Days after the Athens-Clarke County Commission declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city enacted an even more extensive order — a mandatory "shelter in place" policy.
On Thursday night, the commission passed the emergency ordinance, which will go into effect at midnight. After that point, residents are only supposed to leave their homes for essential purposes while practicing social distancing of at least six feet.
This order was passed after the county had its fifth confirmed case of COVID-19, and it's the city's latest attempt to slow down the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 287 Georgians have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Thursday morning.
This ramps up the policy the commission passed Monday, which set up a voluntary “shelter in place” order that instructed people stay in their homes, AJC.com previously reported. That ordinance also limited gatherings to fewer than 10 people in public places, including bars and restaurants.
The city will not be enforcing this policy by issuing fines or arresting violators but instead will enforce it with “engagement” and guidance, according to the ordinance.
There are many exceptions to the “shelter in place” order, allowing residents to leave their homes. Those essential actions include obtaining groceries, medication, outdoor exercise and work-related responsibilities. Restaurants will also still be able to offer takeout and delivery services, but dine-in services must cease.
In addition, $3 million was approved to help people, businesses and agencies affected by the pandemic.
Athens, home to the University of Georgia, has fewer people within its city limits than usual due to state universities suspending class for the rest of the spring semester. On Thursday, officials announced that the first UGA student tested positive for COVID-19.
Athens is not the only place in Georgia taking extensive measure in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus.
The City of South Fulton enacted the state's first coronavirus-related curfew, barring people from leaving their homes between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
On Thursday, Atlanta shut down all in-person dining at restaurants in addition to closing all bars, nightclubs, private social clubs, fitness centers, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades within the city limits.
Zachary Hansen, a Georgia native, covers economic development and commercial real estate for the AJC. He's been with the newspaper since 2018 and enjoys diving into complex stories that affect people's lives.