An elected official in Chamblee learned he tested positive for COVID-19 days after the city held its first full, in-person gathering of the city council in two months.
Councilman Brian Mock said he did not feel sick when he went to the Thursday night meeting, which the mayor, the four other council members, some city staff and several members of the public also attended. Mock tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on Sunday, and everyone who was at the Chamblee Civic Center on Thursday is being asked to self-isolate for two weeks.
The news came as several other cities in metro Atlanta plan to resume in-person meetings. Smyrna had been holding virtual meetings but planned an in-person meeting for Monday evening at a gym to allow for social distancing. Lawrenceville’s state of emergency has expired and the city is planning to hold its first in-person meeting since March this week.
Some cities, like Marietta, have been having meetings at city hall throughout the coronavirus pandemic, though not all have been open to the public.
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The city held remote meetings via teleconference in March and April, but decided to return to in-person meetings this month.
In a statement Monday, the city said that “a person at the meeting” had tested positive. Mock later told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was the attendee who had fallen ill.
“I’m very sick,” said Mock, 51. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
Mock said his temperature was taken when he arrived at the meeting, and it was a stable 97.6 degrees. The Centers for Disease Control considers a fever to be a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher. During the meeting, he wore a mask, but said he temporarily removed it at one point when speaking to make sure attendees could hear him.
Mock, who is also Chamblee’s mayor pro tempore, said he started running a high fever Friday night. By Saturday, “I felt like I had been run over by a bus,” he said. He tested positive the following day.
Chairs were spaced 10 feet apart during the public hearing and work session meeting, which included discussion about the city’s budget and several proposed developments.
Most people at the meeting wore masks, but a few speakers, including Mayor Eric Clarkson, appeared to not be wearing a face covering, according to the video of the meeting. Through a city spokeswoman, Clarkson declined to comment Monday.
City officials said they held the meeting in person because public hearings related to zoning cases were on the agenda.
“We previously asked our zoning attorney if we could have the meeting via teleconference and were advised that we should not,” the city said in a statement. “We believe the protocols and precautions taken at the meeting limited potential exposure, but we take this matter very seriously and will continue to monitor.”
Officials had planned to hold another in-person council meeting on Tuesday evening, but that meeting will now be held virtually.
Mock, who also holds a management position at the Hampton Inn Atlanta-Northlake hotel, said he has taken the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, and does not know how he contracted the virus. He said he put together the coronavirus safety and cleaning guidelines for his work and has always worn a mask when he goes to his job.
“I’ve never washed my hands so much in my life and I should have bought stock in hand sanitizer,” he said. “I’ve done everything right, yet I’m sick. So I don’t know what to think right now.”
Chamblee appeared to have followed the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for workplaces, said Otto Ike, the chief epidemiologist of the DeKalb Board of Health. The 14-day self-isolation is meant as an “extra precaution to prevent further spread of the disease,” Ike said Monday.
In mid-March, an elected official in Marietta tested positive for the coronavirus. Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson, who has since recovered from the disease, previously told the AJC that she began to feel sick before a scheduled in-person council meeting, so she decided to stay home.
People who want to watch Thursday’s Chamblee city council meeting can register online and will receive an email with instructions on how to join.
Attendees at Thursday’s meeting who provided contact information were notified of the incident, according to the release.
“If you attended, but didn’t sign in, it is recommended that you self-isolate,” Chamblee spokeswoman Tisa Moore said.
The civic center will be closed for 10 days. During that time, the facility will be cleaned.
— Staff reporters Asia Simone Burns, Kristal Dixon and Amanda C. Coyne contributed to this report.
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