Virus Outbreak Georgia

A couple walks past the marquee of the Georgia Theatre on Friday, March 20, 2020, in Athens, Ga.

(The Center Square) – One day after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stopped short of issuing a stay-at-home order for Georgians in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Georgia Municipal Association is asking the state's 538 cities to declare public health emergencies.

“Swift action by local governments in the state is needed to prevent Georgia from going past the point of no return,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean for Emory University at Grady Health System, in a release posted Tuesday on GMA's website. “If left unchecked, the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a crippling of Georgia’s health-care system, and thus immediate measures are needed at the local level to stem the spread of the virus before the health-care system is overwhelmed.”

  • GMA has provided cities with a model ordinance when declaring a public health emergency. Among the things GMA suggests cities should do:
  • Prohibit public gatherings on property owned by the city;
  • Suspend public utility disconnections;
  • Restrict restaurants to delivery, drive-thru or take-out services;
  • Close gyms, fitness centers, pools, social clubs, amusement facilities, bowling alleys, pool halls, theaters, massage parlors and nail salons;
  • Prohibit private and public gatherings of more than 10 people;
  • Enact a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

“Both cities and counties have inherent police powers to take emergency actions in the state of Georgia," said GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson, referencing the model ordinance. "Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has held that a local government utilizing its police powers in a reasonable manner ‘to prevent the spread of contagious diseases’ does not violate the Constitution.”

On Monday, Kemp ordered all bars and nightclubs to close and mandated high-risk individuals to quarantine for 14 days. He also prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people.

The Georgia Department of Public Health on Monday night reported 800 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, including 26 deaths. 

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has caused at least 588 deaths in the U.S., with more than 46,000 confirmed cases in the country. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

GMA is a nonprofit that represents municipal governments in Georgia and provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and technical consulting services.

Regional Editor

Jason Schaumburg is an award-winning, veteran editor who has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He spent a decade as the top editor in three northern Illinois newsrooms for Shaw Media and Pioneer Press.