Local Governments Issue Voluntary Closures Due to COVID-19

Staff Report From Valdosta CEO

Friday, March 20th, 2020

City of Valdosta and Lowndes County officials are recommending that all restaurants in Lowndes County voluntarily close their dine-in service beginning Thursday, March 19. It is allowed and recommended that takeout, curbside delivery of food, be increased and/or enhanced. This in an effort to suppress the spread of the coronavirus. The regulations mirror a suggested measure supported by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

This recommendation includes Lowndes County and the Cites of Valdosta, Remerton, Hahira, Dasher and Lake Park.

The closure recommendation does not apply to businesses that provide essential services, including: grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, doctors' and veterinary offices, child care centers, hardware stores, gas stations, industrial manufacturing, food processing, agriculture and hotels.

However, businesses and offices with public lobby areas are strongly encouraged to close or limit public access to those areas.

"Valdosta and Lowndes County's small businesses and their workers are the backbone of our economy, and I understand that these actions will not only impact them, but will also disrupt the lives of our community, people who work at and eat at our renowned restaurants and bars. However, COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S. and experts have been clear that implementing social distancing that includes these measures is the most effective method to mitigate its spread and to protect public health," said Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson. "Please help us in implementing this recommendation, we want to keep this as voluntary measure, not a mandated measure."

Restaurants are encouraged to be closed for in-restaurant seated dining, and should be open only to drive-through or other pick-up/delivery options. Restaurants also should increase the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing of all hard surfaces, including tables and counter tops used by employees and patrons during pickup/delivery options.

"I want to clarify this voluntary closure is for businesses where groups of people tend to congregate. All businesses are essential to our community. Our efforts are trying to limit areas of high-exposure risk." said County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter. "This decision was not easy, and it was not taken lightly. The health effects of COVID-19 are real, and they are serious. Containment of the virus is critical to our medical system being able to respond appropriately to an outbreak, and these steps will help with that"

We encourage residents to take the following preventative measures to keep you and others safe and healthy:

* Stay home if you are sick, especially if you have a fever.

* Frequently wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.

* Refrain from shaking hands or hugging.

* Use hand sanitizer regularly, after shaking hands or touching surfaces, when hand washing is not available.

* Keep hands away from face - In particular, refrain from touching eyes, nose, and mouth.

* Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue to cough or sneeze, and discard it in a lined trash can.

* Wipe/disinfect surfaces - door knobs, hand rails, doors, sinks, desk tops, steering wheels, phones, keyboards, tablets, etc.

* Practice "social distancing"