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Mayor makes 72-hour emergency declaration
Ken Lee
Mayor Ken Lee addresses viewers from City Hall on Friday via Facebook LIve. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON --There are lots of  questions surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and Mayor Ken Lee  knows the answer to one of the most important ones.

"Nobody knows all the answers about it, nobody knows all the impacts of it, but we do know that we are not finished with this," he said during a Facebook Live address from city council chambers Friday. "It is going to be some time before we are done with this so, in the meantime, we need to be able to take every precaution that we can to lessen the impact and make sure that  we are all safe and well through this thing."

In order to limit social interaction, Lee declared a state of emergency. It is in line with declarations issued earlier by Gov. Brian Kemp and President Donald Trump.

 Lee's declaration, which has the support of  his fellow council members, will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday and be in effect for 72 hours. It will be revisited during Monday's 7 p.m. council meeting, which will be conducted by a video conference call.

City offices are closed but employees are still reporting to work.

Lee's declaration requires that all people keep their social distance at a minimum of six feet property owned or controlled by the city, excluding a household or living unit.

In addition, all Rincon eating establishments must operate only with curbside and/or drive-through service.

"I took an opportunity (Thursday) to kind of ride through out city and see what was going on in the way of businesses and how our citizens were interacting," Lee said. "It was a little bit strange, a little surreal, to ride and see the lack of activity in a lot of places."

Lee noted that many restaurants had already shut down their dining areas. He called the COVID-19 impact on them and other businesses "sad."

The mayor expressed hope that a $2 trillion package passed by Congress on Friday will help small businesses through this difficult time

"I think the people in charge are making the right kind of decisions that, hopefully, will lesson the burden on anybody affected by it," he said. "We don't know how long this may go on, we don't know what may be the outcome but, together, we will all work through this."

There are more than 1,200 cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, including 40 deaths. Three Effingham County residents are battling the respiratory disease.

A proponent of limited government, Lee said he is hopeful that further social and business restrictions won't be necessary to stem the outbreak. He said that will likely be determined by how people respond to the current guidelines.

"I go back to the individual or personal accountability by each of us and our responsibility in that," he said. "If we do that, then that lessens the reasons for government to have control and have to direct. I would just say that each of us need to be personally responsible, personally accountable and do the right thing for our fellow man."