Shortly following similar action by the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, both the Ellijay and East Ellijay City Councils declared a public health state of emergency within their respective city limits Wednesday, March 25.
Both cities adopted emergency orders that impose numerous restrictions and limitations due to the proliferation of COVID-19 in the United States and the state of Georgia. Both orders will remain in effect for 14 days from the date of adoption.
Among the restrictions and limitations in the Ellijay order:
﹣ No public gatherings on city owned or controlled property. A public gathering is defined as “an organized gathering or assembly of 10 or more persons at a specific location.” Property owned or controlled by the city includes any park, public square, public space, playground, recreational area or similar place of public gathering.
All public and private gatherings of more than 10 people occurring outside of a household or living unit are also prohibited. The ordinance does not prohibit individuals or families from using sidewalks or designated pedestrian areas of parks for walking or other exercise if they aren’t participating in an organized gathering.
﹣ Restaurants and other eating and dining establishments where food is served must cease dine-in services, but may continue preparing and offering food to customers by delivery, drive-through or takeout. Patrons, employees and contractors of these establishments must maintain at least 6 feet of personal distance between themselves and others, the order states.
Restaurants licensed to sell beer and wine for on-premises consumption are authorized to sell unopened bottles or cans of beer or wine for off-premises take-out consumption.
﹣ Gyms, fitness centers, pools, social clubs, amusement facilities, bowling alleys, pool halls, theaters, massage parlors and nail salons have been ordered to remain closed for the duration of the emergency order, which also closes any similar facilities used for activities that involve prolonged physical proximity or that are used for entertainment, social grooming or general health and well-being purposes.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses that will remain open during the emergency period must post signage on their entrances informing customers to maintain at least 6 feet of personal distance between themselves and others. No more than 10 people will be allowed into those establishments at one time if such social distancing cannot be maintained, the document reads.
The Ellijay City Council adopted its emergency order via a teleconference led by Mayor Al Hoyle in which councilmembers Sandy Ott, Al Fuller, Katie Lancey, Tom Crawford and Kevin Pritchett all participated.
Josh Quigley and Mark Luchauer, owners of Abby’s Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt, both asked the council to consider not making their business and other restaurants close their dining areas.
“We read over the terms that were released yesterday by the county. We were staying open today and abiding by all those rules. We just think, if its OK with the city, we could continue to stay open as long as we abide by those rules, asking customers to remain 6 feet apart, the customers enter fewer and make sure that our employees and staff are maintaining healthy practices,” said Luchauer during the teleconference.
Adoption of the emergency ordinance was unanimously approved.
“These are difficult and unprecedented times. Our number one priority as a city is the health and safety of our citizens, business community and visitors. We are all being (asked) to make sacrifices never before asked of us and we’re all having to make difficult decisions,” Hoyle said. “My hope is that these decisions and the choices we make will result in an outcome that will be beneficial to all.”
East Ellijay order
The East Ellijay City Council held a brief meeting at City Hall attended by Mayor Mack West and councilmembers Harold Crump and Don Callihan.
A state of emergency order similar to the one adopted by the county was approved during that meeting. It instructs all individuals currently living within the unincorporated areas of the City of East Ellijay to shelter at their place of residence.
“To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must, at all times as reasonably possible, maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from any other person when they are outside their residence. All persons may leave their residences only for essential activities, essential governmental functions or to operate essential businesses, the order states.”
All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a household or living unit are prohibited, also per the East Ellijay order, which incorporates a list of essential businesses that includes, but is not limited to healthcare operations and essential infrastructure, grocery stores, gas stations, food cultivation, banks, hardware stores and hotels and motels.
Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food can do so only for delivery or carryout, while farm wineries are allowed to sell packaged wine at curbside.
Last Thursday morning West said a lot of calls had already been coming in from East Ellijay business owners asking whether or not they should close.
If necessary, the two orders each give the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay authorization to extend the public health state of emergency given approval from councilmembers.
Anyone who has questions about the emergency ordinances should feel free to reach out to either city, both mayors noted. Ellijay City Hall can be reached at 706-635-4711, East Ellijay City Hall at 706-276-3111.
“If there’s any way we can help you understand (the emergency ordinance), don’t hesitate to call us,” Hoyle said.
“We’ve never had anything like this in my lifetime. We are working with all the other federal and state agencies to assure the public is aware of all the guidelines and the City of East Ellijay is trying to enforce those guidelines to the best of our ability,” West said.