Editor's note: The original version of this article contained incorrect times for the curfew. The correct times are listed below.
MOULTRIE, Ga. — The City of Moultrie may be facing a state of emergency starting Friday afternoon as the city council prepares its decision overnight.
City Council met in a called meeting Thursday to discuss and receive public feedback on its state of emergency ordinance. As it stands, this 15-day ordinance is the result of the city taking action to protect itself.
The council will consider final approval of the ordinance in a called meeting at noon Friday at the Moultrie Municipal Building.
It’s all about social distancing, according to the proposed ordinance.
The curfew — 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day — that Mayor Bill McIntosh put in place Monday remains to be a part of the ordinance’s actions, but the alcohol suspension he announced at the same time will be lifted in favor of another strategy.
Any restaurant with an alcohol license for on-premises consumption can instead sell unopened alcoholic beverages for take-out and off-premises consumption.
In general, on-premises dining services must cease for the duration of the ordinance. No patrons or customers can enter the establishment. All employees of eating establishments must report their temperature based on a thermometer when they wake up in the morning and 15 minutes prior to arrival. The employer must keep a record of this.
Public gathering rules will change as well. On city property, no more than two people can gather on city-owned or controlled property, though sidewalks and designated pedestrian areas are excluded so long as it’s not an organized gathering.
No more than 10 can gather in a public or private setting either. These rules exclude “required” meetings amongst government entities, i.e. city council.
Certain businesses like pool halls, theaters and massage parlors — nearly anything used for entertainment, social, grooming or general health and well-being purposes — must close.
YMCA CEO Rich Gallagher lobbied against this in part in the meeting. Bringing on Colquitt Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Matney, they spoke in favor of keeping daycares and fitness facilities open.
“Of course the main YMCA is closed — it’s been closed — but our downtown Y, we consider essential for several of our members,” Gallagher said. “A good size population of our members have Alzheimer’s, autism and also those that have been wrestling with suicide. They are, for their emotional wellbeing, using our Y.”
When you close something like that down, you’re rejecting someone from their care, he said. Matney further explained the situation.
“I get that we’ve got to do some social distancing — we have to — but if we create so many stoppages, all you do is fill our emergency room up cause those people have to get out,” Matney said. “And I will tell you it’s probably a prescribed activity for those patients that they have 30 minutes or an hour a day of some type of organized activity.”
But the question came that if just one place, the YMCA, did it for this purpose, then all fitness places would need to open specific to those reasons.
Gallagher said he could work with other fitness places, like Destiny Fitness and Anytime Fitness, to coordinate these and make sure those who need this type of care are getting it.
And so, a change was made.
“Gyms and fitness centers may open for the limited purpose of allowing individuals with documented medical needs for their services for medicinal, emotional, mental, or therapeutic reasons to utilize the facilities,” the ordinance now reads.
Matney also lobbied for the continued function of daycare facilities to serve first responders and other essential needs citizens or else their children might be left home alone.
Council made the decision to allow all daycares, childcare and eldercare facilities to continue operating so long as they are not being used for respite care or supervision of any kind.
It’s so people aren’t just taking their children there and then going back home or to the store, City Attorney Mickey Waller said.
Groceries, pharmacies and other such businesses will stay open during this time, but signs must be posted telling customers to follow social distancing standards and cannot allow more than 10 in at a time if such social distancing can’t be maintained.
Deadlines for purchasing or obtaining by persons or businesses of occupation tax certificates, permits or similar administrative approvals mandated by the city code is tolled during the ordinance.
The city manager will have the right to use, task or regard services as discretionary actions during the emergency; however, should the manager not be able to perform their duties, an interim successor will be named by them.
All in the city must follow social distancing standards (have a distance of six feet in between one another) and other CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 for the duration of the emergency, according to the ordinance.