‘We just don’t want people to relax’ Augusta mayor, officials crack down on COVID-19

For more coverage of local officials' update, check back here on WRDW.com and watch News 12.
Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 4:30 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 11:37 AM EDT
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Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis and other officials offered an update on local COVID-19 efforts. See video here or read the article: https://bit.ly/2FpOsEJ

Posted by News 12 NBC 26 on Friday, August 14, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. and other local officials delivered an update Friday on COVID-19 efforts in Augusta-Richmond County.

Davis was joined by Fire Chief Christopher James, Dr. Stephen Goggans and Sheriff Richard Roundtree in an event that began at 11:30 a.m. in the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building.

Last week, Mayor Davis and Sheriff Roundtree said there are no more warnings for businesses not following Governor Brian Kemp’s executive order.

Now, we heard from RCSO to see how bars and clubs are responding to this enforcement.

“We’re trying to save lives you know I’ve said it before. This is a life-saving effort by the city of Augusta,” Roundtree said.

Last week, Roundtree said they are cracking down on clubs and bars. Deputies randomly visited 44 bars and nightclubs in Augusta. But only one-third were open and only two citations were handed out.

“And the ones that were open were either at capacity or under capacity,” Roundtree explained.

It all spurs from a video from two weeks ago showing the Country Club, operating with a large number of people. The sheriff said the only two citations went to the owners of the club and the organizers – one for reckless conduct for violation of the governor’s executive order.

But the department found another problem.

"One of the issues in which we did note was that a few nightclubs, there were large numbers of people in that parking area that were quickly dispersed."

And he said these owners have to be responsible for their property.

"They were also responsible for the safety and security of their parking areas."

And even with COVID-19 numbers stabilizing in our area, they don't want people to get comfortable.

“We just don’t want people to relax. And then we dig ourselves into a hole and have to start back at square one,” Roundtree said.

Sheriff Roundtree also said deputies will be out tonight and tomorrow randomly inspecting bars still. He said if there is an incident, the public can reach out to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

Among other highlights of the update:

  • All of the officials offered condolences to the family of Augusta Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier, who died this week after contracting COVID-19 in July.
  • Roundtree reported that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is seeing a spike in cases among staff and inmates. Among the reasons was some conversion of other space for use by those infected with the virus, the sheriff said. He said the sheriff’s agency has seen 45 positive cases among his staff and that 30 of those people have returned to work.
  • Goggans said it’s possible that we may be nearing a plateau in cases, but he indicated it may be too soon to be sure. He said to make that happen, residents need to keep wearing their masks, washing their hands and maintain social distance. He also said officials have built up the epidemiological investigation level to match the number of cases, so he urged people to cooperate with contact tracers. He said getting a flu shot this year is extra important because officials don’t want to further burden the health care system or to risk misdiagnoses.
  • James said Augusta Fire/EMA has seen 26 coronavirus cases among employees and that 19 had returned to work. He urged local residents to avoid nightclubs, bars and gym and that when eating restaurant food, to order takeout or eat outdoors. Like other officials, he urged residents to always wear a face mask when not in their own home. James also spoke about how city workers had just helped hand out 20,000 free face masks to local residents, who had exhausted the supply in 11 hours of distribution.

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