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Police chief “concerned” about return of GCSU

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Restaurants put on notice in downtown

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    The Milledgeville Police Department delivered flyers to downtown restaurants with reminders about social distancing provisions ahead of the start of the fall university semester. Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

A flyer was distributed earlier this week to each downtown restaurant, reminding owners and employees of Georgia’s social distancing provisions.

The Milledgeville Police Department, in conjunction with City Hall, is calling it an “education period” and a “warning period.” The actions are in anticipation of fall semester at Georgia College & State University, which begins in two weeks.

“Like anyone else, I’m concerned about the different scenarios that could play out when all of these (college) kids start coming from all of these different areas back to Milledgeville,” Police Chief Dray Swicord told The Baldwin Bulletin. “Unless we do something, another breakout is inevitable.”

Baldwin County’s surge in new COVID-19 cases originally was driven by the 18-24 age demographic. At one point earlier this month, people in the 18-24 age range made up more than 40 percent of all new cases in the county. Several downtown restaurants reportedly had employees test positive.

According to Swicord, the plan is to begin writing fines and citations when necessary. The flyer makes specific mention to "gatherings of more than 50 persons that are not transitory or incidental." The flyer also includes a line about "people practicing social distancing should maintain a distance of six feet from other people except people within their family or that are co-habitants."

Added the flyer: "This is taken directly from the Governor's Emergency Order."

Also, and perhaps more impactful for downtown restaurants, the MPD is requiring that restaurants "would have to keep the full kitchen open in order to stay open." Traditionally, restaurants around downtown close their kitchens around 10 p.m. and make the transition to "bars."

"Technically, there are no bars in Milledgeville. Unfortunately, these restaurants turn into bars when the kitchen closes," Swicord said. "This is beginning to be addressed."

Swicord added that an MPD officer will be stationed downtown on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to "exclusively assist with social distancing."