TIFTON — The Tift County Board of Commissioners debated amending its Mar. 24 resolution, possibly adding a mandatory shelter in place order, as well as penalties for people in gatherings of 10 or more people, during a Mar. 31 teleconference.

Along with an 8 p.m curfew, the Mar. 24 resolution prohibited public or private gatherings of more than 10 people and closes gyms, fitness centers, indoor entertainment/recreational facilities, beauty and body care businesses such as salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors.

“I think we need to get something in place, because if we don’t, we’re going to end up like Albany,” said commissioner Melissa Hughes.

Albany is in Dougherty County, which as of Tuesday afternoon had 455 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 18 deaths. That’s the most deaths in the state and second to only Fulton County in number of cases, as of press time.

“Last Thursday, we had people out having barbecues,” said Hughes. “We already have a volunteer ‘shelter in place,’ but with that being said, people are not adhering to what we already have in place. I think we need something a little more serious so people understand they’re not only affecting themselves, they’re affecting the population as a whole.”

Several commissioners echoed Hughes’ concern.

“We do not want to look like Dougherty County,” said commissioner Buck Rigdon. “It’s through no fault of their own, but we don’t want the body count to start adding up because we didn’t act.”

“This is not the time to be timid or to hold back,” he added.

Commissioner Greg Wood asked if the Tift County Sheriff’s Office would be willing to enforce a mandatory shelter in place or stricter rules about gatherings.

“That’s a discussion we’ll have to have with the sheriff,” said county manager Jim Carter.

Carter suggested having code enforcement do some of the enforcement for gatherings of 10 or more people.

Commissioner Donnie Hester questioned how far this would reach. For example, he asked, if someone had more than 10 people in their home or on their private property, would the county enforce that rule?

Hester also emphasized that the county and city should be on the same page with any shelter in place orders.

The board debated which professions and places of employment would be considered essential and exempt from the shelter in place order.

They agreed to meet again by phone at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Apr. 1 to further discuss a mandatory shelter in place and adding penalties for gatherings of more than 10 people.

The board also approved allowing the tax commissioner’s office to waive property tax penalties and late fees.

To call into the Wednesday meeting, dial 866-899-4679 and use the access code 116-913-941.

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