Virus update

Barrow County and the City of Auburn issued local emergency declarations Wednesday, March 25, aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

The orders impose a ban on dine-in service at restaurants and force the temporary closure of entertainment, fitness and recreation businesses, as well as nail and hair salons and any other establishments that cannot guarantee distancing of at least six feet between people. All public gatherings of 10 or more people on county property are prohibited under the county order, and most other public gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited without at least six feet of space between people.

The orders do not, however, impose mandatory nighttime curfews like ones approved by the Winder and Statham city councils earlier this week. Those councils also approved a ban on dine-in service, the closure of businesses like those in the county and Auburn orders, and a ban on most public gatherings of 10 or more people.

The county order, which covers the unincorporated areas of the county only and will be in effect until noon, April 6, was signed Wednesday by county commission chairman Pat Graham and goes into effect at noon Thursday, March 26. The board of commissioners will hold a special-called meeting Friday, March 27, to vote on the declaration. Commissioners will meet at 4 p.m. in their meeting room at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Winder, but the public will not be allowed in the building as a caution to prevent the potential spread of the virus. The public will be able to view the meeting through Facebook Live at No public comments will be taken.

The Auburn order, which expands on an emergency declaration Mayor Linda Blechinger issued last week, took effect at noon Wednesday and is temporarily in effect until noon Saturday, March 28 (the 72-hour maximum without city council approval). It will be extended again and voted on by the city council at its teleconference meeting April 2, Blechinger said.

Barrow County officials said in a conference call Tuesday with officials from four other northeast Georgia counties — Gwinnett, Jackson, Oconee and Walton — that they would move this week to put an emergency order in place.

One of the issues in Barrow was a funeral last weekend that reportedly had 250 people attend, a far larger gathering than recommended.

There were 1,387 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide with 47 reported deaths and 438 hospitalizations, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s latest update at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The latest numbers include two listed cases in Barrow County. The first of those, reported last week, was confirmed to be a person living in another county who had a Barrow address. Public health officials are not releasing information about the second case. That case was listed Tuesday night, March 24.

“Our Barrow County COVID-19 Task Force has been monitoring this situation in Barrow County, throughout the state, and the nation and we have advised the Chairman that this is in the best interest of our citizens,” county manager Mike Renshaw said. “These efforts are meant to help slow the spread of this virus in our county.

“We are strongly encouraging citizens to stay at home when possible and only make absolutely necessary trips out. If you have to be out, you need to practice social distancing and practice other protective steps, such as washing your hands. We must all work together to end this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

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