Tia Lynn Ivey
The City of Madison voted to extend the local state of emergency for another 30 days due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, a highly contagious and potentially lethal upper-respiratory coronavirus that has caused a worldwide pandemic.
Since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has issued an executive order reopening the state’s economy this week, allowing non-essential businesses to resume in-person operations with certain social distancing policies in place, Madison City officials cannot supersede the order with local restrictions on businesses or public gatherings.
“If you do, you open yourself up to a legal challenge from the state,” said City Attorney Jim Carter at Monday’s called meeting of the Madison Mayor and City Council. “What the governor did was virtually open everything except the swimming pools—all essential and non-essential businesses,” explained Carter, noting that the state is not allowing cities and counties to take stricter action. “The order basically says we cannot adopt anything inconsistent with it…The governor clearly does not want us adopting anything that is more stringent than the order.”
The city extended the state of emergency for several reasons, including to urge citizens to remain cautious and comply with all recommendations from leading health organizations and experts.
“We are not declaring openings or closings, but to declare that there still is a state of emergency in the City of Madison,” said Councilman Eric Joyce.
Joyce explained that the state of emergency declaration will “provide a foundation” for how the city is conducting public meetings during the coronavirus pandemic and could also qualify the city for state and federal funding down the road. But most of all, Joyce wants the local citizens to continue taking the virus seriously.
“The other half that I wanted to accomplish was to advise our citizens, even though we have had some of our power taken away by the Georgia governor in terms of what we are doing with our businesses here, that we still recommend that our citizens adhere to guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the World Health Organization.”
“We can do both and send a message as a body for our citizens,” said Councilwoman Chris Hodges.
Some of those recommendations include social distancing (staying at least six feet apart from people in public), wearing masks and gloves in public, frequent hand-washing for at least 20 seconds at a time, and avoiding touching your face. Public gatherings should be less than 10 people.
The council unanimously adopted a local state of emergency consistent with the governor’s order, while incorporating an encouragement to citizens to continue practicing good hygiene and social distancing recommendations, 20 recommendations in all, to continue to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“ I encourage our council to go with the governor’s order for the next 30 days and then see what happens,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman.