The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCGov) on Friday announced that it is continuing to take steps to respond to the unprecedented coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation to help stop the spread of the disease while ensuring essential government functions.
A webpage at www.accgov.com/coronavirus provides key information about ACCGov’s response and changes to services resulting from COVID-19, as well as other updates for the Athens-Clarke County community.A new coronavirus e-newsletter that allows individuals to sign up for e-mail or text subscriptions is also now available on the website that will provide regular updates to subscribers. Information and updates will also be provided through official ACCGov social media channels and other outlets.
As of midnight on March 12, there were no confirmed positive or presumed positive COVID-19 cases in the county. The Georgia Department of Public Health has a daily status report map updated each night at midnight showing confirmed cases by counties. This map is linked at www.accgov.com/coronavirus.
“We have a responsibility to not only provide vital daily services around the clock to the Athens community, but also to ensure the safety of our residents,” Mayor Kelly Girtz said.
“There will be some disruptions to daily life for all of us for some time," he said. "By taking immediate steps now on both the organizational and personal levels, we can work together to help fight the spread of this disease.”
As a result of COVID-19, the following measures and changes are currently in place for ACCGov:
Leisure Services-sponsored events, programs, and classes are suspended through March 29. All currently-scheduled private rentals at Leisure Services parks and facilities and private performances at the Morton Theatre will continue as scheduled at this time unless cancelled by the renter. Parks and facilities remain open for self-directed use.Staff has increased cleaning and sanitizing of all ACCGov facilities, interior spaces at parks, Transit buses, and other vehicles.Hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed at government facilities and on Transit buses as supplies allow.
Courts in Athens-Clarke County and the Western Judicial Circuit will scale back operations for the next two weeks to minimize non-essential visits to the Courthouse. Juries and the Grand Jury are cancelled for the next two weeks. Municipal Court encourages individuals who have a court date from March 16-27 to contact the Court to reschedule. Call the court clerk’s office at 706-613-3690 or email the Clerk’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm a mailing address and cell phone number. Municipal Court will mail notices of the newly-assigned court date and text court reminders for the new court dates. Additional changes and details specific to courts and Courthouse operations will be released by Monday morning.
The Mayor and Commission Agenda Setting Session scheduled for March 17 will take place as scheduled. Instead of attending, residents are urged to watch the proceedings on ACTV cable channel 180 / UGA channel 6 or virtually at www.accgov.com/videos, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/accgov or the YouTube app on TV or mobile devices, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/accgov. Comments submitted through the online agenda item comment form pertaining to items on the agenda will be read into the record. The agenda and form are available at www.accgov.com/agendas.
Board of Elections is sanitizing voting equipment with approved cleaners on a regular schedule and has hand sanitizer as supplies allow at all early voting sites.Corrections has temporarily suspended non-essential programs and visitations to all of its buildings until dates ranging from April 1-10 and will re-evaluate plans at those times.
Athens Transit will remain on a reduced services schedule until at least March 29. This is the same service schedule used during UGA breaks. Limited service is hourly on weekdays only for routes 12 (Riverbend) and 14 (Lakeside), with no service for routes 23 (Oconee Park & Ride) and 28 (College Station Campus Express). All other routes currently operate on the same schedule.
Human Resources is updating policies related to leave and contagious conditions, as well as providing updates to all ACCGov staff on prevention strategies, resources for health and cleaning information, requirements to stay home if sick, and steps to take if they experience any possible COVID-19 symptoms.
Central Services will not approve special events permits, including the St. Patrick’s Day festival, for use of public property during the remainder of March. The department will continue to accept and review new special event permit requests for the coming months, but will not accept fees or issue final approvals until officials determine it is prudent to do so.
Fire and Emergency Services first responders are using personal protective equipment on emergency responses to minimize exposure and limiting non-emergency exposure to the public by cancelling birthday parties and meetings in fire station community rooms.In order to provide access to clean water for sanitation and hand-washing.
Public Utilities will not terminate water service for customers with past due bills for the next 60 days, effectively immediately. Residents whose service has been disconnected for non-payment will have service restored by March 13.
The Access to Justice Pop-Up Clinic scheduled for March 14 has been cancelled.
Relevant departments are working with Information Technology to allow appropriate staff to work remotely and telecommute. All departments are engaged in personal protection instruction to staff, ongoing continuity of operations planning to ensure providing of vital services to the community, and planning for advanced social distancing measures that may require limited interaction with the public.
Additional responses are likely in the coming days and weeks depending on situations and established policies. Updates will be provided through the website, e-newsletter, social media, and other outlets.The Emergency Management Office has formed a COVID-19 Policy Group of key community partners that met on Friday to discuss responses and planning updates and will continue to meet regularly.
“We are in continual communications with public health officials and with the University of Georgia, our colleges, local health care system, the Clarke County School District, and other local entities to develop policies and strategies to help curtail the spread of this disease and its impact,” Athens-Clarke County Manager Blaine Williams said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) are the lead agencies in Georgia’s response to COVID-19. The Northeast Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health is the lead agency in the 10-county area’s response to COVID-19. ACCGov’s Emergency Management Office continues to work closely with the Northeast Health District to ensure the response in Athens-Clarke County is appropriate for the situation.The overall risk of COVID-19 to the general public remains low, although elderly people and individuals with chronic medical conditions may have increased risk for COVID-19. Both groups should take precautions, avoid crowds, and to stay home as much as possible.According to DPH, the best prevention measures for any respiratory virus are: wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If you have recently traveled to areas where there are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 and develop fever with cough and shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel, or if you have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19, stay home and call your health care provider or local health department right away. Be sure to call before going to a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care center and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.For more information and links to other official COVID-19 resources, visit the ACCGov COVID-19 webpage at www.accgov.com/coronavirus.