During the COVID-19 pandemic, local police and firefighters have undertaken a new task to help keep residents safe. Throughout the day, anyone listening to a police scanner can hear officers and firefighters tell dispatchers they are “on COVID-19 detail.”
Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead explained the “detail,” a military/law enforcement word for “task.” It simply means an officer or firefighter is checking to make sure people frequenting local businesses are compliant with occupancy and social distancing ordinances.
Statesboro firefighters are doing this along with police, he said.
“Officers are assigned to the COVID detail to visit … stores to ensure we have good communication with staff in case they need any assistance, to help remind people of the social distancing rules, and to provide a uniformed presence to ensure people understand that we all need to take the social distancing seriously,” he said. “To that end, the (Statesboro) Fire Department has been great to work shifts every day on the detail to keep the police officers from shouldering the entire load. We are very thankful for their help.”
Most of the businesses in Bulloch County that tend to draw large crowds are located within the city limits. Broadhead said seven stores “where it seemed the most people were visiting on a regular basis” are Wal-Mart Supercenter, Wal-Mart Marketplace, both Food World locations, Aldi's, Bi-Lo, and Lowes.
All of the businesses have been willingly compliant on making sure social distancing rules are followed, he said. This means customers and staff stay six feet apart, and do not cluster in small groups. Most stores have hand sanitizer available, as well as disinfectant wipes for customers’ use. Some have even placed signs and floor markers guiding customers in where to stand in line.
“The stores have gone above and beyond in their efforts to keep people apart,” he said. “I have been very impressed with the lengths they have gone to ensure customer and staff safety.”
It took the public a few days to catch on once the social distancing began, but for the most part, people understand. “No system is perfect, and sometimes people gather up, ( but generally speaking, people have figured it out. With the number of people who have been in these stores over the past month, I think the relatively slow growth of confirmed infection cases bears witness to the idea that our community, both business and individuals, have been doing a good job of sanitizing, practicing good distancing, and following CDC guidelines.”
Social distancing still required
Although Gov. Brian Kemp has given the state the “go-ahead” to open most businesses back up, people will still need to observe social distancing, proper hygiene and precautions such as wearing gloves and masks.
Frequent handwashing and sanitizing, avoiding groups of more than 10, staying home when sick and staying at least two arm’s lengths away from one another are the main points of social distancing, which lessens the chance of spreading the coronavirus.
As a matter of fact, a March 17 executive order by Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar makes it illegal for someone to refuse to obey social distancing rules, If they do, they could get a citation for violating city ordinance 30-11. Broadhead said. So far, no obe has been cited. “We have not had to issue a single citation to a store or individual for violating the executive orders.”
It isn’t so much about the law as it is about keeping people safe., he said. “We have focused on education and communication as our means of enforcement. Fortunately, the vast majority of people who do close up on someone else, immediately back off when reminded of the protocols.”
Now that “non-essential” businesses are allowed to reopen, the “COVID-19 details” will expand. “As restaurant dining rooms start to re-open, we will start including restaurants on our visits,” he said.
As of Thursday, Bulloch County had 32 positive cases of the coronavirus reported, with two deaths, according to Ted Wynn, Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency director. As of noon Thursday, there were seven COVID-19 patients at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. Statewide positive coronavirus cases were 21,512; with 4,069 hospitalized and 872 dead, he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 912-489-9414.