FOREST PARK—The Forest Park City Council has declared two emergency orders, effective immediately, imposing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more people, and shutting restaurant seating, bars, entertainment venues and gyms through at least April 10 due to COVID-19.
The curfew does not apply to people who work in essential services like logistics or health care and first offenders will likely get off with a warning. Repeat offenders may get a ticket and have to appear in court after the emergency, officials said.
Councilmembers Dabouze Antoine and Kimberly James opposed the curfew. Councilwoman Latresa Akins-Wells advocated for it "to protect the people" from outsiders passing through.
"We're gonna hold the officers accountable for doing the right thing," said Police Chief Nathaniel Clark. "We're not gonna railroad anybody."
Under the emergency declaration, which is similar to one Jonesboro passed Tuesday night:
• The emergency declaration applies within the City of Forest Park and lasts until the President of the United States and the governor of Georgia lift their emergency declarations.
• All restaurant seating, bars and entertainment are suspended for the duration of the emergency. However, take-out, drive-through and delivery are allowed and those places have temporary permission to sell package beer and wine with food "without any further licensing by the city." Restaurants will be allowed to place advertising signs outside their establishments. They also must post signs that they are enforcing social distancing requirements.
• Medical, industrial, government or other essential-function cafeterias are exempt from those regulations but are strongly encouraged to use social distancing and limited seating.
• Houses of worship and funerals are likewise "highly encouraged" to practice social distancing. Services should consider fewer than 10 participants. Vehicles transporting families during funerals should be "thoroughly cleaned between uses in accordance with CDC guidelines."
• Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses not covered above would remain open but should post signs telling customers to stay 6 feet apart and, "to the extent practical, limit the number of persons in the establishment to less than 10 at any time."
• Anybody with COVID-19 symptoms must keep out of "public buildings, restaurants, shops, public transportation facilities, and all other areas" where the public goes in or out, and "should seek medical attention, attention, and follow the directions of a primary care physician until given the clearance to return to public interaction."
• All indoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment facilities are to close immediately and shall remain closed during the emergency.
• No group of 10 or more people shall gather at "any park, public square, public space, playground, recreational area or similar space of public gathering."
• Nothing shall prohibit "individuals or families from using sidewalks or designated pedestrian areas of parks for walking or other exercise if they are not participating in an organized gathering." It's not clear whether or not that includes the walking track at Starr Park. City attorney Mike Williams said, "
The way I read it, the parks are closed but the sidewalks adjacent to the park are open."
• The city manager has the power to decide which city services are required or discretionary, to assign city employees to tasks, to change their schedules, to let employees telework, to tell discretionary service employees not to come to work, to contract for and spend non-budgeted sums of up to $5,000 per purchase "to meet the demands of government and services of the city" and, with the mayor, execute contracts for items and services up to $5,000 without City Council approval but with written justification.
The council met by teleconference with community members listening in, which may have been a first for the city. Mayor Angelyne Butler said the next virtual council meeting will take place using the Zoom conferencing site, with details to come on how you can join.