MONROE, Ga. — The leader of Walton County’s hospital is urging the county and its cities to order residents to shelter in place, in hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Larry Ebert, CEO of Piedmont Walton, wrote elected officials Tuesday with a desperate plea to governments to make citizens stay home, avoid crowds and most businesses and generally keep themselves apart for the next few weeks.
The Monroe facility is one of 11 hospitals owned by Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare. Ebert said modeling of daily numbers across the system for COVID-19 patients, based on Georgia-specific numbers and infection rates, shows that if a mandatory shelter-in-place order isn’t given by the end of the week, the entire system will be at capacity with no beds available by April 9.
“It is our understanding that other health systems’ models are similar if not identical,” Ebert said.
In his plea to officials, Ebert requested an order for all citizens to stay at home and asked for a prohibition of gatherings. He allowed for “essential businesses” such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and liquor stores to remain open.
“If restaurants remained open, they should require that all service be takeout only outside the four walls of the restaurant (i.e., curbside),” he said.
Loganville and Social Circle both declared states of emergency in special called City Council meetings Monday. Monroe has called a similar meeting for 10 a.m. Thursday.
The Georgia Municipal Association has urged all 538 cities in the state to declare public health emergencies, including curfews of 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., and a prohibition of public gatherings of 10 or more people.
Even in smaller groups, people are urged to stay 6 feet or more apart to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Swift action by local governments in the state is needed to prevent Georgia from going past the point of no return,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, the executive associate dean for Emory at Grady Health System, said in a statement.
“If left unchecked, the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a crippling of Georgia’s health care system, and thus immediate measures are needed at the local level to stem the spread of the virus before the health care system is overwhelmed.”
Del Rio, who is also a distinguished professor of medicine and global health at the Emory University School of Medicine and the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, gave a virtual presentation to mayors, city managers, county commission chairmen and county managers Monday.
“Both cities and counties have inherent police powers to take emergency actions in the state of Georgia,” GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson said. “Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has held that a local government utilizing its police powers in a reasonable manner ‘to prevent the spread of contagious diseases’ does not violate the Constitution.”
The GMA drafted a model ordinance and urged cities and counties to implement it.
“Local leaders recognize that the potential harm to our state’s economy, our health care workers and first responders, and to our most vulnerable, is far greater if stringent measures aren’t put in place across the state to slow the spread of this virus,” Dublin Mayor Phil Best, president of the GMA, said.