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VALDOSTA - Residents may have to get takeout or drive-through for the foreseeable future.

Lowndes County, along with the Cities of Valdosta, Remerton, Hahira, Dasher and Lake Park, recommended restaurants voluntarily close dine-in services, according to a joint statement released Thursday by city and county governments.

Officials encourage establishments to increase and/or enhance takeout and curbside food services. 

The recommendation does not apply to businesses providing essential services such as grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, doctors and veterinary offices, childcare centers, hardware stores, gas stations, industrial manufacturing, food processing, agriculture and hotels, according to the statement.

Additionally, city and county officials strongly recommend closing or limiting access to businesses and offices with public lobby areas, read the joint statement.

“Valdosta and Lowndes County’s small businesses and their workers are the backbone of our economy, and I understand that these actions will not only impact them, but will also disrupt the lives of our community, people who work at and eat at our renowned restaurants and bars," Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said. "However, COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S. and experts have been clear that implementing social distancing that includes these measures is the most effective method to mitigate its spread and to protect public health.” 

“I want to clarify this voluntary closure is for businesses where groups of people tend to congregate. All businesses are essential to our community. Our efforts are trying to limit areas of high-exposure risk," Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter said. “This decision was not easy, and it was not taken lightly. The health effects of COVID-19 are real, and they are serious. Containment of the virus is critical to our medical system being able to respond appropriately to an outbreak, and these steps will help with that.” 

This story was updated at 1:51 p.m. to include the Cities of Remerton, Hahira, Dasher and Lake Park with Valdosta.

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