Gwinnett County, cities order residents to stay at home

Gwinnett County and its 16 cities have issued a stay-at-home order for residents that goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The order, which goes until April 13 but can be extended, is meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. There were 102 cases of COVID-19 reported in the county as of noon Friday, the fifth-highest county total in Georgia. Gwinnett is the second-most populous county in the state.

As part of the order, residents cannot leave their homes except for essential activities. They're allowed to operate essential business or perform essential government functions. Essential businesses include banks; restaurants that offer take-out, delivery or drive-thru food; certified farmers markets and grocery stores; gas stations; auto supply and auto repair shops; healthcare businesses; news agencies; and organizations that provide food, shelter and social services to those in need.

No gatherings of any number of people outside of a single household is allowed, and travel is also prohibited.

In a statement, Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said she had “deep appreciation” for residents and businesses who were “making temporary sacrifices for the good of our communities as our hospitals, healthcare workers, and first responders prepare for a rapidly growing caseload.”

Residents are only allowed to leave their houses to obtain supplies, including medicine or supplies needed to work from home; to obtain food and other consumer products, including take-out and drive-through; to walk, hike, bicycle or run, as long as they can stay at least six feet away from other people; to care for a pet or family member in another household; to go to a veterinarian or a doctor; to receive deliveries from a business that delivers; or to help someone else obtain necessary supplies.

Businesses are encouraged to operate only minimum basic functions to maintain the value of their inventory, ensure security and process payroll and employee benefits

The order applies to for-profit, nonprofit or private educational entities. Businesses that consist exclusively of employees or contractors who work from home can keep operating.

Essential government functions, including first responders, and solid waste, telecommunications, utilities and construction workers, are also exempt.

Police officers across the county are authorized to enforce the order.

The order was released Friday afternoon by Lawrenceville. Chuck Warbington, the city manager, said it was done in conjunction with Gwinnett County and all the cities were on board. The county sent its own release about 20 minutes later.

Warbington said the cities and the county have been “progressively getting tighter and tighter” as COVID-19 continues to spread. The additional order is intended to keep people safe, he said.

“Folks aren’t taking this seriously,” Warbington said. “We’re trying to get tighter and tighter and tighter to make sure people understand this is a serious issue.”