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Bulloch leaders declare local state of emergency; conference call with Governor
Bulloch County Seal W

Hours after approving a declaration of a local state of emergency, Bulloch County leaders engaged in a conference call Tuesday with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp regarding Covid-19.

During a morning meeting, Bulloch County commissioners signed the declaration of local state of emergency, meant to provide protection for residents by combating price gouging and illegal repair scams and enabling the county government to suspend or amend ordinances if necessary.

In this declaration of emergency, Bulloch County Emergency Management Agency activates the Emergency Operations Plan,  implementing the following county ordinances: prohibiting the overcharging of goods, materials, services and housing during an emergency;  charging exorbitant fees for dishonest or fraudulent repairs or services, and  if needed, implementation of a curfew, said Emergency Management Director Ted Wynn.

The declaration of a local state of emergency expires April 4.

Bulloch County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson, Wynn and county staff attorney Jeff Akins engaged in the conference call with Kemp and others at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and discussed the most recent details of the Covid-19, or Coronavirus, in the state.

While there has yet to be a positive case in Bulloch County, statewide as of the time of the call, the number of confirmed cases had risen to 147.  Kemp said in the call that there were 27 counties in Georgia where residents tested positive for Covid-19, and there had been one fatality related to the disease in Georgia.

“The governor is leaving a lot of decisions up to local” governments, Thompson said.


No curfew orders

At the time, there is no curfew in Bulloch County, and no order for businesses to close. However, county leaders strongly recommend following Center for Disease Control guidelines, including self-quarantine if sick, social distancing (staying at least six feet away from others), and refraining from attending gatherings of 10 or more.

Wynn said Bulloch is on the list to acquire personal protection equipment for first responders, but the Department of Public Health has not given an estimated time of arrival for Covid-19 tests.

Once they do arrive, “not everyone will get a test,” he said; only those showing symptoms of the virus.

Kemp told local officials that Georgia will initially be able to test 200 people a day, and that is “expected to rise exponentially,” Wynn said.


City’s action

When Statesboro City Council held its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, only 10 chairs, spaced six feet apart, were provided for members of the public.

The city had issued notices encouraging citizens to attend the meeting “virtually,” and had video of it livestreamed.

On a recommendation from city staff, including City Attorney Cain Smith, the council adopted a new ordinance granting the mayor authority to issue a declaration similar to the one Thompson had signed on behalf of the county.

With a unanimous vote overriding the usual requirement for multiple hearings, the council adopted the ordinance on a motion by District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum seconded by District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers. Now or in the future, the mayor or city manager could declare a 30-day state of emergency, but the council would need to vote again to extend it past 30 days.

Mayor Jonathan McCollar signed the ordinance into city law but did not issue a declaration Tuesday.

“Right now we’re just going to monitor the situation, and we’ll make that declaration if it becomes necessary to do so,” he said. “We feel comfortable right now with the county’s declaration of emergency and the governor’s declaration of emergency, but if we see that there’s something specific that we have to do as a city, that’s when we would issue it.”

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 912-489-9414. Herald reporter Al Hackle, who also contributed to this story, may be reached at 912-489-9458.

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