RIVERDALE — The Riverdale City Council has passed an emergency ordinance requiring residents to shelter in place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., banning gatherings of 10 or more people, enforcing a 6-foot social distancing rule and preventing restaurants from seated dining.
These measures are similar to those imposed in Jonesboro, Forest Park and other metro areas. The emergency order also grants City Manager E. Scott Wood broader powers as city manager to make personnel and emergency spending decisions.
Wood said the city has “not been eager to effectively declare a formal curfew because of the highly detrimental and additional impact it will impose on our local businesses at a time when they are already suffering. However, as we have monitored the status of the epidemic, we realize that has now become an unfortunate necessity, and I believe that will occur today.”
A notice of the meeting posted on the city’s website does not include a dial-in number. According to Ruffin, the dial-in number is (978) 990-5000 and the access code is 645657. When the News attempted to dial in, a recording announced, “The number you’re dialing is outside of your plan and will incur a one-cent-per-minute charge if you continue. You can hang up now to avoid the charge.” After the message, another recording announced the conference call is a “free service.”
The last official word that the City of Riverdale issued about the COVID-19 crisis was on March 13. That was a banner on the city website announcing the city’s administrative offices were closed through Monday, March 30.
Wood disagrees that the city has not been responsive since March 13. “Respectfully, I believe that criticism to be unwarranted. Our website contains a letter from the Mayor, a City hotline number where citizens can call and ask any questions about city issues, notices about our subsequently closing of parks (which was not done at the time City Hall was closed), and links to the CDC, the Executive Order of the Governor, and the Clayton County Board of Health. So for someone to suggest they have not heard anything from the City is unfounded. I suspect those criticisms are from people who wanted stronger and earlier actions than the measured approach we have taken.”
City Councilman Kenny Ruffin said city officials decided over the weekend to call the meeting because people were not following CDC guidelines about social distancing.
”We were trying to see if people would self-discipline themselves to do certain precautions that would result in less infections,” Ruffin said. “We’re a little bit late, but we’re ready to move ahead.”
Ruffin said he has seen groups of people gathering close together, congregating inside parks with locked gates and not respecting the 6-foot personal distance recommendation as marked in checkout lines.
Wood said, “The City of Riverdale monitors the COVID-19 situation on a daily basis.... Most citizens of Riverdale and most of our businesses have been voluntarily compliant with CDC recommendations. We have been doing our best to balance public health concerns with the survivability of local business openers and their employees.”