At a special called meeting today, the Glynn County Commission declared a state of emergency due to the Coronavirus and the threat of the accompanying disease, COVID-19. The resolution passed unanimously, and was followed by a discussion about closing the beaches. The full commission was present, with the exception of Commissioner David O'Quinn, who was self-isolating due to possible exposure to coronavirus. O'Quinn attended the meeting via internet.
Commissioner Coleman, who was vocal earlier in the week about the number of people out on St. Simons during the crisis, felt the beaches are too small for people to maintain social distance. Commissioner Neal agreed on the need to close the beaches to visitors, but opposed closing them to residents. O'Quinn felt the county had gone as far as they could not closing the beach. He worried that if ours was the only beach that was open on the coast, people would flock to it. Commissioner Booker favored shutting as much down as possible. He said a lack of knowledge of the situation led him to err on the side of caution. "Nobody has a real manual for this," he said. "We should try to shut it down and then later on ease off on it."
Commissioner Murphy, the islands commissioner, pointed out that our area wasn't made to look good on CNN this week and he suspected that was why the discussion was happening. He said he supported the closing, because, he didn't see any way to partially shut down the beaches.
Commissioner Bill Brunson supported the concept, but pointed out that the closing would only be through April 13th. He said he sympathized with the restaurant owners and employees in the area.
Local EMA director and interim Police Chief Jay Wiggins, when asked, said that last weekend the crowds WERE substantial, but since then there have been far fewer people on the beach. Chairman Browning worried about the personnel requirements to police a beach closure.
Commissioner Neal suggested that if there were going to be authorities policing the beaches, why not leave them open, but have Law Enforcement break up large groups that aren't exercising social distancing. Commissioner Browning also asked if people were going to be arrested and the county was willing to clog the courts with arrests and citations.
Ultimately the resolution passed by a 5-2 vote, with Commissioners Neal and Browning opposed, to close the beaches effective tomorrow morning at 6am until April 13th.
Jekyll Island, following the county's lead, declared their beaches closed as well.
The commission also took up a resolution temporarily allowing restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages for take out, but not delivery. That resolution passed unanimously, to sunset on April 13th.
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