Both the City of Cartersville and Bartow County issued emergency declarations Thursday afternoon, set to take effect later today, to address the local COVID-19 outbreak.
While there are some minor differences between the two orders authorized by Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini and Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor, respectively, the two declarations largely lay out the same regulations and requirements.
“We’ve been speaking all day about moving forward and doing this, and it was really important for us to have similar ordinances,” Santini told The Daily Tribune News. “I would call this a ‘shelter-in-place’ addendum that’s similar, if not identical, to what’s in place in other communities — this was taken very closely, if not verbatim, from the Floyd County one that was put into effect last week.”
Both orders explicitly call for the closing of establishments providing “body care services,” including barber shops, nail salons and tattoo parlors, as well as indoor recreational facilities, such as gyms, health studios, spas and concert venues.
The closures extend to both City and County-owned parks and recreational facilities, including playgrounds.
Both orders likewise prohibit the gathering of 10 or more people on either public or private properties throughout the city limits of Cartersville and unincorporated portions of Bartow.
“If you have 10 people in a family, of course, we’re not going to try to enforce a family to break up,” Taylor said. “But it is a very serious ordinance and it does apply to just about everyone.”
Each order includes exemptions for about a dozen operations, however, including grocery stores, medical facilities, manufacturers, gas stations, banks and “the performance of job duties by persons not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or residing with any person exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.”
Per the respective orders, all other retail, commercial or industrial operations are allowed to remain open, just as long as “reasonable steps are taken to ensure the customers, employees and other persons on the premises shall generally not be within six feet of each other for longer than brief periods.”
Santini addressed how Cartersville’s order applies to independent contractors and those who operate home businesses.
“The ordinance points out what is essential, non-essential and theres’s certain classifications of each,” Santini said. “We’re asking for people to make that determination, and even with those things that might be called ‘non-essential’ … it does provide that if you are going to be continuing operations, that you follow these CDC-mandated guidelines of the six-feet personal contact.”
Neither the City or the County’s emergency order addendums explicitly lay out new regulations or requirements for transportation services such as taxis.
“Certainly, we would anticipate and expect that if there are public transportation companies that are going to be providing those services, that they are frequently disinfecting and maintaining the six-foot buffer,” Santini said. “We certainly don’t want to restrict people from being able to get to the doctor or get to the grocery store to get food.”
Taylor echoed those sentiments.
“Transportation still has to move on, people have to get from point A to point B, even in emergency situations,” he said. “So they would have to use a taxi or a vehicle or whatever way they can get to work.”
Taylor and Santini said their respective governments are evaluating potential financial relief measures for their residents, with both indicating there are no plans to cut off utilities for nonpayment at this juncture.
The City and the County governments each issued initial emergency declarations last week.
Under the two emergency addendums, those who are found to violate any provisions of the orders are subject to as much as a $1,000 fine per violation or up to 60 days imprisonment. Both orders indicate that each day a business operates within their respective jurisdictions without complying with the new regulations, each infraction will constitute a separate offense.
“If it got serious enough, of course, we would do that, but that’s the last thing we want to do as local governments,” Taylor said. “We’re not going to use police powers to start stopping cars and asking our citizens where they’re headed and what they’re doing and what their business is — it hasn’t gotten to the point yet and I hope and pray that it never does.”
Taylor said he’s not concerned about the emergency orders raising any constitutional challenges.
“The State has given the local governments the power to enact their own ordinances, so we’re taking the State’s lead on this,” he said. “It is something that we really don’t want to do, but we feel and think we need to, it’s time.”
Whether or not the City or the County will be the beneficiaries of any State or federal relief packages remains unknown.
"We’re keeping up with what we do as far as extra expenses as far as this pandemic goes,” Taylor said. “Hopefully, we will get some reimbursement back from the feds, but that’ll have to be seen at a later time.”
Simply put, Santini said it’s too early to assess what may come next.
“I certainly know that the State and federal folks have plans in place for small businesses,” he said. “But as far as what aid and what type that’s coming back to cities, that we might be able to pass it along? We haven’t been told of what those plans are yet.”
Taylor said the other municipalities in Bartow have the discretion to adopt or not adopt the County’s emergency orders.
“Some of the municipalities, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “Kingston has hardly anything except for a couple of restaurants, White, they don’t have manufacturing there. And Euharlee, as far as I know, doesn’t have any manufacturing or big employment centers.”
The City of Adairsville adopted Taylor’s initial emergency ordinance last week. The City of Emerson adopted its own emergency declaration at a meeting on Thursday morning.
Both the City of Cartersville and Bartow County emergency orders officially take effect Friday at 5 p.m. and will continue until 11:59 p.m. on April 7 “unless modified by subsequent order.”