CAIRO — Grady County officials say there’s no need at the moment to declare a local state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
County commissioners took part in a conference call Tuesday with Governor Brian Kemp along with officials from other counties and municipalities across southwest Georgia. Commission chair Keith Moye said afterward he does not believe it necessary to institute a curfew or take any further protective actions on a local level at this time.
“As a whole, Grady County has already initiated everything (the governor) has recommended,” Moye said.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton and Mayor pro tem Jerry Cox spoke with Moye on Monday morning, and the group agreed that there is currently no need to institute a local state of emergency.
Nine individuals in Grady County have been tested for the virus so far, with two results returning negative. No positive cases have been confirmed yet, but County Administrator Buddy Johnson predicted that those numbers will soon spike — first and foremost because test results will start to return with positives.
“People need to accept this is going to get worse before it gets better,” Johnson said.
Emergency Management Director Richard Phillips said Tuesday that he has placed an order for 300 N95 respirator masks as well as gloves, hospital gowns and laser thermometers in anticipation of the virus becoming widespread locally. The county also has requested 50 body bags and may consider acquiring a refrigerated trailer, “in case things really hit the fan,” Phillips said.
Johnson said a measure of normality will return once the crisis begins to level off, but there may be some “collateral damage,” particularly businesses that may not ever be able to reopen their doors. The county administrator encouraged residents to support local merchants, and county officials say the best way to help is to shelter in place and continue to follow social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Folks need to understand that you can be the reason that a business goes out of business for good because you prolonged this thing and they weren’t able to open their doors back up and start earning money again,” said county clerk John White. “And if that business goes out, that means people are out of work. It’s serious.”
Moye said residents who need to visit grocery stores or visit doctors should do so, but with caution. Customers are encouraged to call ahead to see if stores are carrying items they need.
Phillips further urged residents not to succumb to panic. Phillips said panicking customers are buying up essentials at local grocery retailers, putting a strain on the supply chain and preventing fellow residents from purchasing basic necessities.
“The shelves are bare,” Phillips said. “It’s amazing. Even for toothpaste.”
EMA assistant director Bill Schafer said people are otherwise largely abiding by established guidelines.
Other ways to support local businesses include taking advantage of drive-through or curbside pickup services for restaurants. Phillips said dining rooms across the county have largely shut down on their own, and most restaurants in Grady County are already offering alternative methods of service.
Moye encouraged residents to visit the websites of the CDC and state Department of Public Health for any information on the coronavirus.
“Through tragedy will come triumph,” Johnson said. “We will survive this. This too shall pass, and it will make us better for the future, but it’s going to be tough.”