COVINGTON, Ga. — The Covington City Council unanimously approved a resolution to put a voluntary curfew in place from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning March 20 and running through April 7, requesting voluntary sheltering in place.
The resolution was passed during the emergency council meeting that was held via teleconference Thursday at 6 p.m. It also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, approves the sale of unopened bottles in to-go orders at restaurants that serve beer and wine and delays the alcohol excise tax payment date to July 1, 2020.
The resolution comes three days after the Covington council approved a local public health state of emergency in response to Gov. Brian Kemp declaring a public health state of emergency for Georgia on March 14.
The Voluntary Shelter in Place policy urges people not to loiter, wander, stroll or play in public places within the territorial confines of the city of Covington between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. However, the following exceptions will apply:
- When a person is running an emergency errand
- When a person is traveling to or returning directly home from lawful employment, or has an obligation to lawful employment that makes it essential to be in a public place during that period of time
- When a person is taking part in or traveling to any activity that involves exercising the First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of assembly or free exercise of religion
- When a person is engaged in interstate and intrastate vehicular travel through Covington
- When a person is engaged in recreational or fitness activity though walking, biking or running
- When a person is obtaining food or medicine or seeking medical care
Anthony Henderson initially questioned the voluntary nature of the sheltering policy as opposed to making it mandatory. In response, Mayor Steve Horton stated that while the city hopes to urge people to follow the policy voluntarily, it also knows a mandatory policy may be necessary in the future.
“You’re encouraging people in a written way to do these things,” Horton said “But it helps people understand that it could become a mandatory policy later on if healthcare concerns and the crisis worsen.”
The policy was originally drafted to enforce the curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. but was later changed to a 9 p.m. start time following suggestions from Henderson and Fleeta Baggett.
The prohibition on gatherings of groups of 10 or more people was also originally drafted to start at 8 p.m. and later pushed out to 9 p.m. It states that all gatherings of 10 or more people will be prohibited within city limits during the hours of the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.
Exceptions for this prohibition include employees of restaurants, bars and entertainment establishments as well as gatherings in buildings owned by the city of Covington or Newton County.
It was later approved that the city of Covington would authorize restaurants that are licensed to sell beer and wine for consumption on the premises to sell unopened bottles of beer and wine for take-out consumption off the premises.
The ordinance shall be waived only during the effective dates of this resolution. Horton also added that restaurants must continue contending with state laws and regulations.
Lastly, the council approved the due date and payment of alcohol excise taxes and restaurants licensed to sell alcoholic beverages pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter 5.12 of the Covington code of ordinances be delayed to and through June 30, 2020. This was approved unanimously on a 5-0 vote.