ATLANTA, Ga – After issuing an extended shelter in place, Gov. Brian Kemp finally instituted a ban on short-term vacation rentals to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the governor stopped short of closing state parks and beaches despite numerous calls from local governments to do so.
“I have also heard the concerns of many hardworking Georgians, including local elected officials, who fear that our state will become a vacation destination. As a result, and in accordance with public health guidance, I have signed an order to suspend short-term vacation rentals across Georgia,” stated Kemp.
The short-term rental ban identifies vacation rentals as residential properties that can be leased for 30 days or less and can be let by a third-party broker. The licensor is a limited liability corporation, corporation, partnership, person, or any other entity; and the licensee is a private person.
It DOES NOT apply to hotels, motels, campgrounds, extended-stay hotels, commercial transactions, and leases that serve as a person’s primary residence.
Additionally, any rental paid in full by 12:00 a.m. on April 9, 2020, may keep their reservation.
The order won’t prevent people from occupying their personal property.
Law enforcement is authorized to enforce the order, but not to evict anyone in a vacation rental.
Beginning at 12:00 a.m. on April 9, the ban will expire on April 30 at 11:59 p.m.
When asked about the closing of the state parks and beaches, Kemp said only 300 people visited the beaches over the weekend and everyone practiced social distancing.
Earlier in the week, 12 North Georgia Commission Chairmen joined together to ask Kemp to close state parks and the Mayor of Tybee Island also issued a statement expressing his dissatisfaction with Kemp’s decision to open state beaches and park.
As of now, all his state parks reports indicated everyone was following CDC guidelines and he sees no reason to close the parks. Kemp did say he would revisit the issue if he discovers park visitors aren’t practicing social distancing.
Kemp also reasoned that when gyms and other exercise facilities close, people will want to go somewhere to receive physical activity.
Long-Term Care Update
Except from Kemp’s speech:
“The Georgia Department of Public Health has determined that COVID-19 is spreading through nursing homes, inpatient hospice, assisted living communities, personal care homes, intermediate care homes, community living arrangements, and community integration homes. We have dramatically increased access to resources to these facilities to mitigate exposure, but we have to do more to protect these Georgians.
“Earlier today, I signed an executive order extending Georgia’s public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020. This measure will allow us to deploy more resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our healthcare facilities. I appreciate Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, and the General Assembly for working with us to ensure resources are available to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This afternoon, I also signed an executive order mandating more aggressive infection control measures at long-term care facilities across Georgia. I’ll outline a few, key requirements. Facilities must adopt infectious disease transfer protocols with nearby hospitals. Visitors and non-essential personnel are strictly prohibited except in compassionate care situations. If feasible, these facilities must provide in-room dining services, and all group activities are canceled. Employees must wash or sanitize their hands after any interaction with a resident. Facilities must implement protocols to screen residents for fever and respiratory symptoms, and employees must be screened before starting a shift. If an employee is exposed, to the extent feasible, he or she must self-quarantine for fourteen days before returning to work. Facilities are required to implement universal and correct use of personal protective equipment, and we stand ready to coordinate delivery of supplies. Facilities must utilize hospital-grade disinfectants for frequent cleaning. If possible, residents with symptoms of respiratory infection need to be placed together, and facilities should have specific employees working only on affected units. To ensure compliance, I am empowering the Department of Public Health, National Guard, and Department of Community Health to issue directives to facilities to prevent, monitor, and treat COVID-19.
“Today, I am also signing an executive order to activate 1,000 additional National Guard members to assist in COVID-19 emergency response.
“In accordance with public health recommendations, I am also extending the statewide shelter in place order through April 30, 2020. All of the provisions of the statewide shelter in place order will remain in effect. I want to thank everyone who followed these directives, and I appreciate your patience.”
Blue Ridge, Ga. – Twelve Commission Chairmen from North Georgia counties have joined together and signed a letter asking Governor Brian Kemp to shut down the State Parks.
“It appears that these nonresidents believe our area is a safe haven because of its rural nature. To the contrary, the influx of people into our communities has had a staggering detrimental effect on our resources,” the letter to Kemp read in part.
The letter goes on to outline the resources in our area that have been affected by the out-of-towners looking to seclude themselves, including in these resources are food, dry goods and fuel.
It goes on to inform Kemp that our area is not equipped medically: “Our communities simply do not have enough hospital beds or medical personnel to care for the inflated population.”
Though only serving as a commissioner for a little over three months, Habersham County Commissioner District 5 Tim Stamey felt he needed to be proactive in bringing a solution to this problem: “I am a retired special operator and we don’t sit around talking about things, we get it done.”
Stamey who sits on the County Health Board said, “I’m on the County Health Board and talk to Healthcare workers in my county on a daily basis. They are the heros/heroines in all this. This virus does not spread itself on the wind.”
Moccasin Creek State Park, situated just North of Unicoi State park has been “crazy, 4th of July crazy” for the past three weekends according to Stamey, who has witnessed the impact on his county first hand.
Stamey initially contacted Rabun County Chairman Greg James and White County Chairman Travis Turner.
“I started this by just trying to get border counties on board,” Stamey said and added, “Then Chairmen were like well, did you call such and such, I know they feel the same way. It just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
Stamey said that all Commission Chairmen were helpful, on board, and taking the matter seriously: “I talked to most of them several times and for up to an hour each time.”
Stamey, along with the 12 county chairmen and many residents, is hoping that this letter will get the attention of Kemp. The letter in closing states: “On behalf of the many citizens that live in North Georgia who entrust us as County Commissioners to represent their interests, we respectfully ask you to close all of the state parks located in our area immediately.”