Georgia shelter-in-place order: What it means for Coastal Empire

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order is now in effect in Georgia. But what does this mean for measures that have been passed locally?

According to the governor’s office, the executive order “supersedes all local action that is less strict or more strict.”

That means the closure of Tybee Island’s beaches, an order that’s been in place for two weeks, is reversed.

“We put this in place after one day with 20,000 people on our beach — there was certainly no opportunity for social distancing,” said Tybee Mayor Shirley Sessions. “We did not nor do we have the resources to comply with that.”

Sessions said the city will not physically remove the barricades at this time and are in talks with Kemp’s office.

“We have to protect our residents and their safety as well as any potential visitors,” Sessions said.

“Please, if the governor’s office is listening or anyone who has some authority that can help us please keep the beaches closed,” she pleaded.

The City of Tybee Island released the following statement on Saturday morning regarding the beaches reopening:

“As the Pentagon ordered 100,000 body bags to store the corpses of Americans killed by the coronavirus, Governor Brian Kemp dictated that Georgia beaches must reopen, and declared any decision makers who refused to follow these orders would face prison and/or fines.
 
While the beaches have to reopen under the Governor’s order, Tybee will not have beach access and parking lots will remain closed until further notice. It should also be noted that Tybee currently is not properly staffed with Emergency Medical Services and there are no life guards in place. At no time has the state designated a single point of contact to orchestrate the implementation of the Governor’s plan.
 
Additionally, in spite of the serious health situation facing our community and the world, Governor Kemp has rescinded all restrictions put in place by local municipalities since March 1st.
 
Tybee City Council and I are devastated by the sudden directives and do not support his decisions. The health of our residents, staff and visitors are being put at risk and we will pursue legal avenues to overturn his reckless mandate.”

Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions

Chatham County’s plan to implement health screenings at airports and bus and train stations will not go into effect at this time.

“When the governor’s order expires, it will be at the discretion of the chairman as to whether we implement this process,” said Catherine Glasby, spokesperson for the county.

Kemp’s order also cancels out any curfews like the ones put in place by Bulloch and McIntosh counties.

Meanwhile, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson calls the governor’s order “reckless” and thinks it puts thousands of Georgians at risk.

“What we were receiving from the governor’s office was that local governments needed to lead in this area so we did,” said Johnson. “Now this invalidates and suspends the work that not only Savannah but cities across the state have done.”

Kemp’s mandate does uphold closing businesses like beauty salons and gyms and shutting down public gatherings.

Some local leaders insist it’s not a one size fits all and this order could potentially harm more than it helps.

“You have local governments, cities and counties that have adopted policies that they think are unique to their own local circumstances,” said Georgia Municipality Association Executive Director Larry Hanson. “So we understand it’s a balancing act, but the order itself is now a statewide order and imposed on all those in Georgia.”

In Thursday’s press conference, Kemp assured this would protect all Georgians and said he’s following expert health advice.

“When you look at the orders I put in place versus what other states did…you can call it what you want but if the press would dig in and compare, they would see what Georgia has in place is strict compared to other states around the country,” he said.

Johnson thinks being overly restrictive at this point is the only way to flatten Georgia’s curve.

On Friday, the mayor signed an extension of the local emergency order which means that if the statewide declaration expires, Savannah will shelter in place until midnight on May 1.

He’s challenging the citizens of Savannah to seriously consider their daily activities in the meantime.

“Just because these places are open doesn’t mean you have to go them,” said Johnson. “We have to exercise personal responsibility, we have to exercise social distancing.

“We do not want Savannah to break out in the way that places like Albany have done,” he said.

Johnson said his top priority is to keep Savannah safe, but he said now that the governor’s order is in place, state law must be followed.

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