The City of Athens is now telling its residents to stay home, unless performing certain essential tasks.

Mayor Monte Montgomery said at an emergency City Council meeting Tuesday, that the city's action is designed to mirror Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Order, also issued Tuesday

Montgomery said the city has had no confirmed cases of the virus, but there were questions about what residents and business owners were allowed, and not allowed, to do in light of the Governor's order.

"We as a community have got to follow those guidelines given to us and be diligent," Montgomery said. "It has come to this council's attention through citizens and observation that a lot of our citizens are not following that. They're still congregating in groups of more than 10."

Montgomery said moms, dads and children are going into stores when it should only be one member of the family going inside."

Councilman Ed McCain said he did not favor shutting the parks, but was agreeable with making the playground equipment off limits. The virus can live on a flat metal surface for two days.

"I also think you risk injury which places additional stress on our medical professionals," McCain said.

McCain said he is concerned about what effect the COVID-19 response will have on local business owners and the economy.

"To make sure we are all clear, the citizens who want us to go into the essential businesses and try to shut them down or scatter their employees, we cannot do that," Montgomery said. "We can only do what is included in the executive order from the governor."

McCain said non-essential business owners should be able to go to their establishments and work as long as they don't violate the rule limiting the number of people at a location. Some small businesses are locking the door and only allowing one customer at a time, to comply with the state guidelines.

"This kind of self policing is going to be end result of what all of this is," McCain said.

Clay read a portion of Abbott's statement that is the crux of the governor's order.

"With COVID-19 spreading across Texas, I issue this executive order that requires all Texans to stay at home, or do essential things like, go to the grocery store."  

That's what we're cosigning here, Clay said."

Councilman Aaron Smith said the key to obeying the rules and fighting the virus belongs to the citizens.

"We need them to comply with the social distancing, comply with precautionary measures," Smith said. "If you have a business and have an employee that's sick, we need to know it."

Montgomery said many businesses have been pro-active in the effort to avoid the spread of the virus. If a business has an employee with an illness that could possibly be COVID-19, they should keep city officials updated.

The order shall remain in effect until the council takes further action

"This is our shelter in place," Montgomery said. "It's not listed as that, but basically everything that he has listed, everything that Mrs. Clay and the council have talked about, the stay at home order is the shelter in place that we have talked about earlier."

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