Blue Ridge, Ga. – Blue Ridge City Council passed an official State of Emergency for all citizens and business owners within city limits.
After discussions with several local and state agencies and mounting pressure from the public, an emergency special meeting was called and held via teleconference at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously will take effect at noon on Thursday, March 26 and expire on April 15, 2020. The ordinance does allow for city council to extend the time period of the ordinance, if deemed necessary, beyond the April 15 expiration date.
A curfew will be placed within the city limits, with exception being given to essential personnel, beginning at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 26.
“A curfew is imposed from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. effective 9:00 p.m. March 26, 2020. Residents, unless “exempt individuals” as defined herein, shall remain in their homes or on their property during the curfew period.”
The ordinance also has a shelter in place provision. Persons are allowed to leave residences for essential activities, such as obtaining supplies, and for essential business. You do not have to remain indoors during this time, but will need to remain on your property, private properties, or public properties that are allowed to remain open by municipalities.
Among activities that were addressed were the gathering of people on city owned property.
“For the duration of the declared emergency, there shall be no public gatherings on any property owned or controlled by the City. To avoid confusion, the following definitions shall apply under this Section: a “public gathering” shall mean the organized gathering or assembly of more than five or more persons at a specific location; “property owned or controlled by the City shall include any park, public square, public space, playground, recreational area, or similar place of public gathering, but nothing herein shall prohibit individuals or families from using sidewalks or designated pedestrian areas of parks for walking or other exercise if they are not participating in an organized gathering.”
The ordinance also calls for a closure to all non-essential business except for “Minimum Basic Operations”.
Minimum Basic Operations are defined as: “(a) the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions; and (b) the minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.”
Restaurants may operate, but must close all dine-in areas and “may continue preparing and offering food to customers via delivery, drive-through or take-out services” only. The ordinance further states: “Any restaurant that is currently licensed to sell beer and wine for on-premises consumption, such business shall be authorized to sell unopened bottles, cans, or other sealed containers of beer or wine for take-out consumption off-premises.”
The City encourages essential businesses to remain open. These businesses must follow the social distancing rule of 6 feet to the greatest extent possible and put signage on storefronts reminding customers of the social distancing rules.
Essential businesses may not allow more than 10 people in their building at a time if social distancing is unable to be maintained.
The ordinance defines “essential businesses” as:
- Healthcare Operations and essential infrastructure;
- Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
- Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
- Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
- Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
- Gas stations and auto-supply, auto repair, and related facilities;
- Banks and related financial institutions and pawn shops;
- Hardware stores;
- Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and Essential Businesses;
- Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
- Educational institutions-including public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities-for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible;
- Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
- Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Cafeterias in hospitals, nursing homes, or similar facilities shall not be subject to the restrictions contained in this Ordinance.
- Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
- Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
- Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences;
- Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
- Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children;
- Professional services, such as legal, or accounting services:
- Childcare facilities;
- Construction services; and
- Utility, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, railroads, public transportation, taxi/rideshare, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).
Lastly, the ordinance states that all vacation rentals, including hotels and motels in city limits, are to be declared non-essential, stating: “Any customer currently occupying a Tourism Rental under a paid reservation tendered prior to March 23, 2020 shall be allowed to complete the original reservation period but shall not be allowed to extend. All other customers must vacate the Tourism Rental within forty-eight (48) hours of this Ordinance going into effect.”
Violation of any term or provision of the Ordinance is punishable by a civil fine of $1,000 per violation.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners are meeting at 4 p.m. today and are expected to implement a State of Emergency for Fannin County as a whole.