Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: Kemp Closes K-12 Schools for Rest of School Year


    Many probably saw this coming, with just four weeks between Gov. Brian Kemp's projected return date of Apr. 27 and the end of the Clarke County school year May 21, and no end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight, but Kemp announced today that he will keep public K-12 schools in Georgia closed for the rest of the 2019–2020 school year.

    CCSD shifted to online learning three weeks ago and had planned to keep it up at least through the end of the month. The latest announcement, though, throws activities like proms and graduation ceremonies in doubt.


  • In the Loop: Shelter in Place Ordinance Likely to Be Extended

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    Photo Credit: Chris Scredon

    Mayor Kelly Girtz.

    Mayor Kelly Girtz said he will propose extending the current state of emergency for another month, keeping many businesses shuttered and requiring people to stay at home unless on essential business into May and possibly June.

    "We think that, realistically, based on what epidemiologists and other similar scientists are saying, we’re looking at at least a June time frame before we get back to anything resembling normalcy," Girtz said at a commission work session Mar. 31.

    One recent study projects that COVID-19 deaths in Georgia will peak around Apr. 23. But lifting social distancing measures too early could result in another spike of cases.


  • In the Loop: Oconee Chairman Explains Decision Not to Require Sheltering in Place

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    John Daniell is interviewed via Zoom.

    Citizens will not be allowed to attend the agenda-setting meeting of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, but they will be able to watch via a livestream on YouTube.

    Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell announced that decision to hold the agenda-setting meeting as usual, but minus an audience, in an interview of just more than 30 minutes length via Zoom on Sunday morning.

    Shortly after that interview, the county sent out a public announcement of the meeting.


  • Grub Notes: Athens Bars Can Now Sell Beer and Wine to Go



    Athens bars and restaurants can now sell unopened bottles and cans of beer and wine to go during the coronavirus emergency after Athens-Clarke County Manager Blaine Williams signed an order Friday suspending certain provisions of the local alcoholic beverage ordinance.

    The ACC Commission essentially shut down bars and restaurant dining rooms when it limited public gatherings to less than 10 people on Mar. 16, then officially closed them to the publicon Mar. 19, although restaurants can still do take-out and delivery.

    Ordinarily, businesses with a license to serve alcohol on the premises can't sell it for consumption off premises, and vice versa.


  • In the Loop: Athens Isn't the Only Georgia City Closing Businesses and Telling People to Stay Home


    Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

    Savannah Mayor Van Johnson issued a shelter-in-place directive Tuesday banning people from going out in public except for essential services while also urging the governor to order more restrictions than he did Monday to stem the spread of COVID-19.

    Savannah, which imposed an initial round of COVID-19 regulations Saturday, is following the Georgia Municipal Association’s recommendations that local governments declare a public emergency so that cities are consistent in their approach to the rapidly spreading virus.

    The Association County Commissioners of Georgia, meanwhile, issued a statement late Tuesday saying it will defer to what local officials think is best for their community. So far, at least 70 counties have declared a public health emergency. The group has already canceled its plans for a late April convention typically attended by nearly 1,000 elected officials and staffers.

    The push from the association of Georgia’s thousands of city officials comes as Gov. Brian Kemp faces criticism for not taking stronger action on Monday when he announced a two-week ban on gatherings that don’t adhere to the six-foot separation rule, the closing of bars and nightclubs and a stay home order for the state’s most medically fragile residents.


  • In the Loop: Gun Store Challenges Athens Shelter-in-Place Law


    Athens gun store Clyde Armory filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Clarke County Superior Court seeking to overturn Athens-Clarke County's recently passed shelter-in-place ordinance.

    The ordinance closes many businesses through Apr. 7 and orders residents to stay in their homes whenever possible, with exceptions like going to work, grocery shopping, outdoor recreation and seeking medical attention.

    While gun stores are not specifically listed among the "essential businesses" that are allowed to stay open, county officials have said gun stores are exempt because closing them would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms. But the lawsuit, filed by local attorneys Mo Wiltshire and Kevin Epps on behalf of Clyde Armory, says that such statements don't carry the force of law.


  • In the Loop: First Coronavirus Death Reported in Athens as Oconee Residents Press for Restrictions


    The Northeast Health District reported the first COVID-19 death in Athens today.

    The victim was a 67-year-old man who had an underlying medical condition, according to public health officials. The elderly and people with pre-existing heart or lung disease or diabetes are most likely to die from COVID-19.

    Overall, positive coronavirus tests in Georgia jumped to 1,026 today, with 32 deaths. Sixteen of those cases were reported in Clarke County and three in Oconee County.

    Medical professionals and others are pressuring Oconee County commissioners to pass a "shelter in place" ordinance similar to the one Athens-Clarke County approved last week.


  • In the Loop: Schools Closed Through Apr. 7 and More Coronavirus News


    As coronavirus continues to spread in Georgia, Clarke County public schools will remain closed through Apr. 7, interim superintendent Xernona Thomas told parents and staff over the weekend.

    Thomas cited Athens-Clarke County's shelter-in-place ordinance, which took effect Mar. 20 and requires residents to stay in their homes unless going out for essential business, like work or grocery shopping, although the ordinance specifically exempts schools.

    CCSD had originally planned to close for the week of Mar. 16. Last week Gov. Brian Kemp closed all K-12 schools statewide until the end of the month.


  • In the Loop: Commission Approves 'Shelter in Place' Ordinance

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    The Athens-Clarke County Commission unanimously approved an emergency measure Thursday night requiring residents to stay in their homes with some exceptions, hoping to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases spread in the county.

    They also voted to spend at least $3 million to somewhat alleviate the economic impact of closing many businesses to the public, which will throw many local residents out of work.

    But the public health threat of coronavirus was deemed so serious that it justified harsher measures to ensure people are practicing social distancing whenever possible.


  • In the Loop: Commission Will Vote on Mandatory Shelter-in-Place Ordinance Tonight

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    After voting unanimously Monday to ask Athens residents to stay at home as much as possible, the Athens-Clarke County Commission will vote tonight on making that request mandatory—with certain exceptions.

    First things first: This is not a reason to panic. You'll still be able to do most everything you need to do, such as go to work (if your employer is open), get food, groceries, medicine and other supplies, go to the doctor, walk your dog, take a jog or care for relatives.

    Hospitals, health clinics, doctor's and dentist's offices, pharmacies and other health care-related facilities can remain open. So can grocery stories, convenience stores, produce stands, farmers markets, banks, hardware stores, auto supply and repair shops, gas stations, social services, shelters, electricians, plumbers, exterminators, delivery services, laundromats, dry cleaners, child care facilities, lawyers, real estate agents, accountants and media outles. Restaurants can continue to serve food for takeout and delivery.


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