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Commission moves to make it quicker, easier to respond if emergency arises
Burdette suggests 10-customer limit for grocery stores
Roger Burdette
District 2 Commissioner Roger Burdette - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
I just think we should do something instead of waiting until it gets really bad.
District 2 Commissioner Roger Burdette

 SPRINGFIELD — During a special called meeting Friday morning, the Effingham County Board of Commissioners approved measures that will make it easier and quicker for county employees to deal with situations that might arise from the coronavirus.

Commissioners, via a conference call, approved a resolution announcing the implementation of local emergency protective measures to align with Gov. Brian Kemp’s March 14 declaration of a public health state of emergency. They also authorized policy changes that will allow for purchases and personnel expenses outside the procurement code and budget.

County Manager Tim Callanan dubbed the situation “a limited state of emergency,” meaning none of the measures will be enacted unless circumstances warrant.

County offices have been closed to the public since Friday and will remain so until further notice. County employees are working, however, and can be reached via email or the telephone. Telephone numbers include: 

— Board of Commissioners (912) 754-2123

— Recreation Department (912) 754-6339

— Development Services (912) 754-2128 or 2105

Following the action on the agenda, District 2 Commissioner Roger Burdette expressed concern about coronavirus “hot spots.” He suggested limiting restaurants to curbside and/or delivery service to keep Effingham County from becoming one.

On March 16, the federal government promoted “social distancing” and a limit of 10 people gathering in one place.

“People could still enjoy the food without violating our 10-person rule. That’s what I’m trying to target, anything that would violate the 10-person rule because I think that’s real important right now,” Burdette said.

Burdette also promoted implementation of the 10-person limit at larger businesses in the county.

“That’s not easy to do but they are doing it up north already with Lowe’s, Home Depots and grocery stores,” he said. 

Burdette said online ordering and pickup are options at these stores, lessening the need for customers to go inside.

“People can get what they need,” he said. “It’s just going to be a little more of a pain to do so but a whole lot safer than having thousands of people in and outside the doors and spreading this thing,” he said.

Other commissioners were cool to Burdette’s proposal.

“We’d have to come up with a larger number, I think,” District 1 Commissioner Forrest Floyd said. “I don’t think there is any way we could service the community with that type of restriction (on grocery stores) and the hours already restricted.”

Burdette expressed openness to a higher limit before Chairman Wesley Corbitt entered the discussion. He questioned how the limit could be enforced and whether the commission had the authority to implement it.

 District 3 Commissioner Jamie Deloach and District 5 Commissioner Phil Kieffer expressed similar concerns.

“A lot of these stores are within city limits,” Deloach said.

Kieffer said at least 100 people were standing outside Rincon’s Kroger when it opened Friday morning.

“We are just moving the problem outside the doors,” he said.

Corbitt suggested acquiring more information about the issue and a motion to consider it was never made. Callanan said he would discuss it with Rincon City Manager John Klimm, Springfield City Manager Matt Morris and Guyton City Manager Brett Bennett.

Floyd recommended that county officials express public support for Kemp and President Trump’s coronavirus recommendations.

“If things get out of hand, we can easily call another meeting and discuss what our options are,” Floyd said. 

“We need to do something before it gets out of hand. That’s the whole point,” Burdette said a few seconds later.

“We are not going to be able to stop people from going to the grocery store,” Floyd said. “There are people trying to hoard things and people trying to do what the president says and pick up only things that they need. If we say only 10 people can go into a grocery store at a time, you’re going to have people everywhere.”

“I just think we should do something instead of waiting until it gets really bad,” Burdette said.