Glynn County Commissioners voted to put a stop to new rentals of hotels, motels, short term rentals and bed and breakfast rentals on St. Simons and Sea islands and to close the beach on Sea Island and extend the closure of St. Simons Island beaches in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We closed the beach on St. Simons (on March 20), we didn’t close the beach on Sea Island. The question is, do we need to take action?” said Chairman Mike Browning.
Commissioner Peter Murphy noted that he broached the subject when the county first discussed closing the beaches on St. Simons Island.
“Unfortunately, what has happened in the ensuing 11 days is that more and more reports are coming out of people gathering on the beach and flaunting the restrictions we put on St. Simons Island’s beach,” Murphy said.
He said he was "optimistic but realistic" about the situation. Citing his medical background, Murphy said the virus will continue to spread until everyone is practicing social distancing.
“This is a point where we can’t abide people who are flaunting our restrictions or guidelines at a basic level,” Murphy said.
Murphy motioned to close the beach at Sea Island ”beginning immediately.” The motion passed unanimously.
Following the Sea Island discussion, the commission voted to extend all deadlines and closures, including the closure of the Sea Island and St. Simons Island beaches, from April 13 to April 30.
“In a conversation with Dr. Lawton Davis, the director of the Coastal Health District, he indicated that over the next few weeks they expect, as testing is done, the number of cases (of COVID-19) to increase. He strongly indicated the measures we put in place should continue,” county manager Alan Ours said. "I think it would be prudent and beneficial.”
Both St. Simons Island and Sea Island beaches will reopen April 30.
Commissioners also voted to ban new guests and reservations at hotels, motels, short term rentals and bed and breakfast establishments on St. Simons Island and Sea Island.
If the county bans rentals on the islands, Commissioner Allen Booker said people would just flock to the mainland. Nothing would then stop them from driving to St. Simons Island. He said the commission should impose the ban on the whole county.
Browning said there's a lot of important work going on in the county, such as the expansion of the Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick hospital, and that closing down temporary lodging on the mainland would do a lot of harm.
Violating either order is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail.
The commission also decided to put up signs advising the public to practice social distancing and including coronavirus-related health information.
While they didn't take any immediate action on the matter, the commission also talked about banning door-to-door solicitations.