Transcript from Mayor McCollar’s Live Video Address on Friday, April 3, 2020, Regarding COVID-19 and Governor Kemp’s Shelter in Place Order.
Good evening, citizens of Statesboro. I’ve received many calls, texts, and emails from you all wanting to know how you will be affected by the continued spread of COVID-19 and Governor Kemp’s Executive order that was issued last night. My goal for tonight’s broadcast is to address the community’s questions and concerns so that we can move forward in unity and be mindful of what each of us will need to do next.
On March 14th, Governor Kemp declared a public health state of emergency for the state of Georgia. As most of you are aware, the number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia continues to rise, and it is up to each one of us to do what we can to help slow the spread. Currently, there are five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bulloch County. Our city and county continue to work with the Georgia Department of Health and East Georgia Regional to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for whatever may be coming our way.
I encourage you all to check the Georgia Department of Health’s website for daily updates on case numbers in Georgia. You will also find helpful tips on how to protect yourself and your family from the virus on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at CDC.gov. The CDC has determined that older adults, people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, and certain other people groups may be at a higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. I would also like to remind you all to check where you’re getting your information from – Remember, everything you read on Facebook isn’t necessarily true. Make sure you’re receiving info from government agencies or other reliable sources.
As you’ve all probably heard by now, Governor Kemp issued the “Executive Order to Ensure a Safe & Healthy Georgia” last night. The big question on everyone’s mind is what does this order mean and how does it affect me. So I’d like to clarify the order and what is in it.
- First off, all residents and visitors of the state of Georgia shall practice Social Distancing and good sanitation. Remember to wash your hands often and keep your distance from anyone that doesn’t live inside your home with you.
- The order has banned all public gatherings of 10 or more people if a distance of six feet cannot be maintained between each individual. This includes businesses, organizations, governments, etc. I officially issued an emergency order for the city of Statesboro on March 7th which put a 10 person cap on all public and private gatherings in the city of Statesboro. The Governor’s new order has now voided this 10 person limit on all types of gatherings regardless of private or public setting within the city of Statesboro – if and only if individuals can maintain a six-foot distance. I also want to note that Bulloch County’s curfew that was established this past week will no longer be in place as the Governor has announced that no city or county will have an emergency order in place that goes beyond the bounds of his order.
- Residents and visitors of Georgia have been ordered to shelter in place within their homes or places of residence and take every possible precaution to limit social interaction and prevent the spread of infection starting at 6 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020, to 11:59 PM on Monday, April 13, 2020. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If you are conducting or participating in essential services, work in critical infrastructure, are engaging in minimum basic operations, or are performing necessary travel, you are permitted to leave your home.
- Essential services are defined as any of the following: Obtaining necessary supplies and services for your household, engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of your household, and engaging in outdoor exercise activities so long as you have at least six (6) feet between people who do not live in your household. You can go to the grocery store, medical appointments, and the pharmacy. You can go pick-up food or have food delivered to your house. You can leave your house to buy supplies to clean or maintain your house. You can go outside to exercise. You can also leave your house in an emergency. The key takeaway is that you need to stay in your house as much as possible, but there are circumstances when you will need to leave. Keep those circumstances rare, consolidate trips as much as possible, and use take-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery services whenever possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Necessary Travel is defined as travel required by someone to conduct or participate in essential services, minimum basic operations, or work for critical infrastructure.
- Critical infrastructure is defined as businesses, establishments, corporations, non-profit corporations, and organizations as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as an “essential critical infrastructure workforce.” If you are a critical infrastructure, you already know you are because Homeland Security has defined you as one previously– such as healthcare, water, and government facilities.
- Most of our local businesses are classified as non-critical infrastructure and will be engaging in what the order calls “minimum basic operations” which are the minimum necessary activities required to maintain the value of a business, establishment, corporation, non-profit corporation, or organization. That means that businesses can provide services, manage inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or related functions. Businesses are encouraged to facilitate employees or volunteers being able to work remotely from their residences or members or patrons being able to participate remotely from their residences when possible. Instances where employees are working outdoors without regular contact with other persons, such as delivery services, contractors, landscape businesses, and agricultural industry services will be able to continue operation. To be clear, Governor Kemp’s order mandates that staying open to the public constitutes minimum basic operations. There remains no distinction in the order between essential and nonessential businesses.
That being said, all Businesses operating under basic operations will need to comply with the social distancing rule of no more than 10 people unless six feet distance between each person can be maintained as well as comply with twenty additional requirements included in the governor’s executive order. These requirements are basically just to ensure that your business is taking all necessary precautions to keep employees and patrons safe such as screening employees for signs of illness, providing personal protection equipment when available, working remotely when possible, sanitizing the workplace, et cetera. The full list of requirements can be found in the Governor’s Executive order at gov.georgia.gov/executive-action.
The order does prohibit some specific businesses from operating. All gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, live performance venues, operators of amusement parks, body art studios, estheticians, hair designers, persons licensed to practice massage therapy, and bars shall cease in-person operations and shall close to the public while this Order is in effect. Dine-in services at restaurants and private social clubs will suspend operations – only take-out, curbside pick-up, delivery, and dine-in services at hospitals, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities will be exempt from this order.
