Athens-Clarke County officials order shelter in place over coronavirus

Athens orders residents to shelter-in-place

CLARKE COUNTY, Ga. — The Athens-Clarke County mayor and commission approved a new ordinance to order all residents to shelter in place because of the coronavirus crisis.

The only times officials want people out of their homes are to travel to work or school, to get groceries and medications, for outdoor exercise as long as people abide by social distancing guidelines, to care for family members or if you’re ordered out of your home by police.

Channel 2’s Tom Regan went to Athens, where he found restaurants, bars and shops with signs saying they’re closed until further notice, more causalities from the coronavirus crisis.

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William Antoniades, a chemistry major at the University of Georgia, told Regan he just started wearing a face mask outside.

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“The first University of Georgia student was just announced to have the virus,” Antoniades said. “Just wanted to take extra precautions being out there.”

With five confirmed coronavirus cases in Clarke County, commissioners passed an emergency order for people to stay home.

But there are many exceptions.

“We want people to keep exercising, walking pets, taking care of family members. We are just asking them to maintain the best practice of keeping social distance of 6 feet while they do those activities,” said Lt. John Radford, with the Athens Clarke County Police Department.

Violators will only get a verbal reprimand.

“The best way to describe it will be as soft hand approach. We are not planning on writing any citations or taking anyone to jail for this,” Radford said.

Many Regan spoke with said they support the new rule.

“Until we get this figured out and under control, it's better to err on the side of caution,” said Jennifer Williams.

Others, though, believe it's a little overreaching.

“I think it makes sense. But at the same time, we are all grown up. We should be able to go where we want to go,” said Destiny Goodman.

Most businesses will have to close to the public, with the exception of:

  • Farms
  • Health care providers and facilities
  • Retail businesses that sell food, like grocery and convenience stores
  • Restaurants may be open for drive-thru and carry-out only
  • Social services and homeless shelters
  • Gas stations, car repair/parts stores and hardware stores
  • Service providers like plumbers and electricians
  • Post offices and shipping providers
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Transportation providers
  • Legal services, accountants and realty companies