Order that includes a mandate for even families to maintain 6-foot separation when outside the walls of their home, and directives regarding hand-washing procedures, will be enforced with misdemeanor charges and potential fines and 60 days in jail.
On March 27, Gwinnett County implemented a county-wide stay-at-home order for the entire unincorporated county and all 16 municipalities. The order went into effect Saturday will be in place until April 13 unless extended or rescinded, not by the county Board of commissioners, but by the chair of the Board.
"Whereas, in accordance with Section 34-22(d)(10) of Gwinnett County's Emergency Management Ordinance and pursuant to my March 16,2020 Declaration of Local Emergency, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners has the ability to exercise such powers as may be deemed necessary to promote and ensure the safety and protection of the civilian population during an emergency,” states the county’s Local Emergency Order No.1-4.
“All individuals currently living within the territorial limits of unincorporated Gwinnett County are directed to stay at their place of residences unless otherwise allowed herein. To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must at all times as reasonably possible maintain social distancing of at least six feet from another person when they are outside their residence. All persons may leave their place of residence only for essential activities, essential governmental functions, or to operate essential businesses, all as set forth in Section 5,” the order states.
The order mandates the closure of “all businesses with a facility in the County, except the essential businesses defined below in Section 5, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the county except minimum basic operations, as defined in Section 5. For clarity, businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own place of resident, (ie working from home). All essential businesses are strongly encouraged to remain open.”
The ordinance continues to say that all public and private gatherings “of any number of people occurring outside a household or living unit” are prohibited, except for the limited purposes as expressly permitted in Section 5.”
All travel, including travel by “foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit, except essential travel and essential activities as defined in section 5, is prohibited.”
Among the list of essential activities, activities essential to health and safety, activities involving essential businesses or essential governmental services, outdoor activity, healthcare and essential infrastructure and governmental function. Essential businesses include healthcare facilities, grocery stores, agriculture, providing services for the economically disadvantaged, media, gas station and auto supply and repair services, banks, hardware stores, plumber and other service providers connected to safety sanitation and essential operation of residences. Mailing and shipping services, laundromats, and more.
Social distancing requirements mandated by the order, with prescribed enforcement and penalty power, includes not only the six-foot” distancing policy, but specifications regarding “washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible” and “not shaking hands.”
The order authorizes the Gwinnett County Police Department to enforce the order though “information delivery and education of individuals regarding the imminent threat to the public.”
However, on Sunday, March 29, the county announced that anyone who violates the stay-at-home order is subject to a punishment of 60 days in jail or a $1,000 fine upon conviction. A news release from the office of Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside stated "aggressive and innovative prosecution" for violators of the order. Violators would be charged with a misdemeanor crime, according to statements from the Solicitor General.
In addition to the order being by the chairman of the board of county commissioners, Emergency Order 1-4 empowers the County administrator, signally and without restriction, to “Categorize county services as either “required” or “discretionary,” temporarily suspend the provision of discretionary services,” and to “to close county buildings and facilities.”
The order, referred to within the document as “my March 16 2020 declaration of emergency” and signed by Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash, is effective at 10:01 AM on March 28 and will continue to be in effect until 11:59 p.m.m on April 13 “or until it is extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing by the Chairman.”
The County has also initiated a "report a violation" hotline for residents to call if they witness violations of the county's stay at home order.
"If you would like to report a violation, please email ReportViolation@gwinnettcounty.com," the county website states.
Additional Gwinnett County Emergency Orders