Riverdale imposes 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. "shelter in place" order, declares COVID-19 emergency

Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon

RIVERDALE — The city of Riverdale has declared an emergency due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, along with a "shelter in place" order from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice.

"Initially, we were hoping (staying at home and maintaining social distance) would be voluntary," Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon said. However, "with the severe escalation of the illness, it is necessary."

Dixon said Riverdale came to the decision after a conference call with county officials. "This is what we came up with. We need to implement shelter in place to ensure our citizens are safe and try to curtail this disease."

The ordinance, which the City Council passed unanimously Monday, March 30 during a teleconference, is similar to those passed by Jonesboro and Forest Park, which also imposed shelter-in-place orders after some citizens did not comply with health recommendations against gathering in large groups, entering closed parks or staying 6 feet away from other people.

Riverdale's ordinance adds specific directions for its homeless population. Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon herself has experienced homelessness. The ordinance reads, "Individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt from this Section (the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. shelter-in-place order), but are strongly urged to obtain shelter, and other entities are strongly urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent practicable (and to utilize Social Distancing Requirements in their operation)."

In addition, the ordinance defines "residences" as "hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities."

Riverdale residents may leave their homes at night only for "essential activities, essential governmental functions, or to operate essential businesses" as defined in the ordinance.
Some examples of essential activities include going to or from work at an essential business, seeking medical care, getting groceries, exercising while observing social distancing rules and caring for pets in another household.

Some essential businesses include groceries, medical care facilities, news media, gas stations, plumbers, hardware stores, laundromats and motels.

See the ordinance for the full list of what the ordinance declares "essential."
Violators "shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $1,000, and by imprisonment in the city or county jail not to exceed six months, and to work on the city streets and public works not exceeding 30 days. Any one or more of these punishments may be inflicted, and the fines imposed therefore may be collected by execution. Each day any such violation shall continue shall be a separate offense."
Councilwoman Cynthia Stamps-Jones asked that the city post its COVID-19 information on the front page of its website so that residents could find it without having to search. Wynn-Dixon replied the information would be prominently posted.
Stamps-Jones also asked that the ordinance direct the city manager to notify the mayor and council of any actions he takes "in our name" during the emergency order, "so that we are at least informed of those changes that he makes in a timely manner, adding, "Any decision made on our behalf should be given to us in its totality so we can provide citizens and businesses information about what's going on."
Councilman Frank Cobbs Jr. concurred with Stamps-Jones. City Attorney L'Erin Wiggins said she could add language to that effect to the ordinance should the council want it.
Councilwoman Wanda Wallace asked for the location of the COVID-19 testing site in Morrow. However, that site is not open for anyone to drive through unannounced, others on the call pointed out, because it requires a doctor's referral. The city will post a phone number people can call for screening, along with other COVID-19 information, Wynn-Dixon said.

Councilman Kenny Ruffin said, "I'm going to take it upon myself to start putting information out on Facebook and Nextdoor." 
For all the latest COVID-19 news in Clayton County and the municipalities, follow news-daily.com/coronavirus and subscribe to our free twice-daily coronavirus e-newsletter.

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