Local information will be provided regularly, and updated as necessary at https://www.accgov.com/coronavirus. From supporting our own employees, to managing our Transit Department and all of the elements of our area criminal justice system, we are making decisions that will positively impact the lives of everyone in the community. Fortunately, we are joined in a strong collaborative effort with other local institutions, including the Clarke County School District, our area hospitals, the Department of Public Health, state authorities and others. As we consider our own actions as an organization, we are reaching out to our partners to consider how our actions will affect others, both other organizations and individual community members.
Considering both individual civic responsibility, and our responsibility as local government, we are aware of the need to “flatten the curve” – to limit the infection rate of the local population by avoiding unnecessary contact. Thus, I am asking that you work from home when you can, and avoid unnecessary contact with others. To promote avoidance of contact with those that may carry the COVID-19 virus – as those who are not exhibiting symptoms can be infectious, we will be imposing an evening and nighttime curfew, along with a limit on the size of gatherings, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control. These are actions not taken lightly, but done in the interest of public safety. Every minute of each of our medical providers’ time is extremely precious right now, and our emergency rooms cannot be consumed with needless, avoidable cases when so much is at stake in the life and health of every individual. The curfew will have necessary exemptions for those working and travelling to-and-from their places of employment, or procuring food and medicine. Given the wisdom and tenor of the Athens community, enforcement will be firm but kind.
With the enormous hit on the local economy that will resound for months ahead, I encourage you to take those safe actions that support local businesses; please buy food via delivery or takeout and order books and music and supplies from local outlets. As your dollars stay in Athens, they make a huge difference. Similarly, there are a number of volunteer opportunities for you to consider: the Clarke County School District is working to feed students who are home during this time, and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia and Our Daily Bread could use your support.
Finally, please do those things that safely allow you to live a good life — take a walk, throw a ball with your kids in the back yard, write a song, find a good book or work on your garden. The elements of normal life that you can adapt to this time will make sure we make it through this time well.