Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis issued an executive order today closing all bars and nightclubs in Richmond County, along with hair salons, nail salons and spas, live performance venues, movie theaters and bowling alleys, and restaurants with dine-in service only. Read the full order HERE.
The order goes into effect at midnight tonight.
3/21/2020 – 4:15pm
Statement from the city of Augusta’s website:
Due to the necessity to preserve and protect the public, the city of Augusta, Georgia has decided to impose restrictions on certain businesses and social gatherings. This executive order will go into effect on March 22nd at midnight and will remain in place through April 4, 2020. The city reserves the right extend and/or expand imposed guidelines for the health and well-being of the public.
This order will restrict entertainment venues, gyms and fitness studios, body care, convention centers, and dine-in activity at bars and restaurants, and public events and private gatherings that would violate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation.
Per the order, the City of Augusta is mandating all the listed businesses to cease operations by the effective date and time.
Operations of these businesses, and both private and public gatherings, could violate the recommendation from the White House and CDC stating people should not gather in groups of 10 or more.
This order will not affect essential services. Those include, gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, food banks, convenience stores, banks, hospitals, medical centers, and laundromats. Restaurants providing take-out, drive thru, and delivery services can continue to do business.
Critical government functions such as water and sewer, garbage, transportation, jails, courts, law enforcement, fire protection, and emergency services will also continue operations.
“The time is now, for us as a city to act and protect the citizens of Augusta, Georgia,” said Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. “This is a virus that has no treatment plan, no vaccine, and continues to spread at a rapid rate. As a community, we must work together to protect each other.”
As of the March 21, 2020 noon update, the Georgia Department of Public Health has reported 507 confirmed positives cases of COVID-19 with 14 deaths. In Richmond County, there are nine confirmed cases. This number expected to rise in the coming days and possibly weeks.
“It was sort of news to us,” said Columbia County Commissioner Trey Allen. “We had gotten mixed signals from Richmond County all week. At times we were told they were shutting down operations, they had plans to do things for the community, but then we were given different information from another source. We, at least I, wasn’t expecting this to happen-at least this weekend.”
Mayor Davis issued his statement today after declaring a local state of emergency this past Monday. While Richmond and Columbia counties share tens of thousands of citizens and many businesses, there hasn’t been much coordination between the two commissions.
“I totally understand the importance of maintaining public health. It seems to me that that’s doing it too quickly,” Allen said. “I would not want to do it as a mandate without giving those operations notice of at least a day or two.”
“Maybe they did. I don’t know,” Allen continued.
Allen said the county is hoping everyone does the right thing without the government’s heavy hand. “Public health is a priority. Our main function as a government is to protect and serve,” Allen said.
3/21/2020 – 6:00pm
Statement from Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson posted to the Columbia County Facebook page:
“We encourage business owners to act in what they feel is the best interest of the community, I, along with my fellow Board of Commissioners, will not be mandating the closing of any businesses, restaurants, bars, gyms and salons in Columbia County at this time.
We respect the decision of Mayor Davis, and even though the closure may be what is best for the City of Augusta, we continue to make our decisions based on what we feel is best for the businesses and citizens of Columbia County.
We have taken measures we feel are effective by closing all county offices, parks and facilities. We encourage citizens to be vigilant in their efforts to practice social distancing and abide by the recommendations of the CDC.
In addition, we ask that if citizens are out that they utilize drive-thrus and curbside service. It is important to follow the safe practices that have been shared for several weeks.
We will continue to monitor any and all updates from the President, the CDC, Governor Kemp, and Georgia Department of Health. We will provide updates as changes occur.”
Milton Ruben owner Jim Bernstein said today he is closing the enormous dealership until further notice. “That’s the kind of example I’m talking about,” Allen said. “Milton Ruben decided to shut down and I think that’s responsible of them.”
Allen said the county is concerned about the slippery slope of piecemeal mandatory closings and the ripple effect that would cause.
“Government telling what businesses can and cannot continue operating is problematic. Then you have to make those decisions for people on the bubble. How important is a salon that does therapeutic work? There are always going to be questionable things,” said Allen, who has served 12 years on the board.
3/21/2020 – 6:23pm
Statement from Columbia County Commission Chair Doug Duncan:
“At this time we have no intention of changing our current strategy. We encourage all Columbia County citizens to be vigilant in their efforts to practice social distancing and abide by the recommendations of the CDC.”
“So once the decision is made (mandatory closings), it starts a chain reaction.”
Allen says the county is doing their best to monitor the situation and make sure they do the right thing and protect the of Columbia County without overstepping and coming down with the heavy hand of government.
“In the end I can assure you we’re going to do what is best in our view for the citizens of Columbia County and our public health.”