Social Circle City Council

The Social Circle City Council meets in an emergency meeting Monday night, March 23, 2020, in Social Circle, Ga. The meeting was broadcast on Facebook Live due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

SOCIAL CIRCLE — Following in the wake of Gov. Brian Kemp’s latest call for further restrictions on business and travel in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Social Circle City Council voted to place the city in a state of emergency.

Meeting Monday night in a special called meeting, the council members sitting the mandated 6 feet apart from one another while the meeting was broadcast live on Facebook, the council unanimously approved a resolution placing the city in a state of emergency, giving the city broader powers to restrict travel and commerce in hopes of containing the coronavirus before it ever reaches the city.

“Additional measures will likely be required and such measures will need to be taken quickly without the usual formalities,” city manager Adele Schirmer read from the resolution.

Among the new regulations temporarily set in place by the resolution, the city approved the ability to hold council meetings using teleconference technology; postponed all utility cutoffs, set to begin this week, for at least another billing cycle; prohibited all public events of more than 10 people; closed all gyms within the city limits; and restricted all bars and restaurants to serving food in a take-out manner, with all dining rooms now closed to the public.

Currently, these measures are set to expired along with the state of emergency at noon on April 6, two weeks from the date of the meeting approving the measures, but continued pandemic conditions could force the council to extend that deadline.

“This ordinance can be continued,” Schirmer said.

Businesses within Social Circle will continue to operate, but the ordinance requires all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved precautionary measures to be adopted, including a separation of all employees by at least 6 feet at all times. Restaurants that serve alcohol can continue to sell it by the bottle with take-out orders as long as food is also ordered, for the duration of the state of emergency.

The council discussed setting a curfew but chose not to do so at this time.

Mayor David Keener said city officials had worked all day to finalize the ordinance and had listened to Kemp’s speech earlier in the day for further guidance.

“The governor’s guidelines have been incorporated,” Keener said.

The ordinance went into effect immediately on approval and will expire within the next two weeks unless extended as everyone looks to the future to see what the ongoing pandemic will cause next.

Stephen Milligan is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.