Valdosta mayor says coronavirus order is ‘not a suggestion’

VALDOSTA — Lowndes County has had 20 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death so far during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is more cases than the counties surrounding Valdosta combined.

The mayor of Valdosta, along with the Lowndes County Commission chair and the mayors of Hahira, Remerton, Lake Park, and Dasher are strongly urging residents to comply with orders to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Lowndes county.

“Our order is very clear. The best thing we can to help prevent the spread of this virus is to adhere to the guidelines put in place and stay home unless you are traveling for essential purposes,” said Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson. “I feel it is our responsibility to take all the preventative measures possible to reduce the health impacts in the City of Valdosta. We expect 100 percent compliance with the measures we put in place. The order is not designed to be punitive but it is not a suggestion.”

According to the order, residents should not travel to dine-in restaurants (unless it is for curbside/take-out service), bars and nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms and fitness studios, public events and gatherings, and convention centers. Reports of gatherings that violate the current local order will be investigated by code enforcement and law enforcement officials.

Lowndes County’s Emergency Management Order applies to Lowndes County, and the Cities of Valdosta, Hahira, Remerton, Lake Park and Dasher. It was put into effect on March 24, limiting establishments that serve food to takeout, drive through, and delivery only. The order also closed gyms and fitness centers, personal grooming salons, movie theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys, arcades, and gatherings of ten or more.

The measures are designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which can be debilitating for most people, but deadly for some, especially the elderly. People who believe they may have contracted COVID-19 should contact medical professionals and follow their advice before proceeding to a hospital or doctor’s office.

“Decisions made that disrupt services in our community are not considered without input from emergency management stakeholders. Local governments are responsible for protecting the health, safety and welfare of the communities they serve. This can include moving forward with measures that place additional restrictions on gatherings and travel,” said County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter. “Please understand that social distancing has proven to be successful in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Citizens are encouraged to look for ways to stay home, instead of seeking opportunities to move about. If violations of the current order continue, officials will be placed in a position to consider additional mandated measures.”

Local Government Officials say they have received many questions how someone can report of violation of the Emergency Management Order. You can report violations of Emergency Management Order within the city limits, you can fill out the online form listed on the City of Valdosta’s website homepage or you call the City of Valdosta Code Enforcement Division at 229-259-3554. Large gatherings that are actively occurring should be reported to the Valdosta Police Department at 229-242-2606.

As of noon March 30, there were 2,809 people in Georgia who tested positive for coronavirus. In Georgia, 25% of people who test positive for COVID-19 are hospitalized.

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