I hope I have been able to clarify the shelter in place order for all of you watching tonight. If you have more specific questions that you need answered, you can send an email to email@example.com.
Governor Kemp also announced in a second order yesterday, that all schools and universities will be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. My heart goes out to all of the students, teachers, seniors, family, and friends that will be affected by this order. We know that it’s for the protection of us all, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. A large portion of Statesboro’s economy is comprised of college students from Georgia Southern, East Georgia, and Ogeechee Technical College. I won’t pretend that the absence of these students will not impact our local economy — But know there are resources becoming more and more readily available to help businesses get through this trying time.
I’d like to go over some resources that will be available to many of you that have been affected financially by COVID-19. President Trump signed into law the CARES Act on Friday, March 27, 2020., which was designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and provide relief to families and small businesses negatively affected by COVID-19. The act offers a range of provisions for US citizens from expanded unemployment benefits, direct payments for certain taxpayers, delayed payroll taxes, waived retirement penalties, corporation loans, healthcare appropriations, and more. With much of Statesboro working reduced hours or none at all as COVID-19 continues to spread globally, I am encouraged by the recent legislation and what it will mean for Statesboro and Bulloch County.
- The CARES act, also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security act, is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history and will allocate $2.2 trillion in support to individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic and economic downturn. Many people have questions about how the new law impacts their families and businesses. I will now go through some of the provisions in the act
- The Paycheck Protection Program will provide small businesses with funds to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Businesses are eligible for up to a $10m loan, which is forgivable if you meet certain milestones on maintaining your payroll; The PPP loan application went live today, April 3rd, 2020. For more information or to apply, visit the U.S. Small Business Bureau Administration’s website at sba.gov.
- The act includes an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) & Grants (you can receive a $10k cash advance within 3 days of applying for up to $2m of an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)); according to the government, “the $10k advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance, and may be used to keep employees on payroll, to pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent, and mortgage payments.” The EIDL application is live now. You are allowed to participate in BOTH the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, but there are restrictions. Check with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for more information or to apply.
- The CARES act also extends unemployment benefits to far more workers than are usually eligible, including self-employed people and part-time workers. Georgia’s current unemployment benefits program is designed to offer temporary income for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own— which typically means coverage when workers are laid off or their position is cut. However, with additional funding from the CARES Act, those who are unemployed, partly unemployed or cannot work for coronavirus-related reasons will be more likely to receive benefits. Unemployment benefits often replace 40 to 45 percent of a worker’s weekly compensation. The CARES Act will go a long way in helping to fill that 60 percent gap for workers. Members of the community looking to file individual or employer claims for unemployment benefits are encouraged to visit the Georgia Department of Labor’s website to learn more at dol.georgia.gov.
- I know the CARES act will only provide temporary relief to our community, but I hope this will be the first of many steps taken by the federal and state government to see our nation through this trying time.
I would like to note that the City of Statesboro has suspended all utility disconnections through April 14th. Georgia Power has temporarily suspended residential and business disconnections for 30 days and will reevaluate the policy and time frame as the situation develops. Excelsior EMC will also be suspending disconnections of service for non-payment until April 15. Though disconnections are suspended for a short time, account balances will continue to accrue. Customers should try to pay their accounts on time to avoid large balances in the future.
I would also like to remind you all that the 2020 Census is currently underway. Though 2020 Census field operations have been suspended in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the public is still strongly encouraged to respond to the Census online using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and can also respond by phone or mail. You might be wondering why you need to participate in the census… Each year, Census data determines federal funding for more than 100 programs, including school lunches, highway construction, and education. Your response will impact the funding our community receives in the coming years. Do your part and help us get our response rate to 100%!
I’d like to close by reminding you all that the next ten days of the governor’s executive order are critical. What we do during these 10 days can help to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. That’s why it is important we:
- Remain calm.
- Have patience and understanding.
- Practice preventative safety measures.
- Please continue to practice social distancing. Mind each other’s space.
- Support local restaurants through curbside and to-go options.
- Limit all nonessential travel.
- Be considerate when you are buying supplies. Get what you need, but don’t go overboard.
- If you think you are sick with the virus, call your healthcare provider. Do not show up to a doctor’s office or emergency room without calling first.
You can keep up to date on what’s happening here in our city, by visiting the City of Statesboro Website and Facebook page. We will continue to post updates there. Also, check-in with the Bulloch Volunteer Organization Active in Disasters’ website (VOAD for short). You can find resources from where local food banks are to volunteer support for the homebound and much more by visiting org.
Know that your friends at City Hall are continuing to find and create solutions and resources to help you all during this time. We are already looking forward to the future and the aftermath of this pandemic. We have strategically been monitoring our funds to ensure that we are prepared should there be an economic downturn. And we are doing all we can to make sure the community is prepared and will have access to what they need as well. We’re all in this together, Statesboro. We are strong, and we will get through this. Goodnight and God bless.
Mayor Jonathan McCollar