F’ville passes COVID-19 response emergency ordinance

City follows guidelines in closing non-essential businesses through April 6

The city of Fayetteville is following state and federal guidelines in passing an emergency ordinance in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

At a special called meeting Tuesday night, city council gathered to formalize Fayetteville’s response. In a sign of the times, the mayor, five councilmen, and staff were spread out between the dais and the audience to maintain social distancing guidelines. 

Through April 6, with the date able to change as needed via teleconference meeting, non-essential businesses are to remain closed. Operating hours for essential businesses, not to include county and city government agencies, are limited to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Those businesses are also expected to maintain at least six feet between workers and limit the number of people inside the establishment at one time. 

“The biggest thing about this ordinance is let’s get people to start thinking, to get the mindset that this is a real emergency we’re facing,” said City Manager Ray Gibson. “At the end of the day, it’s the city’s role to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens and our community.”

Restaurants and bars may remain open but are closed to in-person dining, alcohol consumption, and entertainment. They can offer take-out or delivery of food. They can also sell unopened beer or wine for takeout, but not delivery. 

The city is also loosening some restrictions during the crisis to allow restaurants to display extra banners to promote business, as well as allowing food trucks to set up at the hospital. 

Mayor Ed Johnson, wearing a protective mask due to pollen-related allergies, explained the need to act quickly. 

“Unfortunately, not everyone sees this as a medical crisis as we know it is. We have to take extreme measures, and we did that tonight,” he said. “I think that indicates strong courage in leadership, not only by our staff but by the council members as well.”

Essential businesses, as designated by Homeland Security, include grocery stores, gas stations, auto repair shops, banks, hotels, hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, exterminators, carpenters, construction, HVAC, funeral homes, healthcare, pharmacies, veterinarians, laundry, news media, and schools. Houses of worship have been added to the list, as well. 

The full list is available on the city’s website. 

Councilman Paul Oddo requested, and received an exemption, for professional businesses operating by appointment only, such as his CPA firm, to be included as an essential business. 

Mayor Johnson said he thought, while the measure is not perfect, it sends a message. 

“I know it’s going to raise questions by some people who are going to try to find some wiggle room that they can continue their business, but, at the same time, I think if we have something out there to say this is the city taking a stance, it really indicates to those who have that inclination to say, ‘I am a citizen of Fayetteville, and I want to make sure Fayetteville does not become an epicenter.’”

An additional housekeeping move passed Tuesday night allows for future meetings during the outbreak to be held purely by teleconference. The public will be able to watch and participate, including via the city’s Facebook page. 

For more information on the city’s response, visit their website at fayetteville-ga.gov.

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